We’re Italian and no, we’re not making the Feast of the Seven Fishes!
Growing up in a household where both parents were children of Italian immigrants, you would think we'd know about the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My mom and grandmothers never made such a thing. As a matter of fact, we really never heard of it until I was an adult and read about it in a magazine.
I was in my late 20s and a new homeowner and wanted to impress my family with the "feast" on Christmas Eve. We did some research and found a pretty good list of what went into a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. There was eel and smelts and baccala. These were things that almost no one in the family likes so I tried to Americanize the menu a bit and even included New England clam chowder to get to seven.
The dinners were delicious, and everyone enjoyed them, but all of my efforts were in vain to rekindle a tradition that I thought our ancestors enjoyed in the Old Country.
I found this out one Christmas Eve shortly after we had reconnected with relatives in Italy. It had been over a generation since any contact was made but finally, we were reunited.
One Christmas Eve almost 20 years ago, we had two different cousins visiting over the holidays. We couldn't wait to tell them we were preparing the "Feast of the Seven Fishes" for Christmas Eve. Imagine my surprise when their response was, "huh...the feast of the what?"
They were not from the coastal area near Naples where the tradition was originated and Italian cooking is very regional for the most part, especially at the time my grandparents came over.
So, if you're making the feast, or starting your own tradition of whatever culture you want to celebrate, enjoy! The most important ingredient is the people you love and appreciate and enjoying them, no matter what you eat on your special day.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.
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