Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas!

It started with champagne, of course. Because Christmas Eve is always celebratory: the flocking of family members from around the country to one modest New Jersey dining room, the excitement of it being the night before Christmas, the happiness that comes from delicious eating foods you consume only once a year. Reasons enough to break open the bubbly!

This year, 23 of us sat down to three tables Aunt Mimi had lined up, stretching from the dining room bay window through the hall and well into the living room (God forbid we split up and eat in small groups). And we ate. Six fishes, with a bowl of Goldfish crackers on the table as our seventh. It sure was grand. The approximate order of events follows:

1. Antipasto: roasted red peppers, Italian tuna in olive oil, olives, marinated eggplant and artichoke hearts, Provolone.
2. Fresh mozzarella with tomatoes.
3. Fried calamari.
4. Pop's smelts, with vinegar and mint.
5. Baked stuffed clams in the beautiful clam shells.
6. Fork announces the scratch-off Lotto ticket my aunt left on his plate is a winner; once he has everyone's attention he admits he didn't win the lottery, but that he hit the jackpot: Spoon and Fork are getting married!
7. More champagne, kisses, hugs, tears.
8. Pasta with clam sauce.
9. Shrimp francese, affectionately referred to as "The Shrimbola," accompanied by Pop's retelling of Uncle Louie Barese's mispronunciation of the word "shrimp."
10. Mom's stuffed escarole, this year featuring Gaeta olives (instead of pimento-stuffed), capers (as usual), golden raisins, pignoli nuts, less breadcrumbs and no Parmesan cheese. A new classic.
11. More champagne. Pop tells jokes we've heard a thousand times, we all die laughing, for the thousandth time.
12. Family assembles around the piano for the worst-ever (musically speaking) but perhaps funniest-ever (performance-wise) rendition of A Partridge in a Pear Tree. Spoon can barely keep up with the mayhem, but the glittering diamond on her finger inspires her to keep playing because it sparkles nicely as she plays. Merry Christmas!--S

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