Feast of the Seven Fishes

Traditional Sicilian Christmas Eve

By: - Dec 25, 2023

For Sicilians Christmas Eve is celebrated with the Feast of Seven Fishes.
Dad, long gone from Brooklyn with an Irish bride, never went all in.
But, when possible, served octopus as a cold salad.
At a family Christmas dinner, my uncle Jimmy Sullivan initially enjoyed it
"This is great Doc, what is it" he asked.
"Octopus" Dad replied.
With a gasp Jimmy coughed it onto his plate.
Must have been thinking of horrific images from 7000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Well, so much for the Irish and cuisine.
Fortunately Dad cooked for the Holidays.
Although Mom could make the gravy having learned from her mother-in- law.
Dad put some interesting things on our plates.
But we rebelled when it was baked sheep's heads.
Growing up we experienced every kind of cuisine.
During a family tour of Europe we stopped at Villefranche-sur-Mer.
It is an utterly charming fishing village.
The specialty of the house is bouillabaisse,
That likely sounds familiar and you may have had it.
But think again.
We were dining on the real deal.
The humble fisherman's catch of the day stew was scorching hot.
After an honest try we gave up.
Our bowls were passed to Dad who gorged on them with flourish and relish.
The next few days, however, he paid the price.
It resulted in a scorched esophagus, which rendered him in agony.
Like the first time I tried Indian food in London.
Very, very hot the waiter warned.
I got about a third in before I quit.
Next day there was a ring of fire from burn twice vindaloo.
Now I regularly order it at Spice Root in Williamstown.
Even, to no avail, asking for it extra spicy.
It's nice but not killer like in London.
An inheritance from Dad is that I will eat anything that does not eat me first.
Living in the poorest fringe of Boston' Italian North End there was a great neighborhood cafeteria.
The tourists never found it.
I invited my pal Phil Bleeth for lunch.
With bravura I ordered the pig skins on penne.
Phil ordered something sensible but watched me with great interest.
I dug in but soon concluded that the rolled pig skins cooked in sauce were just that.
It was like Charlie Chaplin in Gold Rush trying to eat his shoe.
When I gave up Phil fell over laughing.
Growing up in Hamburg Astrid recalls carp and eel for Christmas Eve.
Setting off for Big Y I planned on ingredients for cataplana.
To try to emulate the fisherman's stew at we adore at Gloucester's Azorean.
Crestfallen  we learned that the fish counter had been ravaged.
Mussels and mollusks as well as choice fish were long gone.
She suggested frozen king crab while I asked if they had any lobsters.
"Lots of them" was the answer from our friendly fishmonger.
He always helps us to get what's fresh and best.
Flipping and flopping we settled for three chicks.
Our last lobsters were consumed during a fall, off season, visit to the wonderful Causeway.
Because of the mess Astrid set up the kitchen counter.
Humanely, I euthanized the critters before the pot.
We crisped tater tots as a side with ketchup.
For the special occasion we popped open champagne.
Excuse me, Italian sparking wine.
If you're going to reduce feast of the fishes to just one.
For sure, make it lobster.