Friday, December 11, 2009

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Theresa asked about Feast of the Seven's a link to a brief explanation of what it is. The tradition comes from the Italian side of my family (mother's side). The religious aspect is totally lost on my family these days - my immediate family, as in aunts/uncles, etc. have converted from the Catholic Church to whatever/nothing or are non-practicing Catholics. But the tradition carries on. These days it's a challenge to come up with 7 fish/seafood dishes for those of us in Oregon, only 5 these days, so 7 dishes is way too much food. Many times small appetizers help fill the bill.

Back east this was a huge evening for my big extended family with plates of fried shrimp in the frito misto batter (we forgo that now for a lighter panko crumb coating), fried oysters, scallops, incredible fish soup, calamari in a tomato sauce, teaila (fish casserole), cocktail shrimp and whatever else we could come up with. I will never forget my father going down to the wharves in DC for the oysters and then working down in the basement at the laundry tub shucking them - he and one of my aunts would also eat a few raw (gross). Dad always saved some for oyster stew a day or two later.

These days the menu consists of the fried shrimp, we don't like west coast oysters so none of those, calamari, shrimp cheese ball appetizer, crab dip, smoked salmon and sometimes fish soup, scallops, crab cakes. We always have roasted peppers - my grandmother and mother were roasting peppers when I was very small, decades before you ever heard of it being done mainstream. Me - I'd be happy with a big bowl of cioppino and a loaf of crusty bread. I am so out of it this year I haven't even given any thought to the menu - with Christmas two weeks away it's time for a family discussion on the menu and who will make what.

On Christmas Day dinner - we never used to have much of one - it was always leftovers from the night before with a pasta dish on the side. Oh, and Christmas cookies with coffee for breakfast while waiting for everyone to wake up for present opening. My grandparents lived next door so between the houses and family visiting there were a lot of people to wait on in the morning.

Oh, and the Christmas cookies - dozens of kinds - trays and trays of all different kinds of cookies, traditional family recipes. That's another thing we don't need tons of out here with only 5 of us and two of them diabetics- I'd be finding Christmas cookies still in the freezer 10 months later! If I make one cookie this year it will be an accomplishment.


  1. Yikes, eeking out 7 seafood dishes in Oregon is almost impossible, 5 is darn hard too. I'm with you, west coast seafood doesn't hold a candle to east coast delights...quahogs, real clams, scallops, Maryland Crab cakes, fresh cod and of course lobster. It makes me want to weep.
    Thank you for the link and explanation of the feast.
    It's hard to always honor a tradition. I'd be tempted to do just one seafood dish and then off other things and call it the Feast of the One Really Good Fish. :-)

  2. There's nothing like Maryland Blue Crab - Dungeness just can't hold a candle to it. Oh, and what about flounder!


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