Twisted how our Christmas traditions develop. Perhaps because they are so varied shows how rich and wonderful our traditions really are.
Following a tradition we made years ago – nothing to do with Christmas – got us into a situation that tangled up our traditions and introduced us to some new possibilities. All of it has made for a most enjoyable Little Christmas Eve.
This latest recipe that got us there grew out of our weekly search for something for Thursday dinner. For many years, I had a weekly posting at East Ann Arbor Health center, taking me home after clinic past Plum Market, which had great seafood and Zingerman’s bread and of course wine. We enjoyed the simple meals I took home and at one point realized, who else eats like this? Thus was the concept of “Jesus Dinner” born. Some of our entrées even simmered over a charcoal grill, although I don’t think we ever achieved the exquisite offerings of John 21:15-17. We did stray to the non Kosher at times. As long as it came from the sea. It was toward this sin we would go for our next dinner, set to occur on Little Christmas Eve. That white clam sauce with linguine looked mighty tasty, so there we were headed.
It was also important to eat fish on Little Christmas Eve, a holiday important to Norwegians such as our 25% selves. Usually the fish is more substantial, like a big slab of gravlax. For purists, there’s the noxious slab of buried cod, lutefisk. Peppering the celebration with scallops and other shellfish is allowed.
Little did we know that our clam recipe would drop us into a whole other tradition. My food.com recipe told me this dish is often the centerpiece of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a southern Italian tradition where to celebrate the end of the proscription against meat set to occur on Christmas, a feast of seafood gets thrown the night before. Nothing special about 7, as that was appended in a piece in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1983. Looking over expected recipes, I said “not tonight hon”. We had some scallops in addition and that was that. But pretty dandy nonetheless. Now we’re eager to see the 2019 movie of the same name (1). The plot involves a working class Pennsylvania family near Pittsburgh welcoming WASP-y girlfriend for Christmas. Kathy and I would probably identify with the WASP-y girlfriend, tho’ we both have Pittsburgh roots. Kathy’s dad was born and raised there and I lived near there for a couple years as I was growing up.
As Jesus said (Mark 7:18-19): “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him, but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” So it doesn’t matter much what we eat. Come these Holidays food takes special significance for the memories it triggers. But maybe we should just make stuff that tastes good. America is still the grand melting pot, so why not take advantage of all the wonderful things that have come before? Kathy and I still haven’t decided whether 2 consecutive seafood nights will be the norm at our forthcoming Christmases. I have no Italian blood, but my dear dad enjoyed his WWII duty in Rome and my birth mom married an Italian electrician, happily carrying the DeLuca name ever since. Why not add a little “when the moon hits your eye with a big pizza pie”. Can’t go wrong when Dino is singin’ ya to it (2).
But check out what you’re missing
First, the requisite pot ( a wok here) with the wonderful slop
Probably looks better in a bowl over the linguine. That’s a chunk of a Zingerman’s baguette in the foreground. Sop duty
Finally, if you should wish to reproduce this masterpiece (it’s a very simple recipe that I only changed a little from Food.com)
- IMBd overview. Feast of the Seven Fishes. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7846056/
- Dean Martin Live – That’s amore. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbTvKUttFXI
- Scandinavian Christmas Songs. Christmas songs from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6WSWFvOxRp47V3m37vbMuJ,
- Norwegian Christmas Music – playlist by norwayathome. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0GqJQFc4PEcIgF2dk8