Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

     The holiday season is in full swing!  House is decorated, cards have been sent.  The shopping - almost there!  Now its time to think about the food.  (I'm Italian - it goes with the territory!)  For my family, the big celebration is Christmas Eve.  And if we all can't get together on the 24th, whatever day we can get together becomes Christmas Eve.  So much has changed since we were younger, but so much has stayed the same.  The cooks and bakers have shifted down a generation.  The houses have changed.  Even the menu has been tweaked.  But there is always family, food, laughter, wine and "cassata".  I think the wine and cassata have a lot to do with the laughter! I'll explain...

     Christmas Eve dinner in an Italian family usually always involves fish.  The tradition was 7 fishes or fish dishes.  We whittled it down to shrimp, baked clams, seafood salad, and lobster - lobster fra diavolo over pasta...lobster tails...lobster and more lobster...technically not fish, but close enough!

    Lobster Fra Diavolo - Taken from Google Images

    Shrimp Cocktail - yes Google again!

    Baked clams - more Google images!
    The following is how Maria Liberati describes "La Vigilia" or Feast of the Seven Fishes.  (La Vigilia?  The Vigil?  Were they waiting for the birth of Christ or Santa Claus?) "By all accounts, the Feast of the Seven Fishes began as a southern Italian custom. The tradition was hugely popular in Italy’s most southern points, including the island of Sicily. At one time, Rome, the Eternal City, seemed to the farthest point north where La Vigilia was celebrated, although today,  Italians throughout the world celebrate it. No one knows for sure the significance for offering seven fishes, although there are numerous explanations for it. Some believe that seven fishes are served because it took God seven days to create the world, while others mention the Seven Hills of Rome. There is also the possibility that the seven fishes symbolize the seven sacraments in the Catholic Church, along with the seven sins."

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    Me, being the odd one out, will not eat any of that, so I always come prepared with spaghetti and meatballs!  I'm sure my family hides their faces when they talk about "the one that doesn't eat seafood", but I have since had my position strengthened by my husband and new sister-in-law, who also don't partake!

    Also from Google Images

    Since I don't eat the fish, I also don't cook it!  Baked goods are my specialty.  When the party is at my home, my brother steps up to the plate to do most of the cooking.  And cooking always involves wine...a little for the food, a little for us.  (I'm so glad the baking is done ahead of time...)  Once everyone is officially there, the cocktail hour begins.  My sister brings her roasted peppers.  We make my mother's spinach dip in pumpernickel bread.  Shrimp cocktail...(I did say it was cocktail time).  And wine....

    Still a Google Image!

    With all this wine, you can see where some of the laughter comes in!

    First course - baked stuffed clams...second course - PASTA (my turn to eat!)...third course - lobster! (Don't care...I've already eaten!)  And, of     By now, four to five hours have passed, we are sated with food and drink...and everyone is sitting around waiting for that special moment! No its not that magical time when you look out the window to see the first snowflakes of winter twinkling in the moonlight. No, it's not Santa and his eight tiny reindeer gracefully landing on the roof with a sack full of everyone's dream gifts.....IT'S CASSATA TIME!!!!

    What is cassata????  Why does it induce laughter?  Stay tuned....!

    "I cook with wine...sometimes I even add it to the food." - W.C. Fields

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