To celebrate Lucia, the Patron Saint of eyes, sight, light, and wheat, Sicilians eat cuccìa. Cuccìa is a pudding made of farro (wheat berries or barley), milk (in this case, ricotta), and honey or sugar. This culinary ritual is practiced in remembrance of the grain that finally arrived by boats on their way from North Africa, relieving Sicilians of a severe famine in 1646. It is believed that prayers to Santa Lucia brought the ships, which, once their cargo was delivered, disappeared into oblivion!
Farro is un-ground wheat grain. Siracusa’s and Palermo’s citizens were so hungry, they couldn’t wait to dry and prepare the farro to make flour for bread and pasta; so, for efficiency, they simply soaked and boiled it and mixed it with other ingredients.
This cuccìa picture, which I made in New York City, is a sweet pudding (Forgive me, it’s missing the beautiful candied pumpkin, cherries, and zucchini one can easily find in Sicily!). Other recipes include wine (made in towns near Trapani, for example) or salt (common in inland areas around Enna and Caltanissetta) and may be served as a soup. Local products and micro-regional traditions dictate how cuccìa in prepared (Remember, Sicily is a big place with many different ways of doing things.).
Today, cuccìa could include chocolate, cinnamon, pistachios, and candied fruits. Some followers of Santa Lucia are known to recite prayers while consuming the pudding and others fast for the entire feast day of December 13.
Join us in New York City on Sunday, Dec. 13 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Eolo Seasonal Sicilian Kitchen to enjoy different recipes of cuccìa as well as arancine–a tradition specific to Palermo for Santa Lucia! More on that in the days ahead. Sunday afternoon includes unlimited food, wine, a live concert, and a lecture by Experience Sicily (That’s me, Allison Scola!). Beautiful gift baskets composed of artisanal products from Sicily will be available for purchase by Gelsomino Imports, so you can complete some holiday shopping.
Tickets are $75 which includes tax and gratuity.
Make your reservation for the Feast today by calling 646-225-6606. Viva Santa Lucia!