The smell of seafood drifts through my house; it’s Christmas time. Today, homes across Italy celebrate with il cenone, a massive Christmas Eve menu of multiple courses of fish. My grandparents immigrated from southern Italy where capitone, large female eel, is THE traditional fish of Christmas Eve.Memories of my grandfather Edmundo from Salerno cleaning a bucket of live slippery creatures are fresh in my heart and mind. Still wriggling inch long chunks of eel were broiled, skin on. The heightening aroma of fish oil and smoke flooded the kitchen from floor to ceiling. Once cooled they were marinated with chopped parsley, olive oil and vinegar for 2 days leading up to the festivities.
As tastes have changed eel has definitely lost its popularity on many tables but remains a favorite on ours. Baccalà salad holds second place followed by pasta with anchovies, fried shrimp and smelts. Seven courses in all for the seven sacraments.
Countdown on, only 4 hours until the feast begins. I’ve got my eyes on the bowl of hearty, savory and succulent pieces of eel. Luckily they’re no longer moving. Merry Christmas!!!