Above: “Grigliata di Mare,” Amalfi Coast, photo by friend and colleague Tom Hyland.
“Crisis or no crisis, Italians won’t say no to fish on Christmas eve,” says the daily dose of Italian wine news that finds its way to my inbox this morning. The tradition of eating fish on Christmas eve stretches back to the middle ages and beyond. Its origins lie in a monastic tradition of fasting as part of the holy rite: in a gesture of self-awareness and sacrifice, one “does without” the richness of fatty meat and milk reserved for feast days. Of course, as the bold statement above reveals, the tradition has been turned on its fish head, as it were: across the western world, we consume seafood delicacies on Christmas eve as an expression of luxury. Where I lived in the north of Italy, eel was served on Christmas eve. In the south, where Tracie B lived, a grigliata di mare (as in Tom’s photo above) might be served. (Alfonso posted interesting insight into the myth of the Dinner of Seven Fishes — yes, a myth! — here.)
Above: Uncle Tim is an amazing cook and his gumbo is no exception. In Coonass country, where Tracie B grew up, east-Texas style gumbo is served on Christmas eve. When we visit with Tracie B’s family, Uncle Tim and I sit around and talk about food for hours.
Tracie B and I have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas, as we get ready to head east to her family’s place in Orange, Texas (where she and I will be eating Uncle Tim’s excellent gumbo tonight).
It’s been quite a year: I started a new job in the wine business shortly after I moved to Austin only to start over again during the summer when the company I worked for experienced its own financial difficulties. Somehow I managed to land on my feet and things are looking up for 2010 (I think that the loving support and tender words of my sweet and amatissima Tracie B had a little something to do with that).
However much we struggled financially, Tracie B and I are well aware of how lucky we are to be working and we are painfully aware that some in our business continue to struggle.
Above: Tracie B and I are getting married next month! Photo by the Nichols.
Crisis or no crisis, our lives have moved forward in wondrous ways I never could have imagined before Tracie B came into my life.
Thank you, everyone, for all the support and well wishes in 2009 and beyond. It’s been some year and as much as I’m glad it’s over, I’ll be sad to see it go: it’s filled with bright memories, even in the darkest times, of the first year of a new beginning and a new life — la vita nova.
Happy holidays to everyone, everywhere…