March 19th, is Saint Joseph’s Day and on the same day Italians celebrate Father’s Day with a sweet treat

In the Belpaese there is a particular dish or recipe for every special occasion; Saint Joseph’s Day is no exception. On March 19th, the delicacies most Italians enjoy are originally from Naples and are called Zeppole di San Giuseppe. Like many traditional Neapolitan cakes, they focus on a fine contrast of flavors. A shell of deep-fried choux pastry filled with a sweet and fragrant pastry cream, on top of which rests a black cherry that adds a sour note.
The first official recipe of the Zeppole, dated 1837, is found in the “Trattato di Cucina Teorico-Pratico” (Theoretical-Practical Cooking Treatise) by the Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino. However, even if the recipe had not been written before 1837, Neapolitans had already been making them for centuries. Indeed, in 1400, they were included among the “privileges” of the Viceroy of Naples, Juan II de Ribagorza.

On March 19th, the delicacies most Italians enjoy are originally from Naples and are called Zeppole di San Giuseppe

The origins of Zeppole are shrouded in legend and connected to two ancient and different traditions. The one related to Christianism refers to the flight in Egypt of the holy family. It is said that to support his family, Joseph added to his job as a carpenter that of a street vendor of fried pastry. Thanks to this story, the Zeppole di San Giuseppe became the typical cake to celebrate Father’s Day, which in Italy coincides with Saint Joseph’s Day.

A second legend takes us back in time to 500 BC. Then, on March 17th, the ancient Romans used to celebrate Liberalia, a feast organized in honor of Bacchus and Silenus. On the occasion, wine and ambrosia were paired with fragrant wheat fritters, cooked in boiling lard. When Emperor Theodosius II, who prohibited any pagan cult, the Liberalia celebrations were ceased too. However, over time, they were probably assimilated by Catholicism. In this case, the Zeppole that today have the name of the saint would be the descendants of ancient Roman fritters.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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