Fava beans are one of the oldest foods known to man. In the middle east they are known as foul medames, and they are the basis for a bean soup or stew served from Morocco to Central Asia. Foul is pronounced, usually, as “fool”.
These days most people reference fava beans to Hannibal the Cannibal of Red Dragon fame. Hannibal Lecter is the doctor, serial killer and advisor to the FBI in Silence of the Lambs. He famously told of the census taker who tried to quantify him “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone”. When the book was made into a film the research demonstrated that the audience did not know what expensive Amarone was, so they changed it to a cheap Chianti.
If you come from Southern Italy or Sicily you might know about the association of fava beans with the Feast of St. Joseph. Today is American Fathers day, a Hallmark holiday. The Catholic Fathers day was always St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th.
In Ireland since we had St. Patricks Day on March 17th the feast of St. Joseph was not a thing. But it was very popular in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Catholic Communities. One of the symbols of Joseph is the “lucky bean”. If you bring a dried fava bean to the church on St. Joseph’s Day and have it blessed by the priest it serves as a charm against poverty. You keep the lucky bean in your wallet or purse and you will never completely run out of money.
The feast is preserved these days in the saying “I haven’t got a bean” meaning that you have no money.