Have you ever wondered where the traditional remedy for a hangover comes from?
The 19th of March in Italy is celebrated as San Giuseppe Day or Father’s Day. If you look superficially, it is for indulging in zeppole, the squishy yummy custardy-filled pastries topped with a single black cherry, but jump back in time to the pagan traditions of Father’s Day and you can discover the tradition and where our fry-up hangover remedy stems from!
In Ancient Rome it was customary to celebrate the “Liberalia”, festivals in honour of the wine god Bacchus and his ‘tutor’ Silenus. Rivers of wine flowed and to pay homage to Silenus they fried wheat pancakes. Hangover fry-up remedy fodder really has been going for centuries!
These same pancakes would later become the protagonists of the March 19th zeppola. They are so named as ‘zeppola’ as they are thought to derive from the Latin “serpula”, which means “snake” and describes the shape of the dessert similar to a snake closed on itself.
The traditional pagan and tribal rites of this day lay in the Spring Equinox when large bonfires were burned to purify the earth in anticipation of the fertile season. There are still some villages and towns in Abruzzo that practice similar events today! It was a day of celebration, a time for anticipating the bounty that would come, an essential moment in the calendar for farm folk to celebrate with lots of lard-based and fried foods for all that hard work to be coming soon!
You can see why a day of sharing food, wine and farming tips was converted by the Catholic Church into San Giuseppe Day/Father’s Day. The photo of these pignate cooking beans and vegetables in the fire in Molise shows this off well, a big piece of lard or rind being cooked with them traditionally and shared amongst the community. Abruzzo is full of a set of diverse festivities for the day including the Tavole di San Giuseppe, whizz it thru the translator and read it here.