Christmas lunch? It’s not what it used to be…!

Once upon a time, an abundance never seen before arrived on the table. This is the legacy of a nineteenth century that had also taught us Italians to look forward to these festive days in order to taste foods that were otherwise denied to us. Because they are too expensive or intended for truly special moments.

It was in the Middle Ages that we learned to put real banquets on the table. Which are the dishes that we have somehow brought with us to this day? Maybe macaroni… But in those days there was no such thing as Christmas lunch: people used to fast on Christmas Eve and the next day… they ate a little more than usual.

However, there were banquets, yes, luxurious or even gargantuan ones. Christmas, as we know and remember it, came later.

Yet there are some dishes that recall our Christmas table. Stracciatella, the egg put in broth, a dish of the poor at the time, and which looks a bit like passatelli, which in Tuscany are made with spinach. But also the “pici”, the spaghetti of the Etruscans. And traditional dishes such as chicken galantine, born during the Renaissance. Or roasts, which still today make us think of celebrations.

Alessandro Manzoni in his work “Promessi Sposi” told us about Renzo bringing four capons to Azzeccagarbugli. The four is not a random number because tradition dictated that, in wealthy families, they were used for every December celebration: the first capon on December 8th, the day of the Immaculate Conception, the second on the occasion of Christmas, the third for New Year’s Eve and, finally, the last one for the day of the Epiphany.

But what are we really looking for in Christmas food? Memories, flavors still in our memory… what we know and which reassures, and therefore tradition. Ancient dishes. Like the holiday broth: made with veal and chicken. And then with meatballs, fried bread, crepes, water and flour. Then the classic roast, lamb served with a rosemary sauce and mashed potatoes, or the stuffed roast chicken… Finally the dessert, and if we go for the “Ancient” the Panforte (typical dessert from Siena, made with almonds and candied fruit, it is enjoyed especially during the Christmas period), the Panpepato (typical Christmas dessert from Central Italy, made with a chocolate dough rich in dried fruit and spices)…

At Christmas we are on the hunt for fixed points, we are increasingly closer to small tables where memories, flavors and tastes coexist. Even in that chicken broth the same as that of your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother…