“My grandmother is Italian and would make a Feast of the Seven Fishes stew like this when she would visit us in Brazil during Christmas,” says Pacifico. “Eating this dish connects me to my Italian heritage, but regardless of your ethnic background or religious persuasion, it makes for a very satisfying meal on a cold winter night.”
The Feast of the Seven Fishes, also known as La Vigilia (The Vigil), typically features seven or more different seafood dishes. It is tied to the Roman Catholic tradition of refraining from eating meat on the holiday. The number of courses varies, but the number seven is thought to represent the seven sacraments of the Catholic church. The menu can include almost any fish dish, but traditional favorites are smelts, eel, anchovies, squid, octopus, lobster and baccal?(dried salt cod).
For neighbors and friends, Theresa (Masciola) Beebe and Jini (DeNardo) Barefoot, of Findlay Township, the Christmas Eve ritual brings back memories of their Italian grandparents and parents, who strictly observed the Seven Fishes tradition.
Her family still eats seafood on Christmas Eve, but no longer prepares the entire Seven Fishes meal. But Barefoot will be helping to make the elaborate traditional dinner for 20 family members including her father, Amedeo DiNardo, 79. He was born in Italy and still insists on celebrating the custom that is believed to have originated in the southern region of the country.