October 18, 2010
I once saw my friend Giò drop a heel of bread on the floor. She scooped it up like it was a newborn chick and tenderly kissed it.
“That’s what we do here in Sicily,” she laughed. “Bread is everything for us. Jesus is in the bread. It must always sit on its bottom, for example. And we never toss it away. That’s a sin.”
“Well, what if it gets old?”
“We make breadcrumbs from it. If it’s turning green with mold, we kiss it and apologize to Jesus.”
I once made Easter breads with an 86-year-old woman who’s never been off the island. She said a prayer as she popped the bread into the oven.
To Saint Anthony, handsome and good.
The angel passes and leaves his blessing, the angel passed and left his blessing.
May the Ragusan bread rise as big as a field, may the country bread rise as big as a mountain.
Saint Anthony is not the only person Sicilian women turn to for help with baking. Some pray to Saint Clement (“Let the bread not have a bubble!”) or directly to Mary and Jesus themselves.
I didn’t dare tell my friend Giò that as kids we made spitballs with bread, or that as an adult I’ve carelessly trashed scores of half-eaten loaves. That would be the ultimate blasphemy here.
What food do you revere?