Mid-March is a time when the mainly Catholic inhabitants of a certain European country celebrate the feast day of perhaps their most renown saint, someone who i credited with delivering the country from a terrible famine and who is still looked to today with prayers and, of course, a culinary as well as religious, feast.
That's right, it's time to celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph, and to honor him, like they have done for centuries, Italians in Italy and all over the world will hold St. Joseph's Tables, where they share cakes, breads, cookies, other, traditionally meatless dishes, and fava beans. His feast day is celebrated on March 19, but the St. Joseph's Tables are held within a few days of that day, and in the instance of church St. Joseph's Tables, it would be held on a Sunday, typically after the last Mass of the day.
At The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii at Lexington and Racine on the Near West Side, the hundreds who will take part in the meal on Sunday, March 22 will not only have a feast before them but they will also be given some fava beans. Why fava beans? Well, in the Middle Ages, there was a terrible famine in Sicily, and the people there prayed to St. Joseph, and their prayers were answered. To commemorate the intercession of St. Joseph in ending the famine, the Sicilians promised to make annual offerings of food in his honor.
Fava beans, which had been considered nothing more than food for cattle, was the food that saved the Sicilians from starvation. The reputation of this "lucky bean" extends into the kitchen and beyond. Some people believe you will never be broke as long as you carry one and if you keep one in the pantry, there will always be food in the kitchen.
Buona Festa di San Giuseppe!