On December 24th, Italian-Americans gather for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This special feast is unknown to many native Italians although serving a boatload of fish on La Vigilia di Natale (the Christmas vigil) is not. In an article in Edible Manhattan, the author discusses that Carol Field wrote in ‘Celebrating Italy: The Tastes and Traditions of Italy as Revealed Through Its Feasts, Festivals and Sumptuous Foods’ that the tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve started when the Church imposed the rule of ‘mangiare de magro’, (basically – feast of ‘no’ meat) which would allow the body to purify and get it ready for big feasts.
Over the years, this special evening has evolved, especially for Italian-Americans, to become one associated with a specific number of fish. Some serve seven fishes (some say to represent the sacraments or good luck or?) – others serve 12 (perhaps for the number of apostles?). The number doesn’t matter so much as, perhaps most importantly, it is an evening that brings together family and friends to celebrate traditions long held and passed down from one generation to another.
Our Sicilian–Neapolitan family also ate only fish on Christmas Eve but we never had a specific number. For Joey and I, the Feast has evolved over the years to be a pretty big deal. In the years that our families celebrate Christmas together, we swap menus for weeks until we have what we feel is that perfect blend of old traditions (like the ever-present crispy, crunchy smelts) and new fun-to-try recipes (the eel was a hit last year, that swordfish pie thing a few years ago – BIG mistake!) We try to stick to seven fish but usually have the odd fish or two join the party before I leave the fishmongers (who could pass up that beautiful looking not-on-the-menu octopus last year!)
With Joey and Mark celebrating Christmas on the west coast this year, I decided to invite fellow food bloggers and friends to send me one of their favorite Seven Fishes recipes and let the virtual blogosphere create our menu. This has been so fun! I will post the menu and recipes over the next few days but look for faves from my friend Deb who writes so beautifully as Our Italian Garden on her Facebook page, my friend and fellow blogger Debbie (Deb’s Recipe a Day) a caterer who recently cooked with us in Montalcino, from fellow blogger, Linda over at Ciao Chow Linda; from Susan and Wade over at Come Follow Me to Italy and Our Kitchen Inventions and even one from the god kids, AJ and Gigi! And of course, a few from yours truly too….look for menu and recipes in the coming days!!
So from my kitchen to yours, I wish you much love this beautiful Christmas season!! Auguri di buon Natale!
More to come,