Sandra Scalise Juneau


© Thomas B. Growden


A native New Orleanian of Sicilian heritage, Sandra Scalise Juneau has created cultural exhibits for public display at Hallmark Card Company in New York and the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair. Renowned for her artistry of Sicilian pastry designs, her works remain on permanent exhibit at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans and the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles. Her book, Celebrating with St. Joseph Altars, was published in 2021 by LSU Press.

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Celebrating with St. Joseph Altars: The History, Recipes, and Symbols of a New Orleans Tradition


Celebrating with St. Joseph Altars: The History, Recipes, and Symbols of a New Orleans Tradition

Every year on March 19, Roman Catholic churches and households in and around New Orleans celebrate St. Joseph’s Day. As centerpieces of these celebrations, the elaborate tiered displays of foods, prayers, and offerings known as St. Joseph Altars represent a centuries-old tradition established in south Louisiana by immigrants from Sicily.

In Celebrating with St. Joseph Altars, Sandra Scalise Juneau expertly documents the stories, recipes, and religious symbolism of this rich tradition passed down through multiple generations. While the altars have adapted over time to local ingredients and tastes, most of the customary dishes still follow cooking and baking methods that remain relatively unchanged from over a century ago.

Juneau traces the history and symbols associated with the St. Joseph Altar from its Sicilian origins to its establishment among Louisiana’s celebrations, then its later embrace by multicultural communities across the United States. She also provides a guide for preparing an altar, complete with recommended timelines and suggestions for physical setup. She offers over sixty carefully selected recipes centered on delectable breads, fish, pasta, and spring vegetables. Pastries receive special attention, with detailed instructions for carving the intricate fig cake designs known as cuccidati.

Celebrating with St. Joseph Altars chronicles a cultural tradition that continues to draw families and communities together in a generous spirit of hospitality.


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