Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Feast of Seven Fishes

I have decided to host Christmas Eve at my home this year. I have many Christmas Eve parties under my belt but this year I wanted to venture beyond the usual finger foods and endless sweets. So, after mulling over several menu ideas I have settled on The Feast of Seven Fishes, an Italian Christmas Eve. This can only be good. Italians know food. Being Italian myself I know this firsthand. With that said, I can confess that I have never celebrated The feast of Seven Fishes. Christmas Eve was always special but fish was never part of the meal. Bread was on the table. It was homemade by my Grandmother. It was perfectly divine straight out of the oven, but as each hour went by this round wonder became very hard and unholy. We may have had bread to feast on but no fish, until this year.

The Feast of Seven Fishes is what Italians do when they say they are fasting on La Vigilia, Christmas Eve. In many parts of Italy, Christmas Eve, is traditionally part of a fast, during which no meat is served. But this tradition has morphed into an evening of feasting not fasting, with course after course of seafood dishes served way into the night. Add a little wine and everyone is feeling pretty cheerful.

Why seven? Well, the number seven has many origins. One being the number of sacraments in the Catholic Church. Another, is the number seven represents perfection: The biblical number for divinity is three, and the number for earth is four, and the combination of these two equals seven, which represents God on Earth or Jesus Christ.

Regardless of which religious symbolism the main point for most people is the meal itself and the gathering of family and friends at the table. A little wine helps too.

I will be serving a shortened version of this feast by making Bouillabaisse, a fish stew. Don't worry, I will have seven different types of fish or seafood in the stew. Bouillabaisse is made throughout the Mediterranean coast, which Italy is a part. So, I feel I am not veering off course too much. I am just saving some time in the kitchen. The stew's unique flavor comes from several aromatic ingredients like garlic, saffron, fennel and orange. This stew will be great for my fasting Italian family on Christmas eve. I can hardly wait. I guess I should make some homemade, round and hard bread just in case. Buon Appetito!

National Bouillabaisse Day is December 14

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