Mediator Chris Annunziata’s Holiday Traditions
We all have our favorite holiday traditions, and Miles Mediation would like to share our special traditions with you this season. Happy Holidays!
Every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, our family has celebrated the traditional Italian Feste dei Sette Pesci- The Feast of Seven Fishes.
Why fish? Under old Roman Catholic Law the devout were required to abstain from meat on various holy days, including Christmas Eve – La Vigilia. Through a series of legal and political maneuvers that would make any lawyer proud, over the centuries the definition of “meat” was revised to exclude fish.
So what is the Feast of Seven Fishes? It varies by region and maybe even household. I’ve read about families eating only three fish (to represent the Holy Trinity), and I’ve heard of some eating as many as thirteen (to represent Jesus and his twelve disciples).
In our family it started out as seven different fish-based dishes. Very Italian dishes like bacala (salted cod) and octopus (before it became hip at restaurants like The Optimist); and other dishes that might seem more familiar, like fried shrimp and linguine with clam sauce. The meal took hours. Seriously. Several Hours. One year we took so long to finish that my sister and I were seriously concerned that we would not be home and in bed by midnight and Santa might skip our house!
After my grandparents passed away and various family members moved away from New Jersey, my dad and I maintained the tradition for our family. We’ve even expanded the guest list to include a lucky few of my parents’ new friends and neighbors in Florida.
We still make sure to use seven different fishes, but we’ve taken to making a Zuppa di Pesce, a stew/red sauce that incorporates several fish in one big dish (you may see this on restaurant menus as cioppino).
Some things are sacrosanct, however. We always make a batch of fried calamari for an appetizer, linguine with white clam sauce and the aforementioned zuppa di pesce (also served over linguine).
As my dad and I have branched out to explore other cuisines, we’ve also moved away from a purely Italian menu, adding new items on a trial basis like tuna poke and grilled halibut with a ginger and soy based sauce. But we always stay true to the all-seafood menu.
It is an exhausting all-day (sometimes two-day) affair, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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