Place of origin
Region or state
|Wheat, sugar, butter, chocolate, milk|
Cuccìa is a traditional, primarily Sicilian dish containing boiled wheatberries and sugar, which is eaten on December 13, the feast day of Saint Lucy, the patron saint of Siracusa (Syracuse). The dish is consumed in Sicily and in isolated pockets of Southern Italy, as well as their communities abroad. It commemorates the relief from a food shortage in Sicily and the unexpected arrival of a cargo of wheat, which tradition says arrived in the port of Palermo on Saint Lucy's Feast in 1646. According to custom, bread should not be eaten on December 13; cuccìa should be the only source of wheat, and the primary source of nourishment for the day.
Preparation and influences
Cuccìa is prepared differently from family to family and in different regions. Some make cuccìa as soup, others as a pudding. In Kansas City, Missouri, many Sicilian-Americans prepare cuccìa as a hot cereal. Most traditional preparations add sugar, butter, chocolate and milk. Ceci beans (chickpeas), known to Americans as garbanzo beans, are also associated with the preparation of cuccìa; but, more rarely, as are almonds and ricotta. Within the Italian context, the term cuccìa is uniquely Sicilian and unrelated to similarly spelled Italian words, hinting at foreign origins.
Cuccìa may owe its origins to Sicily's Byzantine period (535-965 AD) since a variant, koliva, is prepared in the Balkans. The most likely candidate for its origin may be its most similar counterpart, kutia (pronounced kùtcha), an identical dish served throughout Ukraine, Russia, and Poland. As in Sicily, this dish is eaten only during the Christmas season, and its basic preparation (boiled wheat and honey instead of sugar) remains strikingly similar.
Another theory traces the word cuccia to Arab origins, since the Arabic language kiskiya refers to both the grain and the earthenware that held the grain. Sicily was temporarily dominated by Arabic peoples (Emirate of Sicily), who influenced many foods iconic to Sicilian cuisine.