I was left to carry on my mother's family tradition. You see, the family believes that I am the one who cherishes most the family and it's traditions. For example, when my Uncle Chico passed in 1995, he left an old RCA floor model radio, built in the 1920s, to my brother. Bob, who was a Marine Corp. career man stationed in Korea at the time and since retired, told my mother when he was informed of the inheritance, "No ma don't keep it for me, I'm not going to appreciate it as much Kathy, pass it on to her." I can still hear my mother reciting what my brother said. Yep, that old radio proudly sits in my living room today. Thought a glimpse of how our family rolls was in order, on to my Christmas Eve story.
(That's Bob serving up the red sauce the back in the day)
When I was a child every year we went to my Grandmas house for Christmas Eve dinner before mass. There was fried smelts, Baccala salad, spaghetti with anchovies (Spaghetti con Acciughe), Calamari marinara, and baked fish with lemon, all of which were her "standard dishes". She served a few others of which I have no idea what they were called. There would be eel one time, spaghetti with clams another, and octopus too along with a stuffed calamari. Everything was home made, including the pasta and the bread. Desserts included rum balls, pizzelles, sesame cookies, and a wide array of fruit filled cookies. I remember some sort of almond candy too. Oh and I almost forgot, the spinach pie... Spinach, anchovy, and raisin filled goodness! My great Aunts described my grandmother's cooking as exquisite, and the best of all the family! When she got up in years, my mother began preparing the Christmas Eve meals.
Since moving to Florida in the early 1980s, every Christmas my parents would come and stay at our house. Together my mother and I prepared Christmas Eve dinner. Even when l they too moved to Florida this continued. By the early 90s, my grandmother had passed and most of family had moved out of Pa. Some moved to the town I live in and the guest list started to look a lot home. Of course living here in Florida alone for some time, I forged friendships that I consider to be family. They too attended our Christmas Eve celebration. I can remember having up to fifty people in the house at times. My mother passed in October 1999 and I can tell you that was the hardest Christmas Eve dinner I ever had to prepare. The entire Florida family, while worn out by the ordeal and and sad at the loss, celebrated Christmas with great joy and thanks.
Cousin Lenora(left) Mom and Aunt Joan(right) 27 years ago.
Of course they're in the kitchen!
And so our Christmas Eve tradition continues. It is my gift to the family until of course it's my turn to pass it on.
Now for our Christmas Eve menu:
Trays with a mix of Italian cheeses, sweet red peppers, oil cured black olives, and pepperoncini. Pesto Anchovy Bruschetta, Fried Calamari, and homemade Spinach Pie prepared by cousin Anna Marie.
Clams and linguine (Linguine con le Vongole)
Fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp (this is my "standard dish" contribution to the tradition)
Baked fresh cod fish with lemon and capers
Seafood Primavera (I found this at What's Cookin' Italian Style. Every year I serve a surprise dish and this one looked fabulous. Of course I won't be using the lobster as shown in this dish. It will include crab, shrimp, scallops, and scungilli.)
Baked Ziti with meat sauce is always served for those American spouses and friends!
Dessert is being prepared by cousin Anna Marie, the family "cookie baker". She will be bringing a huge assortment of Christmas favorites as always! Aunt Joan might just surprise us again this year with pizzelles.
The girls in Florida just a few years ago. Aunt Joan is in the black shirt, and that redhead on the right is my baby sister. Boy I hope Aunt Joan brings those pizzelles!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a very Merry Christmas!