Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Miracles and Mythical Traditions

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given"

Leo's First Christmas

This little guy, who looks strikingly like his handsome dad, Giulio and beautiful mom, Stacy and sister Gia, is Leonardo Galli. He came into this world not long after Jan 1 of this year, but way before he was “due.” At a little less than 2 pounds, little Leo, the young lion, roared into this world. On Mother’s Day weekend, he finally came home to live with his mom and dad and sister in San Antonio. Merry Christmas, Leo and family. You've come a long way, baby! We are so glad to see you growing up so fast and healthy.

Leo the Warrior with Papa's wedding ring on his arm - long before he came home

This week Sausage Paul invited me and Joey the Weasel (who now wants to be known as Joe Strange Eye, ever since his accident with the shop-vac) along with Adelmo Banchetti, venerable Dallas restaurateur, and an entourage of wealthy financiers and beautiful women, to the Italian Club, for the Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa dei sette pesci). There were hundreds of Italians and Italian Americans assembled for this traditional feast that may or may not really originate in Italy. I have made a little film (here), interviewing people from first generation immigrant Italians to folks who have been here so long they don’t remember where they came from in Italy. I apologize for the length of the clip, as I generally believe any video over two minutes is too long. But if you have the patience, there are some priceless comments, from Adelmo's always entertaining “take” on things to Luigi Mungioli’s insistence that his family did indeed celebrate festa dei sette pesci in his home town in Campania (his wife is not as adamant). Marilisa from Sicily was the star of the show with her on camera presence. I told her she "photographed well" on camera, and she blushed. Marilisa is pregnant and in full female bloom, a beautiful sight.

There is an entertaining explanation from a family who came from Cefalu and settled on the Texas-Louisiana border (known in these parts as Laplanders). The outgoing Italian Club president, Dominic, who grew up in the Northeast of America and whose mother came from Sicily, gave a presentation whereby he explained that the custom most likely originated in America, most likely by Sicilian Americans on the East Coast. Growing up on the West Coast, I have no recollection of my Sicilian family ever celebrating the festa dei sette pesci, other than vague remembrances of eating fish on Christmas Eve. Interestingly in the crowd, when Dominic was presenting his paper, there were utterances of disbelief by Italian Americans who swore the custom originated in Italy. I think it most likely an American tradition, and so be it. After all, we are living in America.

Saw this church between stopping at the tamale shop
and the cheese shop - sanctuary for wayward sheep

Speaking of living in America, I have posted my polemic on Palate Press, on the desideratum for the three-tier system of wine disbursement. Suffice to say, there are heated arguments on both sides, already in the comment sections folks are queuing up to take their shots. Hey it’s a free country. Like a friend said, "When it comes to wants and needs we Americans often line up in the 'I want the world and I want it now' camp or the 'I want my MTV' camp or the 'Give me my freaking goods, dude' camp, depending on which generation is proclaiming their inalienable rights." Good luck to all – This is one for the lawyers who would have to get the issue in front of the Supreme Court to argue the repeal of the 21st amendment and cause the dismantling of an industry that supports hundred of thousands of families. I don’t know too may politicians who are lining up to put more people out of work these days. Summum Bonum.

And we have one more day to get those little bottles of wine in the hands of folks who just got to have a bottle of wine tonight. Snow is predicted. We’ll be stocking and box cutting and espresso sipping and doing our mano a mano relationship marketing at our favorite Italian wine shop in the world. Come see us!

Buon Natale, tutti!

Class Act - Importer Tom Beckman, stocking wine in his Armani blazer,
wearing Prada frames and sporting his trademark limited edition
TAG Heuer Monaco "Steve McQueen" chronograph


Unknown said...

Alfonso, "Thank You" for the blessing of your post this Christmas Eve.

Blessings to you,

Michael Vickery

Unknown said...

I'm glad you pointed out the American origins of the Sette Pesci tradition. As you discovered, people here are convinced that it came over with their ancestors.

But recently I had a couple of Campanian wine producers look at me with bewilderment and say, "What is festival of seven fish?"

It is big in certain Italo-American quarters in the NY area though.

I want to have Tom's bling one day. Just sayin'.

Comunque, Buon Natale e Buon Anno!

Marco Bagiggi said...

On Christmas Eve, all the women in my mother's Calabrian-American family would fry fish all day long on two stoves in the cellar. This is also where the children ate until you reached your teens at which time you graduated to the first floor and joined the adults. There was never any mention of this being an Italian tradition. Besides fried fish there was also stuffed calamari and baccala in tomato sauce. There was another pasta dish with tomato sauce and walnuts that was only prepared on this night. We easily exceeded the number 7. In those days fresh local scallops, shrimp and other scaley fish were readily available.
Good post and thanks for the memories.

PS The next time you video in a room full if Italians, please ask those who are speaking to speak much louder.

Penny Sadler said...

Buon Natale and Merry Christmas to all... especially the ever stylish Tom and the radiant Marilisa.

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