Sicilians have a profound appreciation for the delicate boundary between the living and the dead. November 2 is All Souls Day, better known as the Day of the Dead (Il Giorno dei Morti in Italian or in Sicilian, Un juornu re muorti). Traditionally, this feast, which follows All Saints Day, is spent recognizing one’s relatives who have passed on. The living hold picnics at grave sites and practice rituals that summon their ancestors. To avoid scaring the children too much from conjuring the spirits, there is a tradition of the youngsters waking up to find “un cannistru,” a basket full of typical sweets that have been left by the “visiting dead relatives.”
Traditionally, that meant dried fruit, candies, nuts, chocolate, frutta Martorana (marzipan sculpted to look like fruit), and sugar dolls, called pupaccene (pictured). Our good friend Chef Giuseppe Sciurca along with his partner Valeria Signorino created these pictured. Pupaccene are made in Sicily by a handful of artisan bakers who are very protective of their methods.
Chef Sciurca researched the methodology of the sugar “puppets,” and through his own experimentation, he conceptualized a sugar processing technique and created unique molds in order to form various characters. Natural, edible coloring is used to hand-decorate each pupaccena. Traditionally, the puppets depict the knights from the Opera dei Pupi or ballerinas; however, Sciurca, giving new life to this almost extinct tradition, creates Moor’s heads, similar to the renowned ceramics present throughout the island. He and Valeria paint each pupaccena themselves, creating something extraordinary. So, don’t be scared! Know that the sweets will comfort you as you recognize your ancestors for the Day of the Dead.
Join Experience Sicily! You can meet Giuseppe and Valeria in September 2022, when they are our local hosts during Stirring Sicily, our Cooking in Sicily tour. Learn more about it at https://experiencesicily.com/cooking-in-sicily-stirring-sicily-september-2022/