THE LEGEND OF SAINT LUCY, Arancini Cuccia and Panelle

Saint LucySaint Lucy of Syracuse (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. She died during the Diocletian persecution. Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283. Her father was of Roman origin, but he died when she was five years old, so Lucy and  her mother Eutychia were left without a protective guardian. Lucy had consecrated her virginity to God, and she hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. However, her mother, not knowing of Lucy’s promise and suffering from a bleeding disorder feared for Lucy’s future. She arranged Lucy’s marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. Eutychia was persuaded to make a pilgrimage to Catania, in hopes of a cure. While there,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASt. Agatha came to Lucy in a dream and told her that because of her faith her mother would be cured and that Lucy would be the glory of Syracuse, as she was of Catania. With her mother cured, Lucy took the opportunity to persuade her mother to allow her to distribute a great part of her riches among the poor. News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to Lucy’s betrothed, who denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Paschasius ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor’s image. When she refused Paschasius sentenced her to be defiled in a brothel. The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by the sword. According to the legend Lucia was tortured by eye-gouging .  

Siracusa - festa santa Lucia foto di Alaw277 copy 2 On December 13th of each year, presumably since the XV  Century, Sicilians pay tribute to her, specially at the dinner table. On this  day it is customary to renounce pasta and bread, the traditional Italian every day 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 we eat? If you are in Palermo, the  answer to this question is obvious: panelle and arancine and cuccìa .

Arancina con carne Palermo copy 

 

Arancine 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.

 

 

 

 

Siracusa - Cuccia di Santa LuciaThe Cuccìa consists of wheat cooked with wine sugar and flavoured in many ways: adding ricotta and cinnamon or chopped chocolate, milk and chocolate, classic cream or chocolate cream, coffee and sugar.  Panelle, on the other hand, are thin cutlets made of chickpea flour and fried in seed oil. 

”The first depiction of the making of ricotta is an illustration in the medical treatise known as the “Tacuinum sanitatis” (medieval health handbook), the Latin translation of the Arab physician Ibn Butlan’s eleventh century “Taqwim al-sihha

”From sweetened ricotta put over cuccia (a wheat berry pudding eaten on St. Lucy’s Day) or piped into cannoli, to ricotta salata grated over pasta (an aged, salted form of ricotta where the curds pressed in wicker baskets to drain and solidify), ricotta is omnipresent in Sicilian cuisine today. As far as how the Normans might have been served ricotta,looking at what Sicily produced, it might have been as simple as ricotta mixed with the island’s incomparable honey and sprinkled with almonds and pistachios

 

 

 

Panelle sandwich hot n ready for a wedding  by Vanvakys

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“, together with ” sweet cuccìa” became the unofficial foods eaten in celebration of the feast day of Saint Lucy.

 

 

 

 

PASTA ALLA NORMA FOR BELLINI AND MARSALA FOR GARIBALDI

Pachino cherry tomato by Vanvakys - Version 2 copyThe tomato, which arrived from America a few centuries earlier, was a great success in Sicily. Initially used as a spice, it then became an ideal condiment for pastapizzafish, and meat, and was well suited to the kosher recipes of the Jews, and was often used in their dishes. The farmers and cultivators planted many different quantities and diverse types, so as to actually create new kinds, born of grafts and various types of cultivation, among which we must mention the ciliegino di Pachino”, or Pachino cherry tomato”.

 

 

Rigatoni alla Norma by Vanvakys small copy 2In 1831, ”pasta alla Norma, a dish of clear poetic origin –  actually  operatic – was dedicated to Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. It was in  that  year that the Scala di Milano presented the first production of this  beautiful opera. Actually, it was a true fiasco—so much so that Bellini,  disappointed and embittered, wanted to retire from his career as a  composer. However, a friend of his, who happened to be a chef, presented Bellini  with a very special pasta dish upon his arrival in their hometown of  Catania, below the many terraced towns of Mongibello (Etna.)

 

Vincenzo Bellini composer from Catania, photo by Vanvakys copys mall copy The dish  consisted of “mezze-maniche” pasta with fresh tomato sauce (representing the fiery lava), chunks of fried eggplants (the fruits of land), and a generous dusting of ricotta salata, (representing the snow) dedicated to his opera: La Norma. It is said that his pleasure upon tasting it reinforced his spirit and humor, convincing him to continue. According to anecdote, Giuseppe Garibaldi, the international mercenary, was a non-drinker. But he was unable to resist the sweet taste of Marsala. Disembarking with his “Thousands” in the city of wine (on May 12, 1860), he began his mission to invade the Reign of the Two Sicilies for the  king of Savoy.

 

 

 

 

Marsala Florio Cantines ancient bottles collection 2 copy smallHe so loved that sweet wine that it later took the name DG, after him. Still to this day, bottles of sweet Marsala carry the letters, DG, or, “Dolce Garibaldi”.
Modern wine production has surely changed with respect to the “recent past”, and certainly reflects other changes in Sicily, though delayed in comparison with the rest of Europe, on a historic and economic level, though always within the same “religious” respect for habits and traditions that are still maintained today.

 

 

  

Etna vineyard _1 copy x web

Sicilian winemaking has a nonlinear history, due to the diverse microclimates and scattered cultivation in many of the territories: from the very first crops on Etna, with its volcanic earth, to the layered organization of the Biblino plantations of Syracuse, covered by very fertile agrarian soil constituted largely from the breakage of 

Feudo Arancio Sambuca di Sicilia copyunderlying limestone and organic substances. to the distant fields of Trapani, to the grand estates of Marsala.