Happy St. Joseph's Day!
As a kid in a pretty Italian-American part of New Jersey, St. Patrick's Day was certainly celebrated--there was green beer and corned beef and cabbage and boxty, people getting pinched for not wearing green and people getting punched for pinching people for not wearing green--but everybody waited with bated breath for March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary.
People would set up their St. Joseph altars and wear red, and eat fresh fish and fava beans (the fish because the Feast of St. Joseph was right around when the rivers ran enough for fish to head back to spawn, the beans because they're a symbol of spring). The big event for the kids, though, was making zeppole in school.
Zeppole are fried dough balls, like the Italian version of funnel cake. In their simplest form they are just tossed in a bag with a little (okay, a lot of) powdered sugar; bakeries sell them stuffed with cannoli filling. They're delicious, sinful, deep-fried calorie bombs and it was always a bet to see who would wake up with the worst stomachache the next day.
Tradition holds that the swallows come back to San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day. This doesn't actually happen very often, but as a consolation prize, for those of the audience who are practicing Catholics, Canon Law says that when the Feast of St. Joseph falls on a Friday--that would be today--the traditional Lenten sacrifice of meatless Fridays may be skipped.
In other words, thank St. Joseph as you bite into a gigantic cheeseburger today. If you want zeppole, try Claro's (101 W. Whittier, La Habra; 1095 Main, Tustin), Angelo's (190 La Verne, Long Beach) or Cortina's (2175 W. Orange, Anaheim).
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