I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Our plans changed a bit suddenly when the hostess of our scheduled, Christmas Eve dinner came down with a flu bug. Earlier in the day, our landlady stopped by with our Christmas gifts - homemade wine, homemade limoncello, a huge bag of clementines from her own tree, and a nativity scene made by her granddaughter. As we sat and chatted, she asked after our dinner plans for the evening. When we explained that our dinner plans had been cancelled, she asked us to eat with her family. This sparked off a 20 minute attempted explanation on directions to her house that included me finally calling an Italian speaking friend for translation help. As it happened, he was walking by our house at that moment and was able to speak to our landlady in person. Our instructions were to arrive at 7:30 for dinner at 8pm, so after our own, Christmas Eve church service, we got on the road to Mama Anna's at 7:15. And drove around in circles for the next HOUR! We tried calling and didn't get an answer. We found a house we thought might be correct, they opened their gates for us, we parked our car in their yard...and it was the wrong house. We were not having any Christmas peace in our car. After finally getting ahold of our landlord (Mama Anna's son), we arranged for him to come get us, whereupon we found that we were only a 100 yards from their house. So close, yet so far. The actual way to get to the house did not resemble in the slightest the directions we'd gotten from our landlady.
We chatted with our landlord's teenage daughters for a bit before dinner, then sat down to enjoy the traditional, Christmas Eve dinner of all fish. To start, we had spaghetti vongole (with clams) - delicious! Next was a baked fish, also delicious, accompanied by broccoli and another salad that is very traditional at Christmas here, a mix of vegetables like cauliflower and carrots and olives that are pickled. Then a white fish fried into a huge ball and the capitone (eel). Yep, eel. The only thing I declined. Nathan gave it a try, but did not like it. The eel is alive until one is ready to cook it, and a friend told me that both her landlords and her Italian language instructor told her stories of the eel escaping as they were attempting to kill it over the cooking pot. Just the thought of an eel slithering around my house gives me the heebie jeebies. Dessert consisted of some various pastries, fruit, and strufoli, a dish of little dough balls that are fried and covered in honey and cookie decorations (like those little silver balls).
The entire family was so great at keeping us included in the conversation, and we were able to hold our own for the three hours we were there. We loved the chance to see a typical, family dinner. We ate in what I think is called the Rustico, the family kitchen and living space which is separate from the "real" kitchen and living rooms. The Rustico was on the bottom level and had a kitchen, living room, dining table, and fireplace. Dinner was a normal event, no fancy china or silver or expensive crystal - just a family enjoying spending time together, eating, sitting by the fireplace (and smoking - the entire family from the teenage daughters to the two grandmothers), dancing to videos on the television, and chatting. At one point, our landlord disappeared upstairs and moments later, the most beautiful piano music spilled out. He is phenomenally talented (to my completely ignorant ears) and entertained us with Christmas music for about half an hour. With our Christmas Day evening spent with friends enjoying dessert, apple cider, and hot buttered rum, our Christmas was a special time, and I hope you all had similar, joyous events.