THE LEGEND OF SAINT LUCY
Saint Lucy of Syracuse (Santa Lucia 283-304) is the saint of Light and a protector of the Christian Faith, and, in terms of popular tradition, probably the most venerated Sicilian saint in the world.
On December 13th of each year, presumably since the XV Century, Sicilians pay tribute to her at the dinner table. On this day it is customary to renounce pasta, the traditional Italian meal, as well as all other foods containing wheat flour, in her honor. In Sicily, the majority of food stores are closed on St. Lucy’s Day. So what do they eat? If you are in Palermo, the answer to this question is obvious: panelle and arancine. Arancine, or arancini di riso, fried balls of rice (a grain introduced by the Arabs) typically made with fillings such as tomato sauce with meat (ragù), butter with peas and prosciutto, and, more recently, dark chocolate.
Panelle, on the other hand, are thin cutlets made of chickpea flour and fried in seed oil. Once referred to as “piscipanelle”, panelle were traditionally sold by street vendors as a pedestrian snack food. Today, however, panelle have become a popular food in the home, and a “must” among typical Sicilian antipasto selections in restaurants, as well.
Thus, arancine and panelle became the unofficial foods eaten in celebration of the feast day of Saint Lucy.