21 December 2009

The Eve of Seven Fishes

If there was a Christmas tradition we would most like to steal and make a part of our Christmas tradition it would have to be the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Largely an Italian celebration, the feast is consumed on Christmas Eve. La Vigilia (The Vigil) or La Festa dei sette Pesci (The Feast of the Seven Fishes) is thought to commemorate the waiting of the Virgin Mary as she anticipates the birth of Christ.

As with most traditions, there are different ideas of how the number "7" was settled upon. Most likely it refers to the seven sacraments of Catholicism. It is the number for perfection, days of the week, and if you combine the Trinity and the symbols for earth you get "7", and God on earth.

So the tradition involves a seven course meal of fish on Christmas Eve. I'm there. And some celebrations actually include 13 dishes, one for each of the 12 disciples and Christ. Either way, it seems a fine tradition.

Robert A. Germano was so taken by the tradition and realizing that he was getting a bit older and need to pass on the family tradition, he published a book of memories and recipes about the subject: The Eve of Seven Fishes.

In addition to the fish dishes, it features many of the traditional sides, because fish for dessert is over the top even for Italians. Here is his recipe for bread -- well, man does not live by fish alone. And this bread is a bit, well, see for yourself.

Greased Bread Peasant Style

Pancetta (Italian Bacon) - 1 pound
Patate (Potatoes) - 5 medium
Cipolla (Onion) - 1 large
Peperone Marinate (Marinated Peppers) - 1 pint
Olio di Oliva (Olive Oil) - 3 tablespoons
Sale (Salt) - To Taste
Caldi del Pepe (Hot Pepper Flakes) - To Taste
Pane (Italian Bread) - 1 loaf

Cut Italian Bacon into thick slices and sauté in olive oil. Boil sliced potatoes until tender and add to the bacon. Add chopped onion, pickled pepper that have been cut julienne style, salt and the hot pepper flakes. Cook over low heat until all ingredients are heated through. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the mixture on to individual plates. Pull the Italian Bread apart into large pieces and dip into the remaining oil to flavor and serve.

With this bread one might be tempted to forego the fish!

Check out Robert's site, The Eve of Seven Fishes.

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