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XXX New This Month
Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Originated from: Sicily and the Italian mainland
Occasion: New Year's Eve Good Luck Festivities
Contributed by: Webmaster, Mary Melfi; image courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery

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Mix the ingredients and pour them in a decorative glass.

Drink cold or warm.

Live long and prosper!


This month the names of famous Italian regional dishes were added to this website (See "XX List of Italian Dishes by Region"). At first glance the regions' culinary heritage seem to have major differences, but if one takes a closer look the similarities outweigh the differences. Italy is The Land of Comfort Food: pasta & pizza. Most North Americans assume pizza originated from the South, and while Naples' famous tomato pizzas can take the credit for popularizing this style of food, the North also has a wonderful array of yeast dough flat breads. Contrary to popular myth, South Italy is not the only place where tomatoes are widely used; the North also uses fresh tomatoes (though not tomato paste) in many of its meat and vegetable stews. Still, as I did not study this subject in detail, I better not say much on it. One day when I am in the mood, and have the time, I will take a closer look..... This month I spent a lot of time going through a wonderful old cookbook, "The Art of Sicilian Cooking" by Anna Muffoletto (New York: Doubleday, 1971). The book is currently out of print (Second-hand copies cost a fortune!); luckily one can borrow an e-book copy for free from the on-line public library: www.openbook.org. The book's author, Anna Muffoletto, is one of the first American cookbook writers, if not the first, to offer an entire collection of Sicilian dishes. Not only does she do a great job of presenting some of the best-loved dishes from this region, but she also gives detailed descriptions of the many festivals and feast days that take place on the island. For example, she notes that Sicilians don't treat the "Day of the Dead" as a somber holy day, but rather, the people celebrate it by making a variety of almond cookies; children are given "pupi di zucchero" candy dolls in the name of their deceased relatives. Other feast days she talks about are: "La Festa di San Agata," "Festa di Santa Lucia," "Ferragosto -- "Feast of the Madanna," "La Festa di San Giovanni Battista" and, of course "La Festa Di san Giuseppe." The author also gives long descriptions of non-religious festivities such as "La Festa del carretto," The Festival of the Sicilian Cart," "Sacra della vendemmia," Feast of Grape Gathering and "Sagra dei mandorli in fiore," The Almond Blossom Festival. The author notes that almonds denote fertility and that's why almond candies are offered to guests at weddings and at baptisms; for weddings the candies are colored white; for baptisms, pink for a girl, and blue for a boy. Nowadays almond candies are also given out to guests for students' graduation (colored red) and for engagements (colored green). In her book, "The Art of Sicilian Cooking," Anna Muffoletto, provides menus for the major holidays: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and Easter. Unfortunately, she does not provide the recipes for the festive dishes named which is rather disappointing. However, all in all, Anna Muffoletto's cookbook has a good collection of Sicilian recipes and is worthy of study. The recipes adapted from Anna Muffoletto's cookbook and included on this website this month include the lovely "BABA CU L'UOVA," Easter cookies shaped like a basket and decorated with eggs (see Italy Revisited/Holiday Breads), CASSATINE, miniature cheese tarts originally served at Easter, but nowadays, any old time (see Italy Revisited/Calconi), CUCIDATI, Christmas fig cookies (See Cookies with Nuts), BISCOTTI DI CICOLOLATO, chocolate spice cookies decorated with lemon icing and topped with a cherry (See Cookies with Nuts), CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT MERINGUES (see Cookies with Nuts), BISCOTTI all'ANICE, nut-free, anise-flavored biscotti (see Cookies without Nus), TESTE DI TURCHI, fried pastries topped with custard (see Pastries), SFINGE DI SAN GIUSEPPE, fried puffs filled with sweetened ricotta (see Fritters), PIZZA MUFFOLETTO, a flat yeast dough bread topped with tomatoes, sardines and breadcrumbs, and last by not least, MINESTRONE DI LENTICCHE, Lentil Good Luck Soup (See X Italian Soups). Apparently lentils, even though they are considered poor people's food, are ritually eaten on New Year's Day because they are thought to bring good luck, helping to induce health and wealth. On New Year's day Sicilian children are given money gifts, and friends and relatives send each other flowers. Perhaps one day the world will take note (If it hasn't already) that some of Europe's best food can be had in Sicily, and that some of Sicily's festive customs are worth imitating. Everyone should be so lucky as to receive flowers on New Year's Day! What a great beginning to a new year!

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