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Friday, December 27, 2013

Celebrating: Around the Table Edition

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I'm going slowly," commented one of the eaters who was offered another lightly-corn-flour-battered-bit of squid..  "On the way up, I was reminded that this is a marathon," she smiled, "and not a sprint to the finish line."

"That's a good plan," replied a relatively new member of the eating squad, "last year I was full before we sat down to the main course!  You have to pace yourself."

"It's my favorite meal of the year," said one of the veterans as he eagerly rubbed his hands together.  He added confidently, "I'm ready.  Let the eating begin."  I noticed an expression on this man-child's face traditionally reserved for little kids on Christmas morning!
As I manned the dishwasher and the pots of fresh zuppa di pesce sauce, I listened to the happy family banter around the mini-fish fryer.  I smiled at the new-to-the "family" tradition, manned by a  family-member who claims corn-flour expertise after just a couple of attempts.  At one point, my mind drifted to my own childhood where the "meat-less" meal was simpler, canned clams in homemade chowder, yet made with just as much love. At another point, my mind drifted to my sister-in-law's kitchen, where my shorts-clad nephew shoveled bags of clams and mussels into a vat of sauce. Empowered by memories, I embraced the magic of a special evening that intermingled  remnants of tradition with new voices and foods.

None of us speaks Italian, most of us have roots in Northern Europe, some of us eat gluten-free, and others must avoid shellfish.  We choose to not cook salt cod (bacala) and I did not make crab stuffed flounder (although it is on next year's request list).  We included a new favorite tapenade and some wonderful smoked salmon in our appetizers.  This year, our fish variety was bit excessive (shrimp cocktails, smoked salmon, fried calamari, fried shrimp, fried oysters, baked salmon, sautéed scallops, mussels, clams, cod, calamari and scungilli over pasta); however, we had only small portions of each so there was not much left over!

It's important to celebrate traditions, even though the people who started them have passed on.  It's important to celebrate even though each of us has worries, concerns, and stressers.  It's important to celebrate even though the memories may bring tears. It is important to celebrate even though the tastes and smells at the table change. In spite of eggplant tapenade (which my mother-in-law would have loved) and a light and fluffy chocolate mousse (replacing cheese cake) , we celebrated the way Italian-American families have celebrated for a hundred years, around the table.  

7 comments:

Tracey Ferreri said...

I remember, and miss those Christmas Eve gathering so much....wish we could all be together again. I know who was the one who stated "let the eating begin"!! He'd be so proud that tradition has been handed down to his cousin!! Remembering with tears....4 years already....never the same.

Jaana said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate traditions! I remember watching a cooking show that highlighted this Italian traditions, and thought that it would be fun to do with my non-Italian family. Maybe one day....

LInda Baie said...

No matter what the tradition, it is important and special to that family. Love your description of the fish. I know several in our family who would love to join you, Anita! Happy it was a good time of both eating and remembrance!

Amy Rudd said...

Anita,
Your description of the dishes you shared as a family sound delish! Glad you were able to be together to celebrate the season!

Amy Rudd said...

PS I couldn't get your link up link from Ruth's blog to work it seems like something isn't' linking right.

Terje said...

Interesting how the food and traditions may be different during the holidays in different families, but the expectation to keep some if not all the traditions is the same. They help to carry the memories.

Ramona said...

Anita, I copied this line in my notebook where it's sure to prompt some of my own Christmas memories. "Empowered by memories, I embraced the magic of a special evening that intermingled remnants of tradition with new voices and foods." What a wonderful tradition!