As I’ve mentioned over the last few weeks, I’m missing my traditional Texas-style Christmas this year and will be celebrating a Calabrian Christmas for the first time since moving to the bel paese. A few years ago I wrote a four-part series on Calabrian Christmas traditions and since I’m most looking forward to Il Cenone … the traditional Christmas Eve Dinner … , I’m pulling that post from the archives.
So pull up your chair, tie on your napkin and get ready to indulge … oh, and thanks for stopping by.
(originally posted, December 2008)
As in other parts of Italy, food plays a starring role in a Calabrian Christmas. You won’t find turkey or gravy passed around these tables, but like in the US, there will be more than enough homemade food and holiday cheer to go around.
Calabrians love celebrating with their cuisine and there is no shortage of generosity when it comes to commemorating their Savior’s birth. As with other holidays – or typical Sundays – you can expect a multi-course meal that might begin with an aperitivo and antipasto, followed with primi (first plates), secondi (second plates), side items, fruit, desserts and coffee.
Oh, and lots of wine.
Aperitivi and antipasto both translate into English as appetizers. Confused with why Italians would offer two types of appetizers at their formal meals? Yea, I am, too. But aperitivi is either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink that is served with small finger foods as guests arrive, while antipasto is the appetizer dish that is formally served after everyone is seated.
The typical Calabrian Christmas Eve meal … or Cenone, as it is often called, is based on seafood, so appetizers would likely include a variety of lightly fried seafood critters, a seafood salad and an assortment of cheese and olives. Here is a recipe for fried baccalà and broccoli.
The primi plate, or the official first round, is either a pasta or risotto dish, so think spaghetti with clams or mussels.
Secondi plates are served after the pasta dish and are normally either grilled or fried seafood, potatoes or a salad. No Christmas Eve dinner is complete without sauteed broccoli rape.
Seasonal fruit is served before dessert and coffee. Typical Christmas Eve dessert dishes are panforte, which is similar to an American fruit cake, panettone, which come in a variety of flavors and torrone, a hard candy typical of the holiday season.
* Please note that all of the customs and traditions I am referring to are typical of Calabria. I’m no expert on the other regions, but I hope those of you who are will chip in with your two centesimi!
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Photo: Tiffany Blog