Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Eyes of Santa Lucia

Saint Lucy. You may have seen her around. If you've looked carefully at an altarpiece and noted a young woman standing demurely with one hip swayed out, a palm in one hand and a plate with a pair of eyeballs on it in the other, then you've seen Saint Lucy.

You may well ask-- what's the deal with the eyes. I don't even want to get into the variations on the story, but I will direct you to the wiki page where you can read all about it.

So, on December 13 in some Northern European countries, there's a fancy feast for Lucia, which is odd, because she came from Syracuse in Sicily, but this is the Catholic church, so don't ask about things following logically. The eldest daughter dresses in white, wears a crown of candles on her head and serves everyone Lussekatter, or special buns formed to look, well, like eyes.

This year Ms. Food Snoot--back in the Bay Area at last-- put together a Santa Lucia party--born out of her own memories of a candlelit head and white dress. This year though, we could take advantage of her actually having an eldest daughter in the family.

To amuse the kids before dinner, I'd brought along the gingerbread house and gingerbread men for them to decorate.

Guess which ones were decorated by the youngest member of the crew.

I love bringing over cookies to decorate--maybe it's because it was something I never got to do as a kid. My Dad took me on many amusing activities, but he wasn't a baker.

Still I've done this trick so often now I'm a little worried that the kids see me like cartoon characters do-- the person fades away to be replaced by a cookie.

Oh and note to self, Wilton icing is worth the price-- skip the cheapo Betty Crocker/Safeway tubes-- utterly useless.

We did, however have fun at a candy-by the-pound place on Columbus Ave., where we picked up sour strips, red hots, gummies, butterscotches, candy canes, berry candies, Necco Wafers, licorices, and all those fab things I wasn't supposed to rot my teeth on as a kid.

Ms. Devushka, my Omnivore and the Pajama Queen consulting in the kitchen...eyeball snacks are afoot.

M.Tarte Tatin with a rope on his head. It's a Santa Lucia thing-- don't ask.

The Lucia crown-- safely battery powered.

The ever-popular Lussekatter, which were in fact quite delicious saffron buns. I must confess that they don't really look like eyeballs to me, but I downed my fair share.

My contribution to the eyeball theme: little plates made of gingerbread, with eyeballs on them. I thought they looked quite fetching really.

By far though, I think my favorite was the tomato soup sip with a mozzarella ball stuffed with olive and pimiento. This was another Martha Stewart item, though technically meant for a "spooky" Halloween. We meant for everyone to just have a bit, but the soup was so good that everyone went back for seconds ad thirds-- fortunately Ms. Food Snoot had formed additional eyeballs.

Bacon-wrapped figs-- because no party is ever complete without bacon-wrapped something.

And a fabulous crown roast. Everyone, oddly enough, converged on the Alton Brown recipe/technique for standing up a crown roast, i.e. in a Bundt pan. Don't forget that rub -- HIGHLY delicious.

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