Sicilian Sweets for the Festival for the Dead

Last night I dreamt of my grandparents who passed away many years ago. We were gathered around the kitchen table, laughing, talking and eating as usual. As tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, my superstitious self said “how appropriate you had a visit from the dead” so here’s to my grandparents.Thanks for the visit.

Celebrating the dead may sound morbid. I remember it as a day when we would visit the cemetery. Although it is a Catholic celebration, this festival has ancient, pagan roots. It is a day where offerings are made to the dead to honor them and the sweetness of life is celebrated.

It is also a day of beginnings. Farmers plant seeds today in hopes that the dead will bless the seeds with new life. It is a day when I recall the sweetest of Sicilian sweets La Frutta di Martorana (marzipan fruits).

Painted in vibrant colors, these marzipan fruits are said to have been created by nuns of the Martorana convent in Palermo for the archbishop’s visit on the Day of the Dead. He was awestruck by the fruit hanging from trees in the cloister. These sugary treats are now made all the year round but are given to children in memory  of All Souls’ Day.

DSC_0649My favorite places to eat la frutta di martorana in Sicily are Cappello in Palermo and at Perlata in San Vito Lo Capo.

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