October 22, 2022

By Kathy Smith
Contributing Writer

Well, my little cookie darlings, I have a story to tell you of a beautiful tradition that I discovered when I was working my first big-time job at the Gas Service Company in Kansas City.

I am not sure how many folks worked there but for this gal the number was overwhelming. I was fresh out of business school looking to make my way in the world. “How does this relate to cookies?” you ask. Many of the women I worked with were Italians. I became friends with these lovely ladies. Italians are kind and giving and don’t know a stranger. Soon I was going to Italian weddings which is where I was introduced to beautiful Italian cookies and pastries. I didn’t realize how much of art these cookies were until years later. I saw an ad in my church bulletin for bakers and helpers for a St. Joseph Table. I thought this might be a fun experience and a way to learn to bake cookies.

Little did I know what a marvelous trip into Italian culture I would be taking.

St. Joseph Tables started in Sicily. There was a drought during the Middle Ages. The citizens began praying to St. Joseph. When the drought finally ended, Sicilians established the traditions of St. Joseph’s Tables. It was a shared celebration that involved the entire community.

The Table includes a spaghetti dinner that is made with a fish sauce and a regular sauce for those who are not crazy about fish in their pasta. The dinner is free. The idea is that no one should be turned away.

There is a main table beautifully arranged with special loaves of bread, cookies, and other homemade pastries. The bread are sprinkled with sesame seeds to represent teardrops.

The loaves of bread are like beautiful sculptures. The Table was meant to feed the hungry, strangers, friends, and relatives. It is a great way for folks to come together and celebrate the humble beginnings of this beautiful tradition.

The day I walked into the Our Lady of the Presentation cafeteria to join the cookie bakers, I knew I was among angels. Little did I know how much work there was to do or how much the lovely ladies who volunteered would fill my heart with joy.

The team of bakers included Pat Sharbel; the late Rosemary Yeater and her late husband Ralph; Mary Kay Hyde, daughter of the late Florence Fayard; Chris Mirocke; Karen DeBitetto; and Pat Plant. There were other bakers but their names escape me. We baked every weekend up until the event. The recipes came from a cookbook published by the Daughters of Columbus. Some of the ladies had their recipes.

The spaghetti sauces were made by Mr. Carpina. I can still see him stirring the savory sauce. It was like going to an Italian restaurant.

Rolling the cookies is an art. Under the watchful eye of those beautiful Italian ladies, I learned how to make the cookies bite-size. If you made them bigger you got your hand slapped. We all laughed so hard. I fell in love with all of those ladies

The St. Joseph Table has not been held for the past few years because of the pandemic. Hopefully, the event will happen soon, and our city will once again be exposed to this beautiful Italian event.