Sunday, December 19, 2010


Chef Mario Batali is making Baccala a la Vesuviana--salt cod with tomatoes and capers--a traditional Italian preparation served on Christmas eve as part of The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

On that night, Italians (and Italian Americans who keep the old customs alive) devour an amazing seafood feast of baccala, calamari, shrimp, clams, crab, oysters, whitefish--or some other combination that adds up to seven. The tradition goes back to forever.

According to Epicurious, "the Feast is a meal served in Italian households on La Vigilia (Christmas Eve). In many parts of Italy, the night is traditionally a partial fast, during which no meat should be served. But in true Italian style, this proscription has morphed into something very unfastlike indeed: course after course of luxurious seafood dishes, often as many as 7, 10, or even 13. 'No one's quite sure of the significance of the number," says Batali. 'Some families do seven for the sacraments. Some do ten for the stations of the cross. And some even do 13 for the 12 apostles plus Jesus.'"

Whatever your heritage, and whether or not you even celebrate Christmas, you should be proud of your history. Some folks believe everyone should lose all traces of their past and assimilate into one big homogenized America, but it's nice to keep some of the old traditions alive. Besides, that would be boring. Wherever you may have come from, originally, and whatever you may believe, you have cause to celebrate. Have a happy holiday season.

For more Italian Christmas information and recipes, visit the Epicurious Holiday Guide here.

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