St. Joseph’s Day marks the end of the famine in Italy during the Middle Ages. Townspeople prayed to St. Joseph, their patron saint, to end the famine and, in return, they would do what Italians do best. Throw an annual feast! The day also honors workers, as Joseph was a carpenter, and is Father’s Day in Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Here in Haverhill, I celebrated by wearing red and tracking down a zeppola, the traditional Italian pastry commemorating the feast day. This is the first time I’ve tried to find zeppole outside of Rhode Island. In Providence, you almost couldn’t avoid finding a zeppole on St. Joseph’s Day, but we’re not in Providence anymore. There are some delicious Italian bakeries nearby, so Mr. Wonderful and I set off on a journey to find zeppole. He hadn’t even heard of St. Joseph’s Day before I came along. (Some Italian he turned out to be…)
A traditional zeppola, as I know it, is something like a fried donut with a ricotta/custard filling and a cherry on top. It’s meant to look like hammer, you know, to represent the carpentry. I guess there’s a lot of discrepancy as to what a zeppola really is. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is. A cannoli is just about the same everywhere, even if the filling varies a little. We went to Piro’s Italian Bakery in Methuen, mostly because it was closest to home. I didn’t actually see zeppole when I looked through the case, but Mr. Wonderful made me ask. Apparently they were right in front of me. Except that they looked like this:
Yeah, so these, in my humble opinion, aren’t zeppole. They’re strawberry cream puffs. Strawberry! Not cherry. Here’s the problem: I don’t actually like strawberry. So I would never buy a strawberry cream puff. I like cream puffs, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t expecting a cream puff. I was kind of expecting that an Italian bakery would know what a zeppole is, if they were going to sell them and all. Such a disappointment!
Next year, we’re not messing around. We’re going to Providence for St. Joseph’s Day. I’ll be at LaSalle Bakery when they open. Who’s with me?