November 2nd is the Day of the Dead, a remembrance day for deceased ancestors celebrated around the world. In Sicily, the day is called the “Festa Dei Morti,” and is celebrated with a number of unique, seasonal dishes. Far from being morbid or somber, some of the treats for Festa dei Morti are particularly colorful, including the realistic-looking marzipan fruits known as Frutta Martorana and the even more complex Pupi di Zucchero.
Pupi di zucchero means “sugar puppets” in Italian, and these edible, brightly-colored treats are formed in molds in the shapes of Italian folkloric characters, including knights and dancing girls. The tradition of actual pupi marionettes, particularly in Opera dei Pupi performances, is a major Sicilian art form dating from the 13th Century, and is still visible (in diminished form) throughout the island, particularly in Palermo. The origins of the sugar versions of pupi, and how they came to be associated with the Day of the Dead, are relatively obscure, and various historians place them as having French or Arabic origins. I haven’t ever seen these sugar treats outside of Sicily, so those of us outside of the island will just have to enjoy the visuals!
One of our favorite holidays of the year is All Saints’ Day / All Souls’ Day (Celebrated as Dia de Los Muertos in Latin America), and we love the tradition of honoring departed loved ones not with sadness and tears, but with food and festivities. We are branching out a little bit from our typical coverage of Italy and Latin America this year to a traditional treat for All Souls’ Day in Croatia, bobici (which translates to little broad beans). These simple almond, cherry and lemon cookies are traditionally given out as treats on All Saints’ Day for wishes of a long life. They also have roots in the Italian fave dei morti cookies, from when the Venetians ruled the Dalmatian Croatia. You can check out recipes for Bobici from Plates n Planes and Adriatic Figs (below).
We love making special food for the holidays, and foods for Halloween/ Day of the Dead tend to have a bit of a macabre bent, which is always fun! Many foods for these holidays feature bones, skulls or similar shapes, and we are always interested to see how this is even true across cultures. Pan de Muerto from Mexico is topped with mini dough bones, and we recently discovered an Italian cookie that is all bones – the “ossi dei morti/ossa dei morti” – bones of the dead. The “Ossi” are like biscotti, and are flavored with almond and cinnamon/clove. Though this cookie is from the region of Piedmont north of Italy, it is found throughout the country. Good Food Stories has a good-looking recipe, as does Passion and Cooking which includes hazelnuts and a slightly less macabre shape.
Ossi dei Morti in Philadelphia by cherdt