Ireland vs. Italy

Ireland vs. Italy:  Saint Patrick & Saint Joseph’s Day

While most people know very well that March 17th is the Feast of St. Patrick’s Day, all too many forget that 2 days later is St. Joseph’s Day.  While the Irish love their Patron Saint Patrick, they forget, he was from Italy, and sent to Ireland as an Ambassador from the Vatican as goodwill.  The two countries that celebrate this day most seem to be Italy, Brazil, and any traditional Italians living in other parts of the world like the USA, Australia, etc.

A little history for those who might not know: St. Joseph was born in Bethlehem was a carpenter.  An angel approached him and then was betrothed to Mary, a consecrated Virgin, in order to serve as her protector. Apocryphal writings indicate that Joseph was an older man at the time, and was a widower with grown-up children, but there is no way to know for sure, as this was over 2000 years ago. 

When Mary came to be with child, his confusion and resolve to “put her away privately” in order to spare her any public humiliation were done away with when an angel of the Lord visited him in a dream and explained things to him (taken from The Bible):

Matthew 1:20-24
But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.

No matter what the scripture from the Bible, you have to admit, St. Joseph was a stand-up guy.  Who else would assume to be the father of a child which was not his and travel hundreds of miles on a donkey in order for this woman to give birth to this chill who we come to know as Jesus?  To put it in today’s perspective, what man do you know who would agree to take responsibility for an unborn child of a woman who claimed to be a virgin and travel what would be the equivalent distance of from New York City to Atlantic City, on donkey no less?  

The Feast of St. Joseph, or San Giuseppe, is very important to the Italians, almost as important as St. Patrick is to the Irish. It comes just about halfway through Lent (but always on the 17th & 19th of March) and the festivities are enjoyed at a time when everyone is fasting. Remember, the feast of a solemnity always takes precedence over any day in Lent.  So theoretically speaking, If St. Patrick’s Day fell on Good Friday, you could have corned beef.  But not for the Italians, no meat at all, they plugged up that loophole with a fish and pasta dish which is as authentically Sicilian as it is synonymous with St. Joseph’s Day.  And for dessert?  Pastry of course. You will find huge zeppole (fried dough balls, a bit larger this time) filled with sweet cream and topped off with a cherry.  There are actually a few sides and dishes for this day including minestrone soup (all garden fresh vegetables) and of course the marinated lava beans. 

St. Joseph’s Sauce Recipe
Its really hard to find fresh sardines. So using canned sardines does just as well, you can even use anchovies, but use less, as they are very “fishy” tasting and very salty as well.

You will also need:
5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, sliced thin
6 Ounce Can Tomato Paste
1 Sprig Fresh Oregano
5 Fresh Basil Leaves
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Sicilian Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste
1 Pound of Pasta (Perciatelli or Pappardelle)
Fresh Bread Crumbs ground fine, fresh or dried.

Cut sardine fillets into small pieces. In a saucepan, put 4 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic over medium heat.  Sautè until garlic is slightly golden (not burnt). Add sardines, continue to sautè and stir until its almost like a paste (about 7 minutes or so).  Add in your tomato paste some fresh chopped tomatoes, or canned whole tomatoes, allow to simmer while your pasta cooks.  Toss your cooked pasta into the pan of sauce, and once served, toss in a generous handful of fresh or dried bread crumbs to symbolize sawdust, as St. Joseph was a carpenter.  What I love about the Italian culture is every dish has a legend behind it.   

And, just to give equal time to Saint Patrick.  Its all about Ireland and its famous dishes.  Corned beef served with cabbage and boiled potatoes; Irish soda bread which sweetened with the raisins cooked in it, and of course, Shepherd’s pie which is a bottom layer of ground lamb meat, carrots and peas, and topped off with mashed potatoes.  Serve with a pint of Guinness Ale, and you have yourself a feast.

Leave it to the Italians, the Irish or even any culture for that matter, to find a way around the season of Lent when they should be fasting, to have a feast in honor of a Saint.

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