Why I Am An Italian (Cook)

making Squid ink black pasta

The reason I love to make pasta is because of Lidia, my Italian fairy-godmother. This woman lives to cook and feed people. 

For as long as I can remember as a little girl, my family and I would go to Lidia and Filippo’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve. 

Italians don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve. Instead, they celebrate with The Feast of Seven Fishes. Then, the next day they eat lasagna with all the meats.


We’d arrive at her small, mid-century home in LA around 6:30pm and Lidia would always shout “you’re late!” because my dad would be the one making the fried shrimp and calamari for appetizers.


After the yelling, we were greeted with two kisses on the cheek and lots of words we didn't understand. Filippo would be blasting an Italian soccer game even on Christmas Eve.


My brothers and I still joke about it being a glimpse into the movie, The Godfather. Lidia and Filippo’s broken English took you straight to movie scenes in Naples and Sicily, where they were from. (And where I think the best food in the world is from)

While Lidia was still rolling out the pasta, appetizers were being served.

The savory ones of the group would eat the fried shrimp and calamari and the sweet ones would eat Lidia’s “figgy cookies” as she would call them.

She would make the cookies with figs picked in the backyard. Filippo smuggled the trees from Sicily (shh) and planted them 30+ years ago.

These cookies were scented with orange, were soft, chewy and delicious. If a fig newton learned how to put a scarf on like an Italian man, this would be the cookie.

Once the whole house was smelling like a fish n' chips stand, we'd sit down for the feast. The fifteen of us barely fit in the living room, so you couldn't get up even if you wanted. 

Lidia's Feast of Seven Fishes


Appetizers
Fried Shrimp and Calamari

Pasta
Homemade Spaghetti with Stuffed Calamari

Mains
Salted Cod (Baccala)
Branzino with Roasted Vegetables
Baked Shrimp
Baked Sole fish

Sides
Sauteed Spinach with Garlic
Salad

Dessert
Panetone
More Figgy Cookies, Biscotti
Espresso
Prosecco
 
Close to three hours later, still sitting at the table, it would be near midnight and we'd break open the Panetone and cookies.

Espresso would be served, of course. Then, Prosecco soon after to ring in Christmas Day like it was New Year’s.

In full-on food coma, we would open gifts and by 3am, we would start getting ready to leave…with leftovers and lasagna.

 
So, why am I sharing this story with you?


When I think about what I love to do, I think of Lidia.


At a very young age, I watched Lidia nurture through food, and it's left an impression on me years later.


Thank you Lidia! (She may or may not have inspired me to be a chef. She also told me not to date Italian men.)

Who are you grateful for?

This holiday season, be grateful for the ones who made you who you are today. Celebrate someone who has helped you see the little loveable things that make you, YOU!


Have a very Merry Christmas Eve and Day. 


Happy feasting,

Joanna


Looking for a homemade pasta class in LA. Go here => avocadoandfig.com

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