February 2009 Newsletter

February, 2009
CookiesItalian.com  NEWSLETTER

St. Joseph's Day March 19th   

Did you hear about the pastor who was reading in his study? The housekeeper came in and said: "Father, there's a hobo at the door who wants something to eat. What should I do?"
The pastor said: "Mary, give the poor man something to eat, he may be St. Joseph in disguise."
"But Father," said the housekeeper, "The man has been drinking - he's a bit tipsy."
The pastor replied: "Give him something to eat anyway - he might be St. Patrick in disguise."

March is the month we celebrate both Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph. The Irish get all excited about Saint Patrick. They drink green beer and eat corned beef and cabbage - basicly a boiled dinner. But we "Italian kids" love Saint Joseph. We look forward to all the delicious food and sweets on the Saint Joseph Table.

St. Joseph's Day is a big Feast for Italians because in the Middle Ages, God, through St. Joseph's intercessions, saved the Sicilians from a very serious drought. So in his honor, the custom is for all to wear red, in the same way that green is worn on St. Patrick's Day.

Today, after Mass (at least in parishes with large Italian populations), a big altar ("la tavola di San Giuse" or "St. Joseph's Table") is laden with food contributed by everyone. Different Italian regions celebrate this day differently, but all involve special meatless foods: minestrone, pasta with breadcrumbs (the breadcrumbs symbolize the sawdust that would have covered St. Joseph's floor), seafood, Sfinge di San Giuseppe, and, always, fava beans, which are considered "lucky" because during the drought, the fava thrived while other crops failed.

The day ends with each participant taking home a bag that might be filled with bread, fruit, pastries, cookies, a medal of St. Joseph, a Holy Card and/or a blessed fava bean. Keep your "lucky bean," and let it remind you to pray to St. Joseph.

Even the Birds Love Saint Joseph

Another amazing thing that happens On Saint Joseph's Day is the return of the cliff swallows to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano, California. The mission -- one of the oldest buildings in California, and a part of a string of 21 missions that line California's coast -- was founded on 1 November 1776, the Feast of All Saints, by the Franciscan priest, Junipero Serra, in honor of St. John Capistrano. It was begun the year before, with members of a friendly Indian tribe helping to build, but when word came that the Mission of San Diego was attacked by an unfriendly Indian tribe, the bells were buried and everyone took shelter until building could continue.

When the mission was finally completed, a small town grew up around it, and this is where the legend of the swallows begins. It is said that one of the priests noticed a storekeeper in town angrily sweeping down the swallows’ nests and chasing away the "dirty birds." The priest, being a Franciscan, of course invited the poor little birds to the Mission where there was "room for all." The birds, sensing the spirit of St. Francis around the place, followed and have remained loyal to the Mission ever since.

No matter the origins of the story, the fact is that each year on 23 October, the swallows fly south for 7,500 miles to Goya, Argentina. There they winter until the end of February when they make their way home, arriving back at the Mission of Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day, where they are greeted with the ringing of church bells and great festivities. A love song was written with this return of the swallows as its focal point; it was recorded by the Ink Spots, Glenn Miller, Pat Boone, and Elvis Presley (click here for an MP3 of the Inkspots's version of this song) :)

When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
Words and Music by Rene Leon, Copyright © 1940/1969

When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day you promised to come back to me.
When you whispered farewell in Capistrano
'Twas the day the swallows flew out to the sea.

All the mission bells will ring
The chapel choir will sing
The happiness you'll bring
Will live in my memory.

When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me.

While the altar candles burn
My heart is burning too
If you should not return
I'll still be waiting for you.

When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me,
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me.

St. Joseph is symbolized by carpenters' tools and the lily, and is usually represented in art holding the Baby Jesus. He is the patron of the Church, the dying, a holy death (because it is believed he died in the company of Our Lord and Lady), happy family life, married people, carpenters, and workers.

Have a happy Saint Joseph's Day and don't forget to celebrate with lots of Italian Cookies.

St. Joseph Day Special AssortmentMarch 19th is St. Joseph's Day
St. Joseph - Italy's Favorite Saint
Special for March &
St. Joseph’s Day
Two Dozen Cookies
1/2 dozen Anise, Date & Fig Swirls
1/2 dozen Sesame Cookies
1/2 dozen TuTu Cookies
1/2 dozen Anise & Almond Biscotti
   FREE packet of Orange-Pecan Cocoa with every order by March 19th
Special for March $22.45  plus shipping (a 10% saving)
MT & PT Zones - Orders must be placed by March 11 for delivery by March 19th.
ET & CT Zones - Orders must be placed by March 13 for delivery by March 19th.

Here's a different cookie for you. It's not a sweet cookie for dessert or an afternoon pick-me-up. This cookie is best with your favorite soup. These biscotti are very crispy and savory and are great with soup or salad.

Corn and Chili Biscotti

1  cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 jalapeno chilies - seeded and deveined and minced
1/2  cup plus 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/3  cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/4  cup cornmeal
1/2  tsp. baking powder
2  Tbs. sugar
1/4  tsp. baking soda
1/2  tsp. salt
2  eggs

Preheat oven to 325º
Grease or parchment paper line a baking sheet
Chop up the corn kernels - coarsely
Put the corn in a small bowl with the minced chilies stir it up and set aside
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cheese, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, and baking soda.
Stir in the eggs then add the corn and chilies and mix well.

Flour your table or counter then
Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a log.
Put the logs on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.
Cool on a rack for about 5 minutes.
Cut the logs on the diagonal into 3/4 - inch slices.
Put the slices back on the baking sheet and bake for another 35 minutes or until they are as crisp as you like them.
Cool completely - on a rack.

This recipe makes about 18 biscotti
Store in an airtight container.

Holiday Meals in Italy are a big deal and a work of Love
A holiday meal in an Italian family would begin with antipasto (appetizers): some cold cuts, giardiniera (pickled vegetables), several types of hard cheeses, dried sausage (sweet and hot), olives (black and green), and grissini (breadsticks). The first course might be a stracciatella (egg-drop soup) and progress to a pasta dish such as lasagne, baked macaroni, or a simple pasta such as ziti (large spaghetti-shaped noodles), penne (feather-shaped noodles), rigatoni (lined tubular noodles): never spaghetti on a holiday or a Sunday.

There generally is more than one main course: several meats with gravy may be served (meatballs, sausage, grilled meats or braciole, and sometimes lamb or veal). Very often, these meats are precursors to several other entrees such as roasts (beef, lamb, or veal), chicken, and veal cutlets. To these are added the contorni (side dishes) of potatoes, vegetables, and salads, which could number five, six, or even seven or more. This cavalcade of sumptuous foods is followed by dessert, coffee, and after-dinner liqueurs.

Everyday meals will, of course, be less elaborate, but still may feature a pasta dish or a soup and a main course. 

Till next time - have happy days.
Thanks much for your interest in Italian cookies and Italian traditions.
Come visit us soon or send a note

Arrivederci  -  Dio ti benedica
Rev. Fr. Mike
Copyright © 2009 Rev. Michael Librandi