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A Recipe and a Memory: Ash Wednesday Pie

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.” ~Genesis 3:19

If Christmas is the biggest time of year for special recipes for Italian Americans, then Easter is the second biggest time. Every recipe brings me back to memories of my Grandmother, Rosina Fucetola Fieramosca.

There are two recipes that have a strong place in my memory for the Easter season. One is pizzagaine, served on Easter. But the first recipe of the season is Macaroni Pie, made on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

This year’s Ash Wednesday pie.

Keeping the fast on Ash Wednesdays and every Friday during Lent is an important act of faith. While our faith in the church is the reason for the day, it always comes back to a celebration through food as well a strong belief in God. Every year that meant macaroni pie as a meal, usually lunch, on Ash Wednesday. A simple meal made with simple ingredients, for a profound day on the Christian calendar.

I remember watching my Grandma make macaroni pie every year and just couldn’t wait to have a slice. While it is a simple and inexpensive dish you could make anytime, keeping it to Ash Wednesday, and possibly Good Friday, makes it all the more special. One pound of spaghetti, eggs, grated cheese, salt, pepper, olive oil. We used to joke that we could tell how much her vision had changed from year to year based on how much pepper she added to dish. Like most of her recipes, there was nothing written down for reference. The only way dishes became an actual recipe was to watch and document as best as possible what “a handful of this” or “add this spice, but not too much” actually meant.

So today I made macaroni pie in preparation for tomorrow’s solemn holiday. And like with so many things in my life, I thank my Grandma for the guidance.

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