Christmas Culinary Celebration

Christmas day started very early, 12:00 AM to be exact. For several years now we have solemnly gathered at church for a midnight mass celebration. It is a deep experience and is uncomfortably juxtaposed to a day of decadent feasting. In a sense, I might rightfully compare the thirteen dishes tradition to a never-ending epicurean parade of food-based floats, delightfully prepared and festively enjoyed. But to what purpose? A grand celebration formally concluding the season of Christian advent? It just did not feel right. With such a lingering question, midnight approached and so, having settled down, having cleaned up the kitchen, the fan club and I, made our short pilgrimage to the church nearby and tuned our hearts and mind to a different kind of music.

Deep down inside I started wondering if our excesses of the Eve were right? After all, the family was all there with us. Technology even made it possible to connect with old cousins which some of us has not seen in more than two decades. But these questions still lingered. With one feast ending, and another planned, was it right for all of us to splurge as we did? Was this just another manifestation of Catholic guilt or just a legitimate inner question that needed some form of resolution?

I questioned my conscience and then came to feel that my deeds, actions and quite sacrifices made in favor of others sufficiently balanced out the celebration's excesses. Not all would agree, - including many Catholics - as the exterior, heavily secularized commercial face that Christmas has become appears so utterly devoid of any religious core. It has truly become hard to see any meaning that goes beyond commercial interest and thus has also become something that is certainly very easy to criticize.

But what calmed me on this Christmas Eve was an inner feeling of peace and the sense of joy for what I believe is one of the two truly remarkable events that we Christians unselfishly commemorate, often vicariously for all mankind. The practical key lies in the continuous spirit of giving, a year long spirit indeed, defined in its most expansive sense and that certainly beyond the strict transfer of material items from one person to another. We certainly give many presents, but some of us give much more. We care and cherish, and often we protect without end. We pray for the well being of family and families, friends, for our leaders, and for those who near and for those who are far. We keep a special place in our hearts and thoughts for those who we do not know knowing that they are in need. And we try our best to do these things and more from one Christmas to another.

I quietly recalled the summation of unselfish acts, and also of those moments when I could have been a better and stronger person. In the end, I convinced myself, that I had made a good effort to bring some happiness into the world. The meaning of Christmas became self evident to me as I participated in a midnight mass surrounded by both complex and apparently simple symbolism that looked to more more beautiful than ever. Self-serving extolation ? I think there is more to it than just that.

Having given thanks, and acted and thought about others, I knew I was ready for the next mornings culinary efforts and a legitimately deserved continued celebration. So here is some more culinary sharing.

Christmas Day Menu

Spicy Dried Sausage imported from Molise region of Italy
Spicy Neonata spread (the fan club called for an encore)
Aged Sharp Italian Provolone Cheese
Smoked Chicken breast fillet

Starter (Tentative)
Chestnut flour soup with lumped crab tartines

Primi and Secondi
Tortelloni al pomodoro fresco
Pan-seared, Calvados marinated duck breasts with jelly medley:
(jellies: lingonberry, chianti wine jelly and mango butter)
dutch oven baked Rack of Pork cooked in white wine and herbs
Herbed Potato Tart

Wild mushroom (porcini, chanterelle, oyster and trumpe) saute'
Artichoke hearts sauteed in white wine

Insalata mista, a very traditional mixed greens salad with light vinaigrette

Desserts and Spirits
Pecorino Calabrese (a sharp cheese) with walnuts
Assorted Torrone (
Homemade lemon cookies
Italian Amaro

Today's Lesson
Regardless of our our personal beliefs and faith, Christmas can be universal timeout to think and act in favor of others, especially those of us who are less fortunate.



  1. I am relieved to see that someone else lives the yuletide diatribe. Your post was right on target. Buon 2010!


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