When I was small, I got to have two Christmas dinners; one was classic American, with ham and all the traditional sides, and one was an Italian version.
On Christmas Eve, my nonna would spend all day cooking, and by the time she was done, we would be treated to multiple courses. We’d start with pasta topped with fish sauce and freshly grated parmesan, and lead into a course with calamari and fried shrimp, another with breaded steak and chicken cutlets with green bean salad, squid salad, and pan-fried peas, and then finish off with one of my all-time favorite foods: artichokes stuffed with sharp provolone cheese. We’d finish the meal with milky, extra-sweet coffee (even the kids), cracked nuts, and panettone with butter or homemade frittole. To me, there is no greater meal.
By the time I was in grade school, I realized that not every family celebrated the same way, and that our tradition was truly special. That’s why I’m always fascinated by other people’s food traditions; after all, the food makes the holiday. I asked around the office and the answers were as diverse as I imagined….