Fave dei Morti: the Venetian cookies of All Souls DayLocal Traditions
Fave dei Morti: the Venetian cookies of All Souls Day
As tradition dictates, every year, on the day when the deceased are commemorated (November 2), in Venice it is customary to prepare ‘Fave dei Morti’ (beans of the dead). The name is certainly not very appealing and has nothing to do with the beans that are found in nature! In reality they are tasty cookies, the size of a walnut, which come in three different colors: white, pink and brown. But why are they called that?
To understand the etymology of the word, we need to take a big step back in time to the era of ancient Rome. In the past throughout the Mediterranean area, broad beans were connected to the afterlife and the deceased. In fact, in ancient Rome, broad beans symbolized the souls of the dead and for this reason, numerous rituals and superstitious habits were practiced using this particular legume, such as its use as a gift to the deities of Hades and on the tomb of the deceased, the chewing of dried broad beans or their cooking. Even with the advent of Christianity, the link between broad beans and the dead was not forgotten so much so that, until more recent times, it was customary to put bowls full of broad beans on the windowsill and on the corners of the streets.
Today broad beans have been replaced by a delicious cookie ‘Fava dei Morti’. In Venice sweet broad beans are traditionally made with pine nuts but...there are many variations depending on the region! For example, in Trieste they are made with almonds, in Bergamo they are flavored with anise and grappa or in other regions (including Veneto), on November 2 you can eat ‘ossa di morto’, biscuits that usually have a hard pastry and may contain almonds or chocolate glaze.
You can taste and buy Fave dei Morti in any pastry shop in and around Venice ... but why not try them at home? The recipe is very easy!
You will need the classic ingredients to make desserts, always available in every kitchen: sugar, eggs (only egg whites) and finely ground pine nuts which are then added to the sugar and then mixed with the other ingredients. To create the different hues, you will have:
- to divide the mixture into three, on one you will add a little cocoa to create brown Fave, on one the Alkermes for red ones while the third will be left plain to make white Fave.
- Let the three mixtures rest, roll them into sausage-like pieces and cut them into rounds and sprinkle with icing or granulated sugar, then place them on a lined baking tray.
- Finally, bake at 130°C for 10 minutes. They will be ready when cracks appear on their surface.
- Let them cool for at least 10 hours and then they will be ready.
No doubt you will have noticed that this year, November 2 falls right on a Saturday! Why not take advantage of this day to treat yourself to a nice weekend in Venice? And while you are munching your fave dei morti, discover the treasures of this unique city with our guided tours of Venice!
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