Some of my earliest family memories are of the women in my family. My mom, her sisters, my grandmother and her mother [my great grandmother]. The matriarchs of the family brought with them this treasured traditions from Sicily that has been passed down through our large family. It is tradition in our family that on Good Friday we gather for what we have coined 'Cadula Day' to make Italian Easter Baskets made from flour, sugar, lard, eggs, and hard boiled colored eggs for decoration.
My mom is the designated baker of Cadula Day and each year my aunts, grandmother and now, even my husband most years, join in for a full day of rolling dough, baking, decorating and packaging these Cadulas for the many members of our family.
Between what we gathered from great grandma Catalfamo years ago and our own independent research, the making of these pastries is a tradition in Sicily not only for Easter but for other special occasions as well, such as weddings and other celebrations. Depending on the celebration, different shapes would be made with an egg used to decorate the pastry.
We've also discovered that the word 'Cadula' may not have been entirely accurate. With a heavy Italian accent, great grandma Catalfamo could be hard to understand and we think the official term may actually be 'Caddura' or 'Caddhura.' Regardless of the name we are lovers of this dry pastry. So much so, that one year we had extra dough left over and decided to make some cookies. They were a hit to say the least.
Over four hundred cookies were made this year. Each person gets four cookies in addition to their own Cadula pastry and if they choose not to have a Cadula made for them, then they get four more cookies. With a large family it can be challenging to keep it all straight. This was the year we decided we can no longer rely on scribbled down notes to rely on from year to year. It's time for a spreadsheet mapping out who gets what, what kind of supplies we need as far as Easter grass, candy, boxes for packaging, etc. [craziness, I know].
Each batch that comes out of the oven needs to cool. Cadulas get jelly beans and then glazed with a powdered sugar frosting. The cookies get the same frosting and then sprinkles. It becomes an assembly line of Cadulas and cookies all in various stages that leads up to packaging in pie boxes on a bed of Easter basket grass and a couple handfuls of candy for good measure. They then get wrapped up and ready for pickup or delivery.
I go home at the end of the day smelling like Crisco, aching from standing all day and thinking going to work would have been so much easier, but in the end I know how disappointing it is to call home from work during lunch hour to check in on the process versus spending the day working alongside the ladies in my life.