Wednesday, December 14, 2011


My mother's mother was born and raised in Polizzi Generosa, a small, hillside town in Sicily.  An arranged marriage to a local boy who had been living in New York caused her to cross the ocean on a boat, and set up home on Mott Street in Little Italy.  Uprooted, and homesick, she continued to celebrate and honor various religious holidays with traditional dishes and baked goods, learned from the women in her town.  My favorite ritual is Cucidata, a sophisticated fig newton, baked only at Christmas time.

A laborious process, barely altered from my grandmother's recipe, is followed every December by my mother and cousin.  After Thanksgiving the filling, a mixture of nuts, figs and honey, is prepared.   For decades, several nights were devoted to grinding the filberts using my grandmother's ancient cast iron contraption.  My mother, afraid the taste would be altered if she used a blender or food processor, finally  relented.  The dough, made in 5 pound batches, is still mixed by hand, and rolled on a board my grandfather made from an old door, over eighty years ago.  This year, I traveled to NJ to sit across from my mother, board on our laps, using rolling pins my grandfather whittled from broomsticks, to make Cucidata.  I hadn't made them since I moved to California almost twenty years ago.  Every year, mid December, I receive a box via UPS with bubble wrapped cookies.  This year, I will sneak them home in my suitcase to share with my brother, cousin, and friends. 

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for you to come home with that suitcase!
    Cucidata + Love + Tradition = Yum