Sunday, March 20, 2011

The town feast

As we arrived back at the Pasticceria to meet our hosts, we weren’t really sure how the feast of San Giuseppe was going to unfold. The only information we managed to find on the Internet was that it was a celebration dedicated to the patron saint of workers, but not actually how it is celebrated. As we were waiting outside the pastry shop for our hosts to get ready, we were told (over more small sweet delights of course) that this was a particular tradition of the town Ribera. The story, from what we could gather, is that people make a prayer for a miracle in their lives (like a sick child getting better) and in the hope of increasing the chance of their prayer being answered they offer a feast to the locals.

A few hundred people were gathered outside one family’s house, waiting for the ceremony to begin and the food to be handed out. Several women watched closely over four or five huge pots of broth and vegetable, boiling over open fires, whilst two young men were ignoring the intense smoke and the heat, stirring the broth with big wooden spoons. Expectations in the crowd grew, and soon a group of children dressed up as St. Joseph, Mary, Jesus and the angels made their entrance, led by an old man banging rhythmically on a drum. Blessings and prayers were recited inside the temporary altar inside the family’s garage and blessed bread was handed out to the crowd.

What people really wanted now was the pasta. In just a few minutes people went from politely listen quietly to the children to shouting and indicating towards plastic bowls, spoons and the best places to get the “ministra” (or as we would know it the minestrone). In spite of several tries it was impossible to get hold of any food before it was all dealt out or before we had to give up since the smoke was making our eyes water. Luckily, our “hosts” gave us their portion before they battled their way back into the crowds for some more. So there we were, standing in the middle of the street, in the sunshine, eating our first “ministra” and smiling, thinking how lucky we are to already have seen a slice of Sicilian life.

And our luck seems to be holding since we’ve also been invited to our new Sicilian friend’s summer house for a barbeque.

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