“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!
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.