My other grandparents were off-the-boat Irish and one-generation-off-the-boat-"German," so I have no idea what my mother ate on her Christmases as a child, but she's the one who makes our seven fishes now. Our Christmas Eve dinners are probably the greatest meal we eat all year, and my mother, who does everything in her power not to cook most days, whips it together like it's no big thang. She's a champ, and I really think she could hold her own with the best Italian grandmothers out there.
In case you aren't Italian American (ahem, Shelby!), the basic premise is that you can't eat meat. I have no idea where this comes from - Christmas Eve isn't a fasting day like Fridays in Lent* - and the truth is, we don't actually follow it. Our appetizers include lots of hard sausages along with fresh mozzarella, olives, and roasted red peppers. But, the rest of the meal is meat-free and filled with seven different types of fish, one to represent each of the seven seas. One day, I'll post some recipes, but for now, here's our list of what types of fish we usually make:
- Clam dip, served with fresh bread during appetizers
- Lobster tails
- Crab legs
- Stuffed flounder
- Shrimp scampi
- Coconut shrimp
- A "grab-bag" fish, where my mother experiments with new recipes. In the past, this has included baccala, trout and salmon, and this year, we're trying sea bass.
What special meals do you cook for the holidays?
*My parents and I share the same lack of religion, but growing up, we followed Lent under the watchful eye of my grandmother. It actually wasn't such a big deal - Fridays were pizza day in our house anyway, and even now, I prefer eating vegetarian anyway. Hearing coworkers at my last job complain every Friday about not knowing what to eat for lunch except tuna-fish sandwiches and pizza basically made me want to slap them.
**Unlike Christmas Day meals, which seem to be forever in flux. We've had lasagnas, turkeys, and hams, and while dinner on Christmas Eve starts at a civilized 7pm, dinner on Christmas Day is more like Thanksgiving and begins around 2pm, when you still haven't recovered from your food-hangover. This year, I'm gunning for a light brunch. We'll see how it goes.