Recipe – Sicily

Family Recipe/Meal Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Jessica Nicholas is from America, but much of her family is directly from Sicily.  During the Christmas Holiday they have a Sicilian, Catholic tradition of eating special meals both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  The meals are as follows:

Christmas Eve- Sicilian Ciappino Fish stew over Couscous

Christmas Day- Raviolis with red sauce, beef chunks, homemade meatballs

Jessica said this meal and its recipe were learned many generations ago back in Sicily.  She said the reason for the fish on Christmas Eve was because of their family’s history.  Her family back in Sicily were fisherman and ate a lot of fish, and saved the expensive meat for special holidays.  The combination of eating fish and meat on these two days brings together the sense of identity and the sense of a special occasion.  I asked her who prepares the meals and she immediately told me her mother and her grandmother (Nanie).  This seemed to be something that the women in the family do each Christmas, so I asked her if she is learning the recipes and plans to prepare it for her family in the future.  She told me, “possibly, I definitely try to help and learn their secrets, but it’s a lot of work it really depends on where I live because there’s no point in making the Ciappino if I don’t live by a fresh fish source. We literally go to the pier where the fisherman are coming in from their boats and buy straight from them”. This brought up the fact that people go through a lot of effort to maintain tradition and a sense of identity.  Jessica told me this meal has been made only one time on a separate occasion. “We’ve only made Ciappino once on a non-holiday in all of my years and that was because it was in the summer and we went fishing and my older sister was in town and wanted some of mama’s cooking”.  She said her mother made it so her sister could feel the sensation of being home for Christmas again.  Jessica also noted that the meal is not just important because of the taste.  She said it is the feeling of connecting with family that really makes it important. Also, seeing her Grandma and her older relatives makes her recognize the need to continue this tradition so her children and grandchildren will know their roots.

My analysis of the meal is very similar to that of Jessica’s.  I realize where she is coming from when she talks about how this connects her with family and her Sicilian heritage.  I also agree that preparing the meal is hard work, which is why she is hesitant about passing it on to her family.  I have a feeling she will feel differently as she grows older and has a family, because the hard work only comes once a year.  That hard work then connects your family with itself and it’s past forever.  The only difference in opinion is why they might have meat on Christmas.  This meat symbolizes the specialty of the occasion but also expresses the want for a better life.  Her family were fisherman and the prospect of having meat at the end of the year on Christmas could symbolize the expectations for a rich Christmas and New Year.