It’s the day after the Feast of St. Patrick – the luck of the Irish may have faded away but the luck of the Italians is just beginning. Tomorrow, March 19th is the Feast of San Giuseppe, St. Joseph’s Day. A day that commemorates an event in the Middle Ages when the intercession of St. Joseph during a severe drought and famine produced crops of fava beans that yielded enough food to deliver the hungry people of Sicily from starvation. In gratitude, wealthy families set up tables or altars, called la tavulata di San Giuseppe, with food to help those who were less fortunate than themselves.
Over the centuries the tables have become more and more grand and abundant. Celebratory foods that reflect the Saint’s vocation, such as bread and cakes shaped like carpenter’s tools are traditional expressions of devotion to San Giuseppe. Breads shaped like staffs, pasta with bread crumbs (representing sawdust on St. Joseph’s workroom floor) flowers, candles, figurines, special pastries and dishes cooked with the fruitful “lucky” fava bean fill the tables.
Celebrations in Italian homes and communities offer a chance to share food with others, a way to express gratitude for any sort of good fortune in our lives.