Friday, July 15, 2011

festa della Madonna del Monte Carmelo or The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16 is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, honored throughout Southern Italy and brought to the United States by immigrants. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated worldwide, and most Catholics are familiar with its tradition. In the late 14th century Saint Simon Stock, an early prior general of the Carmelite Order had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which she gave him the “Brown Scapular” which formed a part of the Carmelite habit, promising that those who died wearing the scapular would not suffer eternal fire.

The Italians especially are devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In Southern Italy, a predominantly Catholic area, many Saints are recognized. In addition, every village places itself under the “protection” of a particular Saint. For example, San Gennaro protects the city of Naples, while Saint Nicholas watches over the city of Bari. A major public event in each village or city is called “The Feste Patronali” which is a gala event that the entire populous takes part in. The streets are illuminated with elaborate arches of lights, religious services, band concerts, foods of all kinds, games, and entertainment. There are countless lists of patron Saints, here are some examples; Saint Blaise that protects you from throat disease, Saint Anne guards expectant mothers, and Saint Lucy is the Saint invoked against eye problems.

In New York City, (East Harlem) is one of the oldest festivals in America that honors Our Lady of Mount Carmel since 1881. There is an old saying, "no one will ever become ill on the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or as a result of its celebration." The honoring of the Virgin Mary is the grand finale of the weekend. Even though there is fun to be had at the feast, it still is a religious festival that most take very seriously. For three hours on the feast day, the five-foot Madonna statue, dressed in flowers and an embroidered gold satin cloak, will slowly be paraded through the streets by hundreds of people which include many priests and sometimes the Bishop. Along the way people pin money to ribbons and hang them on the statue’s platform, notes with prayers and sometimes even jewelry are attached to the statue, that you can hardly see the image of the Our Lady.

I remember when I was young, every July my family would enjoy the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. As we would walk to the entrance you could see all of the lights, and the excitement of the feast. I would go straight for the games and hope to win a stuffed bear or a prize of some kind. Then you see the booths of food, which are so fantastic. As you are walking along the streets you can smell the aromas of all the delicious foods that are available. Some booths sell hot pizza, juicy sausage and peppers, sweet Zeppole, sugary Cotton Candy, and of course creamy Ice Cream just to name a few of the different varieties of foods that you can find at the feast.. The next area of interest is the entertainment. I remember seeing a big stage surrounded by a band and music would be playing. As I would try to see between the crowds, my eyes would be fixed on a beautiful Italian singer. Even though I couldn’t understand the words in Italian, I was lulled by her spectacular voice. As you continued to walk along the streets that were blocked off from the traffic you could see the rides. They always had a Ferris wheel and a Merry-go-Round. Many of the rides were for little children as you would be able to see their smiling happy faces waiting to get on a ride. But I also remember the most important part of the feast which was visiting the church. My mom would give me a small chapel veil to put on my head, (years ago women had to have their heads covered going into the church) we would always light a candle and say a prayer at the statue of Our Lady. The church was so big, beautiful and quiet. It was hard to believe that outside the church all the noise and festivities were still going on. For me it was definitely the highlight of the feast.

FUN, BITS AND PIECES……..Food Trivia Questions
See how many you can guess right. Come back; see next weeks Blog for the answers

1. What percentage of a lemon is juice?
2. Two states have official beverages. Florida's is orange juice. What's the other state and its beverage?
3. The pretzel shape was created by French monks in 610A.D. What was it designed to resemble?
4. What flavor ice cream did Dolly Madison serve at the inaugural festivities in 1812?
5. What is the traditional food served at Wimbledon each year?
6. How many lemons does the average lemon tree yield per year?
7. What are the two most cultivated fruit trees in the world?
8. What do avocados, eggplants, cucumbers, chilies, and tomatoes have in common?

My recipe of the week is called “Sorbetto al Limone con Fragile,” which is Lemon Sorbet over Strawberries. This recipe’s source is from The colors are glorious, the preparation is very easy, and extremely addictive. So, I hope that you have a wonderful time at the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As you are strolling the streets and eating,
I may see you there and say Hi……..

Sobetto al Limone con Fragile (Lemon Sorbet over Strawberries)

1 Pint of Strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 Pint of Lemon Sorbet (store-bought is fine)
2 Strips of lemon zest
Arrange the strawberries in 2 martini glasses or any type of tall glass. Top with the sorbet and garnish with the lemon zest.
This recipe serves 2

Till next time……..

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