|Fairytale Breakfast: Toasted Muffaletta bread with ricotta cheese and honey.|
In the United States, November 11th is Veteran’s Day, an annual holiday commemorating Veterans for their honorable service, bravery, and sacrifices they have made in serving to protect our country. In my family, not only do we celebrate Veteran’s Day, but we also celebrate the Catholic holiday of St. Martin’s Day. It is also the feast day of my late paternal grandfather, Martin Collins. I wait for this holiday all year because when my maternal grandfather bakes his infamous Muffaletta bread to mark the occasion. Here is how this tradition came about:
St. Martin, a Roman soldier and monk who was baptized as an adult, was the bishop of Tours in 397 A.D. He is commonly depicted riding on a horse and is best known for allegedly giving a beggar half of his cloak during a snowstorm. St. Martin of Tours is commemorated on November 11, the day which he was buried.
St. Martin’s day traditionally marks the end of the fall farvest and the beginning of winter, a time when newly produced wine is ready for drinking. Around the world since late 4th century, this is also a period before the season of Advent starts when people would begin a 40 day fast. This period was called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini,” which is Latin for the “forty days of St. Martin.” On St. Martin’s Eve, people traditionally ate and drank as much as possible before starting their fast. Thus, St. Martin is the patron saint of horses, mounted soldiers, tailors, wine cask makers, and even, well, “drunks.”
In Italy, many Sicilians celebrated St. Martin’s day by dipping hard biscuits containing anise seeds into Moscato wine. These biscuits are small flat loaves of bread known as Muffaletta. Many Americans associate Muffaletta with the famous New Orleans hero-style sandwich that originated in 1906. This New Orleans style Muffaletta is filled with layers of provolone cheese, Genoa salami, ham and a chopped mixed olive salad served on “Italian bread.” However, the Muffaletta bread that is used to make this traditional sandwich comes from this Sicilian St. Martin’s day tradition. Today, there is still a Muffaletta festival celebrated in Reizi and the Province of Caltinessetta in central Sicily.
My grandfather has been making Muffaletta bread to celebrate St. Martin’s Day since I was a little girl. (And every year he ends up making more and more to try and keep up with the demand!) We serve it toasted, with a dab of ricotta cheese and drizzled honey on top. I love this bread so much that I usually freeze a loaf and enjoy it with the ricotta and honey for a special breakfast on Christmas morning. It’s savory and sweet and the perfect fairytale! If you are craving a taste of this tradition, try buying a loaf of Fennel or anise bread at your local bakery. Spread some part-skim ricotta cheese on the bread. Toast in the oven until it is warmed through and drizzle it with some honey immediately upon removing from toaster oven.
|Whole loaf of Muffaletta with ricotta and honey.
Photo Courtesy of Alissa Costello.
On our last night in Nashville, we ventured to the Germantown Cafe, one of the top rated restaurants in Nashville, to see what all the fuss was about and hopefully enjoy some of the local cuisine beyond greasy fried foods smothered in barbecue sauce. I’m happy to report that we had a very pleasant experience here and I would absolutely return there again. The atmosphere was quaint and cozy, the crowd a mix of all ages from locals to foreign CMA music fest concert goers. Though we didn’t have reservations, we didn’t have to wait for a table. The hostess was kind and happy. She seated us a a table near the glass window which allowed just enough of the setting sunlight to peer in to the restaurant. There was a great view of the Nashville skyline.
We started with the strudel and the fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes, served hot, were deep fried in a crisp and greasy (but not too greasy) coating and topped with miniature goat cheese rounds, accompanied by a spicy red bell pepper aioli sauce. We devoured these within seconds.
The only negative part of the dining experience was that we were too stuffed to try the desserts, which sounded sinfully delicate and delicious – but it’s all the more reason to return again next year!