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The Feast of the Seven fishes is an Italian-American Roman Catholic tradition with origins in Southern Italy. Served on Christmas Eve, the Feast commemorates the wait for the midnight birth of Baby Jesus, or the Vigilia di Natale. The eating of Seven dishes was not traditional to Italy, but rather from Italian-Americas, however no family sticks to that number rather having many more courses. The number Seven itself is steeped in meaning - 6 Days of creation and the 7th day for rest, , 7 sacraments, 7 deadly sins, and even 7 days of the week (that came from the Druids), and of course, the 7 dwarfs.
The consumption of fish is due to the abstinaation of eating meat during certain parts of the year by Roman Catholics, although every major religions has some form of dietary restraints.
There are a few standard dishes, with the most popular being baccalà, which is salt cod. Ubiquitous throughout the Mediterranean, Salt Cod is cod that has been preserved in salt, which removes the moisture and provides a distinct taste. The cod then needs to be soaked in milk, and then water, to remove the salinity and rehydrate for cooking. Other standard dishes are pastas with shellfish and oftentimes whole fish.
All Meals Served with a side salad. The specific options for each day are as follows:
Crab Stuffed Calamari
Lump Crab, Aioli
Homemade Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
Chesapeake Bay Clams, Tomatoes, Basil
Baccalà alla Vicentina - (Salt Cod braised in milk over Polenta)
Salt Cod, Onions, Anchovies, Milk, Polenta
Shrimp Scampi over Homemade Spaghetti
Gulf Shrimp, Garlic Confit, Merquen Pepper Flakes, White Wine, Parsley
Baccalà alla Fiorentina - Salt Cod braised in Tomatoes with Rosemary over Polenta)
Tomatoes, Rosemary, Polenta
Porcini Dusted Grouper
Pickled Mushrooms, Toasted Orzo
Maine Lobster Risotto
Poached Lobster, Lobster Stock, Arborio Rice, Chives