The Feast of the Seven Fishes

The feast of the seven fishes is how Italians (or at least Italians of my husband’s type whose family goes back to Abruzzi  and Calabria) celebrate Christmas Eve. Or, to quote to Mario Batali, “It’s what Italians do when they say they’re fasting.”

My husband’s brother Fran and his family are in charge of the feast now, and they have wisely moved it from actual Christmas Eve to the Saturday night before. It’s one of those moves where you wonder why you didn’t do it years earlier. Once you’ve made the change, you can’t imagine how you cooked and ate this huge meal, then went home, filled stockings, did “some adult assembly” of the children’s presents, fell into bed, got up with the kids, and cooked and ate another huge meal the next day.

Here’s the Carito version of the feast.

In the foreground, fried shrimp and fried cauliflower. In the background, pasta with clam sauce (and a tomato sauce alternative for the various picky eaters the family has absorbed along the way.

In the foreground, fried shrimp and fried cauliflower. In the background, pasta with clam sauce (and a tomato sauce alternative for the various picky eaters the family has absorbed along the way.

Baked haddock

Baked haddock

In the background, broccoli rabbe, in the foreground, the star of the show, baccala salad. My eighty-six year old mother-in-law still makes it, starting with eleven pounds of salt cod. (Everyone wants leftovers--well almost everyone.) It's a multi-day process that involves soaking and washing the cod several times and then adding artichoke hearts, four kinds of olives, pepperoncini, hot peppers, vinegar peppers, garlic

In the background, broccoli rabbe, in the foreground, the star of the show, baccala salad. My eighty-six year old mother-in-law still makes it, starting with eleven pounds of salt cod. (Everyone wants leftovers–well almost everyone.) It’s a multi-day process that involves soaking and washing the cod several times and then adding artichoke hearts, four kinds of olives, pepperoncini, hot peppers, vinegar peppers, garlic and oil.

The fried smelts separate the Italians from the rest of us. This year my brother-in-law Carl made them because the hostess was tired after years of having the smell still lingering in her house on Christmas morning. The Italians were all, "What are you talking about?"

The fried smelts separate the Italians from the rest of us. This year my brother-in-law Carl made them because the hostess was tired after years of having the smell still lingering in her house on Christmas morning. The Italians were all, “What are you talking about?” (I think my daughter may have been expressing her own opinion when she failed to take a photo of them.)

Also not pictured, the layered shrimp dip and the clam dip that make up the other two fish. Also way, way too many desserts.

A lovely and enduring family tradition. Last year we had all ten my kid’s cousins there with us. This year, we were not so lucky, but my new granddaughter kept us all amused, and those who few couldn’t be with us were missed and cherished.

Tomorrow, on Maine Crime Writers, I’m describing our (very different) Christmas dinner.

10 thoughts on “The Feast of the Seven Fishes

  1. Pingback: Seven Fishes | Arnold Zwicky's Blog

  2. Pingback: Our Christmas Dinner | Maine Crime Writers

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