Feast of the Seven Fishes

An American friend was recently asking my Italian wife what our plans for the holiday season were, and wondered if we’d be doing the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Blank looks all round. A little googling brought conflicting results. Some say it doesn’t exist in Italy and has only ever been done in America. Others say it was originally done in southern Italy for Christmas Eve (because Catholics weren’t allowed to eat meat on certain special days) but that it was popularised, codified (the number of dishes) and basically became a thing when adopted by Italian-Americans. And our friends do it on New Year’s Eve, not Christmas Eve.

Whatever. We were invited to dinner, so we weren’t about to quibble. On New Year’s Eve we took our kids over and left them downstairs with our friends’ kids to play and watch DVDs while we tucked in to the spread prepared by Ashley and her father, visiting from St. Louis.

Fish #1: salmon.

Fish #2 in the bowl: salt cod and potato, and in the background Fish #3: pepper salad with an anchovy dressing.


Fish #4: tuna on potato discs. This was probably my favourite, and I ate far more than my fair share of these.


We moved to the table for Fish #5: marinated scallops. Delicious.


Then came my wife’s contribution. Fish #6: squid ink and shrimp risotto. That whitish blur at top left is steam.


Fish #7: sole stuffed with crab meat (bonus Fish #8!). Probably the tastiest dish of the evening.


And for dessert, a defiantly non-fishy cinammon-flavoured crème brûlée prepared by my wife.


I’d been concerned about the quantities involved, and that I might emerge feeling as stuffed as the sole, but the portions were perfectly judged and we were able to say goodbye to 2013 with a pleasantly full belly.

Thanks again to our hosts (and a tip of the hat to Ashley’s father for his wine selection) and maybe we can make this a regular event?


4 thoughts on “Feast of the Seven Fishes

  1. Mammamsterdam January 1, 2014 / 12:32 pm

    What do you say: you guys cook next time for us all the above, and I will cook (possibly on another occasion) the Christmas dishes of my Polish grandmother. Deal?


  2. Michele January 1, 2014 / 2:28 pm

    Simon, so glad you found our story on Feast of the Seven Fishes. As you can see from the number of comments we got, its origin is hotly debated. So glad you enjoyed your feast.


  3. Erik R. January 1, 2014 / 10:43 pm

    Sort of as authentic as chicken tikka masala, huh?

    It all looks delicious. Good to see some squid ink outside of Spain.


    • simonlitton January 2, 2014 / 12:31 am

      Over in the comments section of that post I linked to in the first paragraph there’s a fierce and fascinating debate about “authenticity”.


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