Sunday, December 21, 2008

Food Forethought

My long hiatus from blogging has officially ended.
While it was imperative that I focus my attention on health and family, the subject of great food was never far from my mind.

Presently, while the visions in my head aren't necessarily of sugarplums, I find myself distracted from my annual holiday
bake-a-thon (one contestant, no spectators, and A LOT of butter), as I contemplate a menu for Christmas Eve.

For years, I have wanted to recreate the traditional Christmas Eve
Feast of the Seven Fishes.
It is quite possible that I totally made up the name of that feast. There might have been more or less than seven fishes and if my memory serves me correctly, it's more of a seafood fiasco than a feast. Nonetheless, I want it, whatever it's called, and no matter how many crustaceans have to be sacrificed--I WANT IT.

There is a foggy childhood memory that haunts me to this day; one Christmas Eve, my mother presented me with an early gift. It was a rabbit fur coat with a matching hand muff, to be worn over my Sunday best. I knew we were going someplace special because an early gift was a rare occurrence.
We left holiday mass and headed for an unfamiliar address. When we arrived at the crowded house, we were ushered to a finished basement crammed with plastic-covered banquet tables, at which were seated more blue haired relatives than I had met in my lifetime. Most spoke Italian (quickly), while few spoke the same broken English as my live-in grandmothers. I was immediately taken by the smell of the basement. It was intoxicating. It was spicy and familiar and it made me hungry. As I looked around however, I was terrified of what stared back at me from huge silver bowls placed at the center of each table. Creatures I thought I recognized from encyclopedia photographs sat rigid and lifeless in pools of red velvet sauce. A feeling of panic set in and I prayed hard and fast for a slice of pizza that never materialized. I am haunted by this vivid memory, not for the sake of dead sea life, but instead because I was too young and too foolish to let such gastronomic pleasure pass me by. If only I could time-travel backward to that feted night, I would refuse the compensatory bowl of spaghetti and instead indulge, elbow to elbow, with the blue haired and the bibbed, savoring every morsel of such briny fare. But alas, it must remain only as a distant memory, rife with missed opportunities.
I long to mimic that night and play hostess to a bevy of tentacled treats.
Sadly however, I seem to be the only one in my family excited by this prospect and would likely be left to face the cracking of crustaceans alone. Each year I propose we make this tradition our own, and each year the Christmas Committee (a.k.a. my own Italian American fish-phobic family) rejects my proposal.
Had I been more diligent in my search to find a true-to-tradition Italian family, willing to adopt me for Christmas Eve, I wouldn't be faced with the daunting task of whipping up an impressive meal on the Eve of the year's most gastro-spectacular holiday.
Oy, the pressure.

While others might be content to compromise, my stubborn,
all-or-none mentality, won't allow me to.
I want the whole Italian shebang. If I can't have it all, then I don't
want ANY of it.

And so, I have decided upon a prime rib roast for dinner.
No shrimp cocktail.
No lobster tail with bland, American butter sauce.
Not even baked clams on the half shell.
No surf. Just turf.

Let them eat steak.

Until Next Time,

Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food



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