Food  |  Life

Ending 2016 at the table

Posted on January 4, 2017

January. I always feel vaguely divided about this month, torn between liking the freshness of a new year and feeling somehow let down by the fact that the cozy, festive initial part of winter is already over while the colder, bleaker part of the season will be settling in for the next few months. January means that it’s time to box up the decorations, to start being productive again, to stop buying industrial quantities of panettone and then demolishing it all within a couple of days, and, in general, to stop eating all the time – a feat that feels sort of like plunging headfirst into cold water given that the holidays in Italy are more or less centered around food.

The entire month of December was a slow crescendo of holiday aperitivi, increasingly large dinners, panettone eaten in bed for breakfast and festive desserts baked and then sampled and then sampled again. It was a fairly gradual, subtle food creep, but by the time Christmas itself finally rolled around, food – its procurement, its preparation, and the actual act of eating it – had become the protagonist of the entire day.

The pinnacle of my holiday gluttony was la cena della Vigilia  Christmas Eve dinner – which we spent at Alessandro’s parents’ place. The first thing I noticed after walking into their apartment was the size of the dinner table, which was actually two tables shoved together and draped in matching blood-red tablecloths. It would have comfortably seated twelve, with room to spare – although we were a modest group of seven.

The need for extra space on the table soon became clear as Alessandro’s mother vanished into the kitchen and appeared a few minutes later holding a tray laden with various seafood-stuffed pastries. There was enough food to comfortably feed an entire family, but I got the impression that we were just getting started. After hovering near the foot of the table, wooden spoon in hand and forcefully encouraging everyone to take larger portions, she disappeared into the kitchen again. When she emerged, her arms were full of baskets of assorted fritti. Absurd amounts of fritti, actually. There were fried artichokes. Cheese-stuffed fried zucchini blossoms. Little pieces of radicchio fried into crispy chips. Broccoli, battered and fried. I took some of each. His mother urged me to take more.

This being a typical Italian dinner, the pasta was out next. A mountain of pasta, shimmering in olive oil and studded liberally with clams, mussels, and whole, head-on prawns staring up at me with what looked a lot like a challenge in their beady black eyes. All that other food had just been a preamble, the antipasti, the part that’s supposed to whet your appetite. My appetite was dead. Squashed. Buried under all those fritti. Alessandro, oblivious to this fact, slid a giant tangle of spaghetti in front of me. Ten minutes later, everyone but me had empty plates in front of them while I twirled and re-twirled the same few strands of spaghetti, shooting desperate glances at Alessandro while his dad asked me, concerned, if I hadn’t liked the pasta.

Then came the main course, baccalà, sticking firmly to the classic fish-for-Christmas-Eve tradition. And mere seconds after that was finished (somehow), the salad course, an intensely garlicky bowl of puntarelle, was plunked down on the table. Since there was no way of escaping, I ate, and then I ate more. And then, as I swore I’d never eat anything else ever again, the dessert – the cheesecake that I had baked and brought – was sliced and served with much fanfare. And I couldn’t exactly refuse to eat my own creation.

By the time the bottle of dessert wine made its way to the table, I felt like I had been eating for years, like I had just completed the marathon of Christmas dinners.

And that was just Christmas Eve. None of the other holiday dinners quite lived up to the stomach-expanding excesses of this one, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t pack a collective punch; on New Year’s Day, I woke up with a hangover, not from the prosecco but from the panettone.

So here we are in January, on the other side of the holiday season. Technically, there’s still Epifania – this Friday – left to go before the holiday season is officially over here. But I think I’m going to sit that one out: The holiday traditionally involves stockings stuffed with candy, which is the last thing I need right now. Our final panettone has just one slice remaining. There is salad and vegetable soup on the dinner menu for the foreseeable future. I have doubled my exercise regimen, which seems like a fair payment for all that holiday sugar, and I may never look at fried food the same way again. But all that aside, I came out of the holiday season feeling contented (if not about the state of the world at large, then at least about my own personal life), and, more importantly, eager to tackle the upcoming year. I’m ready for you, 2017.

Share this post: Pinterest Facebook Twitter

Comments on this post

Estrella 8 January 2017 at 11:26 am

Oh my, Sara, it sounds like you had quite the feast on Christmas Eve. I would have loved to seen the look at your face as they kept serving you more food, haha. But I guess Italians can’t take no for an answer. Glad you got to spend it with good people and around great company nonetheless!
http://www.lacasabloga.com

Leave a comment

Recently Written

Life  |  Travel

Homeland

The day before we leave, the temperature hits forty degrees Celsius and the humidity is clammy and close, inescapable. My suitcase gapes open on the living room floor; the fan whirrs continuously and stirs the air into hot, useless, frantic gusts. I sweat as I fold a jacket and sweater into the suitcase. Outside, the asphalt has gone soft and gummy from the heat. The cicadas in the trees along the river are screeching relentlessly, and the air smells faintly like garbage. I love Rome, but I have also never been quite so glad to escape Rome. Arriving in Vancouver is a...

Life

Two wheels

I didn’t really mean to become a cyclist. It just sort of snuck up on me, stealthily, until one day I was encased in skin-tight spandex and attaching my feet to the pedals with a pair of those special and deadly cycling shoes that simultaneously make riding a bike so much better and also so much scarier. It all started this winter, around the time when I began dating my boyfriend. He had a stack of bicycles leaning against the wall in his apartment and a pretty serious passion for cycling; I asked questions, curious, and perched experimentally on one of...

Life

Here, again

So. Hi! I think you’ve all realized by now that I’m not very good at actually writing in this thing. I have a lot of partially-completed posts lurking on my computer, fragments and half-paragraphs and sentences that sounded like the start of something when I jotted them down but didn’t turn into anything. And for a while that bothered me, because I wanted to write, and I wanted to schedule it out and outline a neat list of topics to follow and, basically, blog like a proper blogger should. But actually? I don’t think I really care about that. Isn’t there...

Travel

Bold and stark: The colours of Burano

Burano is a strange kind of place. If you search for photos of it, you’ll mostly come up with shots of ultra-saturated rainbow-hued buildings bathed in golden sunlight and girls in sundresses twirling cheerfully in front of doorways. Any maybe it’s like that during the spring or summer, when it’s warm enough that your lips don’t feel numb with cold after a few minutes of wandering around – but I was there in winter, mid-January, the deepest part of the season where sundresses and warm sunlight felt like a long-lost memory. So Burano, a tiny island in the Venetian lagoon, felt...

Food

Winter isn’t over yet: A warmly-spiced cookie recipe to keep you cozy

The wind is blowing hard today, a cuttingly cold wind that slices its way down through the narrow streets, slamming shutters back and forth on their hinges and ripping leaves and twigs off plants. The sky is brilliantly, deceptively blue; it looks like a perfect nearly-spring day until the wind gusts again and tips over a parked bicycle while sending a stray plastic bag flying through the air. “Senti che tramontana”, remarks an older man at the market as his scarf whips out behind him. The tramontana is a cold wind that comes from the north, from somewhere cold and snow-covered...

Travel

Venice: The allure of Italy’s most unique city

If you ask me, a good portion of Venice’s appeal lies in that fact that it seems so unbelievable. Here is a city that regularly floods, seawater gushing out of canals and covering sidewalks, creeping under doorways to invade homes and businesses. Here is a city of islands knit together by over four hundred small bridges, a city where water replaces streets, where boats replace cars, trucks, scooters and bikes. Here is a city that seems hostile towards the very old, the very young, the disabled, the distracted, and anyone who has to pull a wheeled suitcase for any distance...

View more posts
Show me posts about...