A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tastes of Christmas

Over at the blog Finding La Dolce Vita, there are some wonderful recipes for seafood. Maryann is also Italian and describes the traditional seafood dinner that we Italians have on Christmas Eve. However, as I commented on her blog, her version of this dinner seems much more civilized than what I experienced as a child.

We always had Christmas Eve at my maternal grandmother's (Nana Gene) house. My grandfather was the cook in that family (she was pretty bad at it), and his favorite ingredient - after garlic - was grease. Oh, his cooking was delicious, to be sure. But I still remember looking into the pot of gravy (sauce to you non-Italians) and seeing about a 1/4 inch layer of oil. Mmmmm.

On the menu that night was a big bowl of spaghetti (okay so far) with calamari sauce. Of course, my family prounounced that "calamad" so it was well into my adulthood that I actually knew what the word was. The sauce was very good, but I could NOT eat those pieces of squid. Especially the tentacles. My cousin (the little brat) would put one of the tantacles in his mouth, leaving a few of them hanging out over his lip, and tap me on the shoulder to look. Nice guy. Now, of course, I love calamari. But now I'm a grown-up.

The one item my grandmother would make was fried smelts. For those of you who have not experienced these, smelts are little fish that she fried whole - bones and all. You might say yuck to this - and you'd be right! Pretty bad.

We also had other fried fish (remember, grease ruled) like baccala, and other things I don't remember. All in all, not my favorite meal of the year. But, what the heck, Santa was on his way. And, if we were good, we would get to open one present on Christmas Eve. So all was right with the world. Tentacles, fish bones, grease and all.


ba and the boys said...

hi-im from nikkis blog and also italian. i had the same gravy (im from south philly and we called it that too!)growing up! and all the fish on christmas eve...eewwww. i still have 'fish problems' and i think it goes back to christmas eve.
thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

We say "calamaad" too! I love it just like this! Wonderful!
I really like your stories too :)

Anonymous said...

oh yeah..I say "sauce". It depends where your family came from I think :)

namaste said...

i love your squid story, boys can be such dopes. lol! calamari is one of my favs too! yum! i'm off to la dolce vita's blog for some great sounding recipes.

of course you know i really enjoy reading about all your family traditions.


Jenni said...

The picture of the "calamad" spaghetti made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Glad we've moved on from that tradition!

It's Me said...

squid....ewww. I've never been able to do squid!! squishy tentacles just ain't my thing!

Desert Diva said...

It's nice to know that we can "recreate" our holiday dinners when we're in charge!