Tomorrow, the people of Palermo will celebrate the Queen of all Sicilian street foods: Her Majesty Arancina.
For those of you who don’t know what arancina is, this picture will give you an idea – a deep fried rice ball stuffed with meat or cheese, which will make you wonder ‘where have I been all my life?!’
This deep fried delicacy is so vitally important to the people of Palermo that they even dedicated a day of the year to celebrate ‘her’ glory (arancina is female, you must know that and never EVER call it arancino).
On this day of the year, December 13, the average Palermitan eats at least ten arancine, the city is dominated by the smell of fried oil and the levels of cholesterol and happiness rise above normal limits. That’s what I call heaven.
And now the true story
On December 13 the people of Palermo celebrate Santa Lucia – the lovely lady in the picture below, holding a pair eyes in her hands (but that’s another story). Legend goes that in 1646, on St. Lucy’s feast day a great famine that was hitting the city ended as ships loaded with grain entered the harbor. ‘MIRACLE!’ Thought the Palermitans, who have never been known for their rational thinking… and since there was no time to ground the grains into flour and make bread, they ate the whole grains to stop the hunger pangs. From that day on, they celebrated the saint by avoiding any form of processed wheat (like bread or pasta). This is why cuccìa (whole grain dessert) and arancine (made of rice) are the traditional foods people eat on this day. If you dare asking why you’re allowed to use breadcrumbs to make arancina, nobody is going to answer you.
To help you celebrate Santa Lucia like a real Sicilian, I will share the top secret recipe of this Sicilian delicacy tomorrow. For now, here’s a list of the best places to eat arancine in Palermo. Enjoy and may Saint Lucy be with you!