Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Festa dei Sette Pesci)

feast-of-the-seven-fishes1If you like comic books, graphic novels, and cartoons, you’ll love Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Collected Comic Strip & Italian Holiday Cookbook.

Let the author himself tell you what the book’s all about:

“All I wanted to do was write a little romantic comedy about my family cooking fish on Christmas Eve. Little did I know what I’d unleashed – an acclaimed graphic novel, a festival, a movie – and now a blog – dedicated to keeping the traditions of our Italian ancestors alive…”

Check out the blog devoted to both the comic strip and the book.

A typical seven-fish menu, which varies from family to family, region to region, and comes generally from the southern part of Italy, where most Italian-Americans trace their immigrant ancestry, might include the following:

Calamari (squid)
Eel
Baccalà (salt cod)
Shrimp
Clams with pasta
Octopus
Mussels
Large baked fish
Mussels
Smelts
Oysters
Anchovies

Traditionally, families attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and then returned home to feast on fish.

So what’s with the number seven? In Roman Catholicism, the seven sacraments seem to dictate the rationale behind focusing on seven fish dishes.

Oh yes, how about a recipe?

christmas-eve-squid-with-tomatoesSQUID MEDITERRANEAN STYLE
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 pound squid, cleaned and cut into rings
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, mashed and minced
Salt and freshly‑ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded, or 1 – 1/2 t. dried basil

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic, fry for 30 seconds, and then add the squid. Salt and pepper the squid and stir well. Cook the squid over high heat until white and then add the tomatoes and cook for 1 more minute.  Stir in the herbs.

Serve the squid immediately with plenty of crusty garlic bread.

© 2008 C. Bertelsen

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