Holidays bring on lots of "moments" even in the best of circumstances when surrounded by family and friends and your own long-standing rites and rituals. Living abroad during the holidays brings on a bit of nostalgia, even for the parts you didn’t really like – eggnog and elderly aunts with facial hair for example.
In Italy, Christmas has lots of its own rituals, which I pick and choose among, but it is mainly about food and family and the emphasis on food can bring on a cultural moment. Every conversation I overheard or participated in during the week before Christmas was about Christmas Eve and Christmas day menus and with whom each of these festive meals would be shared. No singing Christmas carols by the fireplace, very little talk about the gift giving part, none about the religious part, just food and food and more of it!
Appearances, attention to aesthetics, good taste and the grand “show” take the stage – a moment in the year for this fundamental aspect of Italian culture to stand up and shine in all its glory.
I decided to give myself a special gift and take a day off from La Bella Figura. For the first time in a few years, I spent Christmas with just my husband and two children and we went to the seaside south of Rome on the 24th for a nice fish lunch and walk on the empty beach in the warm winter sun -- everyone else was frantically preparing for Christmas eve dinner. We opened a few presents on the 24th from relatives and the rest on the 25th before sitting down to an American Christmas meal – which actually turned out to be a good looking show and tasty too!
Cream of artichoke soup
Turkey with chestnut stuffing
Mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and pearl onions
No pumpkin pie though – no one likes it in my Italian family – just lots of pandoro, torrone and walnuts.
Vino novello to accompany it all and a round of espresso (no cappuccino) to finish it off.
Today’s menu: Turkey soup, of course!
Hope you all had a Buon Natale and Santo Stefano!