Tag Archives: Sicily

Is it true that the muffuletta sandwich has Sicilian origins?

image source - flickr.com/photos/1yen
image source – flickr.com/photos/1yen

Somewhat, yes.

The muffuletta sandwich is traditionally made with mortadella, ham, salami, provolone, mozzarella, and olive salad on a soft, sesame seed bread. Based on its Italian ingredients, it may come as a surprise that the muffuletta was first created in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

The French Quarter’s Central Grocery, which has been open since 1906, is the birthplace of the muffaletta. Around that time, a majority of the clientele were local Sicilian immigrants who visited during lunchtime and fumbled with large plates of meat, cheese, olives, and bread. Central Grocery‘s owner, Salvatore Lupo, also a Sicilian immigrant, came up with the idea to combine it all into a sandwich. It has since become a New Orleans staple.

Ask for a muffuletta in Italy, and all you will get is a loaf of sesame seed bread. The sandwich takes its name from the Sicilian bread it’s made with.

Is it true that eggplant parmigiana did not originate in Parma?

image source - flickr.com/photos/anotherpintplease
image source – flickr.com/photos/anotherpintplease

Yes. In fact, the traditional recipe does not even include Parmigiano Reggiano.

Eggplant parmigiana, or eggplant parmesan as we know it here in America, is a bit different from its traditional preparation which hails from southern Italy. So why isn’t it called eggplant Siciliana or eggplant Calabrese? Well, the original name was eggplant parmiciana, not parmigiana. Parmiciana is a word of Sicilian dialect that means strips of wood used to make window shutters. In the original preparation, sliced eggplant is layered on top of each other in the same fashion.

So, how does the original preparation differ? In addition to not including Parmigiano Reggiano, there are no bread crumbs, as is often seen in modern interpretations. Only soft cheeses are used, like mozzarella or tuma, a tangy ewes-milk cheese from Sicily.

What is the Feast of St. Joseph?

st.joseph

Loosely, it’s St. Patrick’s Day for Italians.

St. Joseph’s Day is March 19, just two days after St. Patrick’s Day. It is celebrated by not only Italians but other Catholic European countries such as Spain and Portugal. It is also Father’s Day in these countries…Joseph was Jesus’ “father”, you know . The day is probably most celebrated in Sicily though, where St. Joseph (or San Giuseppe in Italian) is the region’s patron saint. Legend has it that prayers to St. Joseph ended a drought and great famine in Sicily, so it is tradition to honor him with a huge feast.

Traditional St. Joseph Day feasts start with an elaborate altar of fine linens, flowers, and an ornate centerpiece. There is always a large number of breads and pastries in a variety of creative shapes. Cream-filled doughnuts known as zeppole are the most traditional of the pastries. Because the day always falls during lent, it is a meatless feast, so there is seafood. While there is usually a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, the fava bean must always be present. In Sicily, the fava bean is a sign of good luck. During the great famine, fava beans were the only vegetable that was in abundance, and for many, it was all there was to eat.

I have noticed that the number of people around me who celebrate St. Joseph’s Day is much smaller than when I was young. You could always tell who observed the day by who was wearing red, the official color of the holiday. That being said, some churches in the U.S. cities with a large number of Sicilians still host feasts on March 19, and there is even an annual St. Joseph’s Day parade in New Orleans.