In the Catholic religion the teaching of the word “epiphany” means manifestation. This is the day when the Magi (Three Kings) reached the Christ child and He became known to the world as Jesus. In some regions the Feast of the Epiphany is also called the Feast of the Holy Kings or The Gifts of The Magi. The Kings names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They followed the bright five pointed star in the heavens which brought them to Bethlehem, and the stable where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had just given birth. The Three Kings presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the baby, Jesus.
There are various customs and traditions on how to celebrate The Feast of the Epiphany all over the world. Throughout Italy, especially Sicily, they celebrate on the eve of January 5th. There is the legend of La Befana. In keeping with the tale she is a witch with her clothing worn to rags. She flies through the Italian skies on her broomstick during the night, and fills children’s stockings with toys, and sweets for the children who were good, and coal for the ones that were naughty. According to the legend, the night before the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied she was busy cleaning her house with her broomstick. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She held her broomstick up to the star and the magic of the night gave her broomstick the ability to fly. As the legend continues in gratitude for the woman’s generosity the Holy Child gave the woman the most wonderful blessing, and gift of all. His blessing to the woman was that for one night, the eve if the Epiphany for all eternity the woman would have all the children of the world as her own. His gift was that her name be called “La Befana” the “Giver of Gifts.”
There are many traditional foods that the Italians prepare for the Epiphany. The Magi came from the Orient, so many of the foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often prepared to adorn your festive table for dessert. Sweet breads made with dried figs, anise seeds, and candied fruits are always a favorite. These breads or cakes are made in the shape of a circle or crown, to honor the Three Wise Men. Everyone drinks the local wine and eats a special fig and raisin bread baked in a wood-burning oven. The flavors of oranges, and tangerines, are included in many dishes, which represent sunlight. (Epiphany is also known as the holiday of light) Meats such as lamb and pork are rubbed with good olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, which add a festive fragrance to your table.
When I was growing up my parents would leave the Christmas tree up until the Epiphany. As a child and even now, I really never wanted Christmas to be over. So, as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas going all year, I would love to share with you my recipe this week which is a delicious Italian soup called “Pork and Pepper Soup.” The winter is upon us, with very cold temperatures and snow. We need to cook something hearty, but warm. I know that if La Befana comes to your door looking for the Christ Child she will be hungry. I’m sure when you invite her in she would just love a big bowl of this flavorful and mouthwatering dish.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
1-1/2 pounds thick cut boneless pork chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 medium onions, peeled & chopped in quarters
2 green peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 tomatoes skinned and quartered
4 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 pint of beef or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
1 lb of potatoes peeled & cut into cubes
1 tablespoon of flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in pan. When hot add the pork cubes in batches so not to overcrowd and sauté over high heat until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add the butter, onions, and green peppers, and fry until onion is lightly browned. Stir in the flour and then remove from heat. Add the stock, return to the heat and boil, stirring continuously. Add the tomato, tomato puree, and salt/pepper to taste. Reduce the heat, return the pork, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water if necessary. Add the potatoes and cook gently for a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Serve with a chunk of Italian bread and a glass of Red Wine like a Pinot Noir or Chianti. A dish fit for a King! Enjoy, Mangia!
Till Next Time…………………
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