La Vigilia (Part I)

So, in case you couldn’t tell by my name (which the pediatrician keeps asking Mommy if we’ll shorten to “Grace” – snooze) I’m Italian. At least partially. But hey, some is better than none, right. And I’ll take the food part of being Italian any day.

In Italian-American homes, the feast for the holidays is not on Christmas Day. Yes, yes, we eat plenty then too, but the real feast is on Christmas Eve. It’s called La Vigilia, or the Vigil, but is probably best known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The feast really is an Italian-American phenomenon. Italians do eat fish for La Vigilia, but it’s not likely to be quite the feast it is here. For Italians, Christmas Eve is a day of abstinence, meaning they don’t eat meat. In Italy, it is also a day of fast, meaning they probably wouldn’t eat a feast. But, as is the case with so many traditions in the United States, we like to make them bigger and better than the original, right? And so, we have the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

This will be my first La Vigilia. Last year we spent Christmas Eve with my Oma and Pop. Oma is German, so they do a big celebration on Christmas Eve too, but they eat meat. Mommy and Daddy said when I was born they would start holding all Christmas celebrations at home, but you may remember last year Mommy wasn’t thrilled about having just moved and we didn’t even have a tree. Like I said, she’s making up for it this year.

And so, the menu is planned. Seven fishes it is. I counted. And if you count the anchovies that are mixed into the sauce for the shrimp dish, we actually will be having eight seafood items.

I promise to post a full menu, pictures and my complete review after Saturday, but I will tell you this: the main event is a whole Rockfish (that’s striped bass for those of you not from the Chesapeake Bay area.) Mommy and Daddy tried it out – a practice run, if you will – a few weeks ago and it was delicious! I couldn’t get enough. I had to eat it mashed up because everyone said there could be little bones, but I didn’t care. It was moist and tender and mouth-wateringly amazing. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it. Daddy put lemon and orange slices, pieces of fennel, parsley and thyme in the body and then covered it in a salt dome and then baked it. He loosely followed Alton Brown’s recipe.

So, if you’re planning a fancy meal for Christmas Eve, why not try Italian? But not spaghetti and meatballs. Fish!

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