Italian bread

One of my favorite holidays is St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. It is a day to honor Joseph, the husband of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. It is also known as the Italian Father’s Day, a day to celebrate the good father who sustains us like bread.

My mom used to say, “He is like a piece of bread,” to describe a good man who provided for his family. And in fact, bread is the very symbol of St. Joseph. A simple nourishing food called the staff of life, it plays a central role in celebrating this saint: Celebrants place loaves of bread on the altars of St. Joseph.

On St. Joseph’s Day, Southern Italians and Sicilians traditionally serve bread-based dishes like pasta with breadcrumbs. This dish consists of breadcrumbs (also known as “poor man’s cheese”) sautéed in olive oil with a bit of salt pepper and parsley to which al dente pasta is added. The breadcrumbs represent the sawdust of Joseph the carpenter. A very simple, yet symbolic dish.

Another dish that I think would work for St. Joseph’s Day is my great-great-grandmother Caterina’s bread soup. It’s just water from cooked beans poured over crusty bread. Just add few fresh spring greens for a wonderful, basic soup that is nourishing and satisfying. You could also serve whole loaves filled with artichoke or spinach dip.

Focaccia bread with roasted veggies is another option that’s both meat- and dairy-free. This time of the year, while I am celebrating Lent, eating less meat and dairy is important for me. And when the food is this yummy, giving up these items is not hard at all!

I know that these days, we shy away from carbs, but for thousands of years of human history, bread was the main source of sustenance. I think that it is good to remember the role that humble bread played in our history. And while we are at it, let’s thank the good men in our lives, who “like a piece of bread” offer support and sustenance.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.