Acting on a chance comment by an Indian visitor, the author travels to Southern India to see how the Christian community of Kerala celebrates St. Joseph’s Day, expecting to find something similar to the elaborately decorated altars erected in Sicily to honor this saint. Feeding the poor in St. Joseph’s honor has taken quite a different direction in Kerala, however. The author is taken to visit churches where preparations are underway for a ritual meal that will be served to hundreds of parishioners, ensuring them the saint’s blessing for the year that follows. The meal includes payasam , aviyal , and other traditional dishes that she later learns have been borrowed from Hindu rituals. She also participates in a very simple yet moving ceremony in a private home, in which three of the poor representing the Holy Family are fed and given new clothes.
The food so lovingly described by Tomasi di Lampedusa in his novel The Leopard is as rich in gastronomic history as it is in fragrance and flavor. The famous timbale gathers strands from all stages of Sicilian history, while the author also makes liberal use of other traditions such as that of pastries made by nuns. Each dish functions primarily as metaphor, most often for a decaying society and approaching death, but Lampedusa's own passionate love for good food fuels his sensuous descriptions, and his own tastes are revealed obliquely through the preferences of his protagonist.