St. Lucy’s Day and the Arancine tradition in Palermo
In Sicily the arancine can be found in every period of the year; in bars, takeaways or the typical friggitorie, they are produced and consumed literally every day. What is then that makes it different to eat them for St. Lucy? Why did December 13 become the “Arancina day“?
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According to tradition, in 1646 Santa Lucia saved Sicily from a period of famine. Food arrived at a port of the island – for some arrived in Palermo, for others in Syracuse. It was a ship loaded with wheat; since then, to commemorate this event, on December 13th there is a vow to God that consists in not eating flour products.
But St. Lucy’s day is not only about Arancine! Although the Arancina has now become the culinary symbol of this day, the dish that is most closely linked, by tradition, to December 13 is the Cuccìa.
Certainly less famous than the arancina, the cuccìa is a dish made of boiled corn dipped in a cream of ricotta or chocolate. Tradition has it that it was born right after the arrival of the ship in Sicily, and that the Sicilians, hungry, preferred to boil the wheat, rather than flour, to save time and be able to eat immediately. The term cuccìa derives from “coccio”, the grain of wheat.
Another dish linked to this day is the Potato Gateau, better known as “grattò”, stuffed with prosciutto cotto and mozzarella, or with a Ragù sauce similar to that used to season the arancine “accarne”.
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The Arancina Day
A rice ball traditionally seasoned with Ragù meat sauce or with prosciutto cotto and béchamel, but that can be found in many and tasty variations; On the 13th of December, every respectable Palermitan, anywhere in the world, must eat at least one. The social networks are clogged with pictures of arancine, meme that see it as protagonist, and you do not hear about anything else! There is always someone asking, amazed “but you can always eat the arancina! How come today you are all so excited for the arancina?”. Well, if he is asking, then he’s probably not from Palermo!
During St. Lucy the Arancina has a different taste, has a deep meaning that, as often happens for Sicilians, passes through the palate. If you are from Palermo, but you live anywhere else in the world, while eating the Arancine on St. Lucy, you know that you’ll feel like you are again at home.
Our Arancina Recipe
A stuffed rice ball, deep fried, full of love with the shape of the Sun: that’s how I would describe an Arancina. And yes, I said “arancinA” not “arancinO”, since this is the recipe for the Arancina (female!) as it is done in Palermo, and not the Arancino (Male!) more common in the area near Catania – It’s not a secret that I’m from Palermo so I’m part of Team Arancina (A big hug to all my friends from Catania!).