The “fave dei morti” or “beans of the dead,” which consist of pastry, shaped to resemble a large broad bean, are found in various parts of Italy, and are specially made on All Souls’ Day. The making and consumption of these pastry beans in connection with the dead must have started at some remote period, and is a survival of an ancient superstition with regard to the bean. The goddess Demeter, for instance, who was not only the “corn” mother of the Greeks, but whose influence extended to vegetation generally and to all the fruits of the earth, exluded the bean, the use of which was forbidden at Eleusis. The bean was looked upon as a funeral offering and it was thought that the souls of the dead were enclosed in it; Pythagoras forbade his disciples to partake of the bean because it was offered to the dead. So the old supersitition still survives, but the modern Italian “fave” are very delicious, and worthy to be eaten every day of the year.
There are many different recipes, and I have chosen one which is very popular.
Pound the blanched and skinned almonds in a mortar with the sugar till they are like very small grains of rice. Then add to the flour and the egg, and mix all thoroughly, adding sufficient brandy to make into a stiff dough. Roll out and shape into “fave” or large broad beans, put these on a buttered tin, sprinkled with a little flour, and brush them over with the beaten yolk of one egg. Bake in a moderate oven. Being small, they are quickly done. They should be of an even golden colour.