13 December 2010

13 December - Saint Lucy

Today is the feast of Saint Lucy (or Lucia), Virgin and Martyr, who suffered, circa 303, in the persecutions of Diocletian.  A young lady of Syracuse (Sicily) who preferred a religious single life to marriage, she gave away her patrimony in alms, and was denounced as a Christian to the authorities by her rejected fiance.  The governor first tried to talk her out of her beliefs; when that failed, he (thinking that her power lay in her physical chastity) ordered her to be taken to a nearby brothel and gang-raped until she died.  They tried to drag her away to the brothel, but she could not be moved - not by one man, or a thousand, or a team of oxen.  The governor then ordered her burned alive, but the fire did not hurt her.  Finally, she was dispatched with a sword to the throat.

She is the patron of Syracuse, and of those suffering from blindness, eye-problems, and throat infections.

Her name meaning "light", she is celebrated by bonfires and torchlight processions, especially in Italy.  In the northern countries, which followed the Julian calendar until the 18th century, Saint Lucia's Day was the longest night of the year, and the saint of light was much welcomed.  Swedish Saint Lucia festivities are probably the most well-known, with the eldest daughter of the house, dressed in white with a red sash and a wreath with candles on her head, serving her parents coffee and St. Lucia buns (recipe here).

John Donne, in England, wrote:
TIS the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seaven houres herself unmaskes,
  The Sunne is spent, and now his flasks
  Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes;
    The worlds whole sap is sunke:...

Her usual attribute is a dish holding her eyeballs.  Two stories account for this: 1. That an importunate suitor claimed that he could not forget her, for the memory of her beautiful eyes stayed with him.  She then plucked out her eyes and sent them to him, begging to be left alone. [Rather snarky]  2.  That her eyes were plucked out during her torture.

For this, EYEBALL CANDIES, which you probably haven't seen since Hallowe'en, are the perfect dessert.  If you have made Buckeyes, the recipe will look familiar.

Cream together 1/2 cup of softened butter and 1-1/2 cups of creamy peanut butter.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 cups of powdered sugar, and mix well.  Chill this mixture for half an hour (makes it easier to form.  Trust me).  Spoon out a little dough and roll it into a small ball (small is relative; 1-1/2 inch diameter works for me).  Continue to make balls out of the rest of the dough; place them on wax paper and chill again for 1/2 hour.

While the dough-balls are chilling, get out 12 ounces of white chocolate (for dipping) and follow the instructions given for melting it.  Mine calls for microwaving it, which is probably the easiest.  Dip the eyeballs into the chocolate, using slotted spoons, skewers, or toothpicks.  Put the dipped eyeballs on a sheet of wax paper and cool until firm.

For the irises, you can either color the remaining chocolate with blue food coloring (or divide it, and color one part blue and one part green), or you can use decorating gels in those colors (as I did), or use Lifesaver candies.  Make a small circle on the top of the eyeball and press a miniature chocolate-chip in the center (that's the pupil).  I turn my chocolate chip upside down, so the pupil is flat.  You can use the regular-size chocolate-chips; the eyes will look like they've been smoking something.

If you don't want to go through the job of mixing peanut butter and chilling it, one recipe uses Vanilla Wafers as the eyeballs.  Dip into white chocolate and decorate as usual.  The eyeball may be flat, but still quite good.

"Sacrifice which pleaseth God is to visit the widows and orphans, and to help them in their need: I have not ceased these three years past to make to God such sacrifice, and forasmuch as I have no more of which I may make yet such sacrifice, I offer to him myself, let him do with his offering as it pleaseth him." from The Golden Legend, "The Life of the Blessed Virgin Lucy"