The Feast of Saint Lucy or “Santa Lucia”
Following Sicilian tradition, my mother, Lucia, was supposed to be named Josephine after her father’s mother. But when she was born on December 13, 1920, The Feast of Saint Lucy, her mother “didn’t want to take her name away from her”, as I was told, so she was named Lucia. The next girl born in their family was named Josephine.
The statue of Saint Lucy shows her holding a plate with eyeballs on it. This is a symbol of Saint Lucy as the Patron Saint of the Blind or Visually Impaired.
In her other hand, Saint Lucy holds a stalk of wheat. The story goes that there was a severe famine in 1582. Sicilians believed that Saint Lucy intervened when ships filled with grain came into their harbor on December 13. People were so hungry that they boiled the grain rather than taking the time to grind it into flour. This is how the tradition of eating boiled wheat came to be.
On December 13, Santa Lucia, in Sicily and all over Italy, the people do not eat anything made of wheat flour. They don’t eat breads or pastas. What they do eat is a dish called “cuccia” which is made with boiled whole wheat, sugar and cream, usually made with ricotta. I make this with our family recipe of Sicilian Cream the way my mother made it.
Every year on The Feast of Saint Lucy, December 13, my mother, Lucia, brought bowls of it to all of her aunts and cousins. This was a tradition she enjoyed her whole life.
In honor of my mother, I cook wheat with Sicilian cream on the Feast of Saint Lucy, my mother’s birthday. On December 13, share in our tradition of honoring Santa Lucia, after whom my mother was named.
1 lb. peeled wheat grain
1 recipe Sicilian cream – Recipe below
Put wheat in a large pan. Cover with hot water. Clean the wheat by removing anything that floats. Drain the water out of the pan leaving the wheat in the pan. Repeat this 3 times to clean the wheat.
Cover the wheat with hot water. Let it soak for 4 to 5 hours then rinse it one last time.
Cover the wheat with hot water at least 2 inches above the top of the wheat.
Bring to a boil.
Cover the pan with a little tilt so steam can escape.
Cook on low for approximately 1½ hours until wheat is soft when you taste it. It should be soft but not to the point of being mushy. If it is not soft enough and the water has been absorbed, add an additional cup of water. You might have to do this more than once. Keep an eye on the wheat while it is cooking.
If it seems cooked well enough and there is still some water in it, take the cover off and let it cook until most of the water is absorbed.
Let it cool in the pan for half an hour.
Put it into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
2 c. hot milk
1/3 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
½ c. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 egg slightly beaten
1 T. butter
1 tsp. clear vanilla flavoring
Measure flour, sugar and salt into a heavy pan.
While milk is still cold, pour about 1/3 of a cup of it into the pan with the dry ingredients in it and blend with a wire whisk until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Heat up the rest of the milk in the microwave. Pour the milk into the creamy mixture in the pan and whisk it together. Cook on medium heat stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens.
Remove pan from the stove. Break the egg into a measuring cup and whip it with a fork. Add the butter and the egg to the cream, whisking so the egg doesn’t cook.
Return to heat for about 2 minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Let it cool for about 15 minutes. Put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
How to fix and serve:
Measure 2 cups of cold cooked wheat.
Measure 1 ½ cup of cold Sicilian cream.
Put them in a bowl together and mix thoroughly.
Serve in individual dessert cups.
Sprinkle with a little cinnamon. (optional)
You can also put cold wheat in a dish, add sugar to desired sweetness and sprinkle with a little cinnamon.
Enjoy it this simple way!