Thursday, February 5, 2009

In Sicily, every Saint has got his/her pastries!

I was at Enoteca di Sicilia a couple of days ago and my good friend Aldo showed me a typical pastry of the period named seno di vergine (virgin's breast). I've made a quick research and realized how in Sicily every Saint is strictly linked with some special pastry or dessert.
Today, the 5th of March the city of Catania celebrates her patron Saint: Agatha. To tell the true, the feast in her honour starts on the 3rd of March and goes on evey day, 24 hrs per day, ending usually on the mornig of the 6th. But, I will post more details about this incredible and huge sacred attraction.

The brown pastries is named seno di vergine, virgin's breast (I'll revert back with a specific post about it), the white one is more specifically St Agatha's breast. Both have the shape of a breast and accordingy are usually made in different sizes with the tipples made of pastry or candied cherry. The green ones are named St. Agatha's olive and made of marzipan.

To understand what is behind the pastries showed in the picture, first I have to tell you briefly about the life of St. Agatha.
She was of a rich and illustrious family, and having been consecrated to God from her tender years, triumphed over many assaults upon her chastity. Quintianus, a man of consular dignity, bent on gratifying his lust, imagined he should easily compass his wicked designs on Agatha's person and estate by means of the emperor's edict against the Christians. He therefore caused her to be apprehended and brought before him at Catania. On her appearance, Quintianus gave orders for her being put into the hands of Aphrodisia who, with six daughters, all prostitutes, kept a common stew. Quintianus, being informed of her constancy after thirty days, ordered her to be brought before him. The virgin told him that to be a servant of Jesus Christ was the most illustrious nobility and true liberty. Quintianus offended at her resolute answers, commanded her to be buffeted and led to prison and then to be stretched on the rack, which torment was usually accompanied with stripes, the tearing of the sides with iron hooks, and burning them with torches or matches. Then, enraged to see her suffer all this with cheerfulness, he commanded her breast to be tortured, and afterwards to be cut off. At which she made him this reproach: "Cruel tyrant, do you not blush to torture this part of my body, you that sucked the breasts of a woman yourself?
© Text and picture by Doriana Briguglio