I try to remember this at each Christmas Eve dinner. Each one is a special memory and its’ own special chapter in my ‘memory book’ made up of two important ingredients: good food and family.
In Italian we have a saying : “Natale con I tuoi”. It means that Christmas should be spent with family and those that you love.
Christmas Eve dinner begins a few days before. Shopping for fresh fish at the Italian Market in Philadelphia is always an event in itself. My mother and aunt have a knack for choosing the best and freshest fish-they had a great teacher- their mother.
Early on Christmas Eve morning the preparation of the fish begins. Nothing comes out of the family kitchen that wasn’t freshly prepared by family members.
By the time 3 PM arrives the kitchen is all aflutter with activity. Oven is baking and stove is filled with many pots a brewing, sauces being made, fishes being fried, sautéed, sauces filling the air with a wonderful aroma. Inevitably someone always yells out, “what do you think, should it stay a little longer” and at least 5 of the family cooks run over to ‘make their call’.
On the other side of the kitchen table the freshly breaded, lightly fired smelts have just arrived and will be finished before any of the cooks attempt to taste. But no fear, as in all Italian feasts there are plenty more where that came from and no shortage of cooks willing to fry up a fresh batch..
In different parts of the house hugs and kisses are still being exchanged with arriving guests who quickly follow their noses to have a taste at what’s being brought to the kitchen table
And after everyone has settled in all of a sudden things become quiet-like the second act of an opera- we are now waiting for our second act-dinner. Quiet is soon broken by the sound of the popping open of wine bottles and the first ‘Saluti’ and wine glasses –filled with our favorite family wine-Montepulciano D’Abbruzzo. And the ‘opera’ continues, a symphony of noise of dishes being passed around and new and old memories being shared.
Our favorite dessert is the Panettone di Cioccolata. This is a new dessert that has now become one of our family traditions. I hope it becomes one of yours.
Sidebar: Try a slightly sweet, festive sparkling wine with this dessert. Brachetto D’Acqui
makes a great accompaniment to this dessert.