This was our families Christmas Feast of the Seven Fishes menu
Note: Sometimes there were more than seven… (This was a Christmas Eve special event ever year!)
I felt it necessary to write down all the details of how my family did the Feast of The Seven Fishes (La Viglia di Natale) when I was a kid and when my mom was a kid. I remember very little of this other than the smell of fish stuff and how I did not care for much of it. Times have changed however now that I’m older, there many of the items on this menu that I now enjoy! I asked my Mom to help me out with this and from talking with her on the phone and some verifications with my uncle this is what I have so far. I will be adding more detail to this menu as the information leaks out from my family. The secrets have to slowly be revealed. I will also be adding detailed recipes for these as I learn how to make these recipes like my Italian grandmother did. Keep in mind, the information below is what my Mom was telling me, so anywhere you see “she did this or that.. the “She”, was my Grandma Salerno.
Stuffed Calamari – Squid (Stuffed with a bread stuffing)
Cooked in tomato sauce with. The stuffing was bread, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley. Simmer until tender. Cut the tentacles; throw them in the sauce for flavor. The body of the squid was stuffed. *clean all the squid first. This is the hard part. She cooked the calamari in just tomato paste with water. Moisture will come out of the squid. This is all the details I have so far. This page here looks pretty close! Stuffed Calamari in Tomato Sauce
Bacalla (salted cod) – stiff and frozen
She had to soak it. Soaked several times, changing the water. All the details I have so far. What the heck is Bacala you say? Here is a good page that explains it! Baccalà – Unexpected delight from Salt Code
Snails (periwinkles) – Tiny snails
Cooked in the tomato sauce. Everyone had a straight pin to pull out the snails from the shell. A good looking recipe for this is here: Winkle or Periwinkle
Smelt (a little skinny “smelly” fish)
Cooked in lemon and olive oil (like an anchovy) . Fried, floured, salt pepper, fried in olive oil. What the heck is Smelt?… Here is a good article: Smelt (Eulachon, Oolichan, Candlefish, and Hooligan) – Smelt History – Smelt Recipe – How To Cook Smelt
Claims (baked and stuffed clams) – Also Linguini with clams.
Fillet of Sole (baked with olive oil and lemon)
Pasta dish with some kind of fish, it might have been shrimp. Shrimp linguini.
Oysters on the half shell.
Some details about the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner and how the day went in the Salerno household.
The food was always fresh because she would not have a stocked fridge like we have today. She would go to several different shops to find the best fresh food. My grandfather was always in charge of buying the fresh Parmesan and grating it. My grandmother would grate the cheese sometimes, but I am finding out from my Mom now that my grandfather was the one who would do all the grating of the parm.
They would buy pure alcohol from “someone” in the neighborhood. Then they would buy the flavorings like Anise flavoring, cream DeMint. Coffee Sport. (Coffee flavored liquor. They would make it, store it. The bring them out for holidays.
Palm Sunday, after church you would have your palms and you would go visit people that you might have had a disagreement with and you would give them a palm and all was forgiven. No words had to be spoken, you would just give them a palm and all was good, then you would sit and have some nice food and break out the liquors.
There was always homemade crème de mint, Anisette, coffee sport.
More information on this to come as I get more from the family…
Check out this book!
THE FEAST of 7 THE FISH: An ITALIAN-AMERICAN CHRISTMAS EVE FEAST
by: Daniel Bellino-Zwicke
I have placed below some nice articles and information about Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes
A great seven fishes article from Alessandro Cagossi
The Christmas Tradition in Emilia
Mario Batali talks about the traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal, the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and reminisces about celebrating it with his family in this youtube video:
About the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Chef Franco shows us the alternative to the traditional holiday dinner with the Feast of the Seven Fishes
This is a nice 4 part video series that will wet your appetite!
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Some good seven fishes recipes on this Seven Fishes blog
I highly recommend this book:
Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Collected Comic Strip and Italian Holiday Cookbook
This is a nice article that does a pretty good job explaining what The Feast of The Seven Fishes is all about and there is a recipe for calamari and pasta dish as a bonus!
What’s With All The Fish? Italian Christmas Eve Explained
Feast of The Seven Fishes video from Mary Ann Esposito.
Very well done! Thanks for posting this Ann! Check the Mary Ann Esposito blog. Some good stuff there!
Italian Christmas Time
This is another great video, not about the Seven Fishes but about Christmas. I just had to place here!