At my last lesson this year with my business English class I asked my students what they would be eating for Christmas day lunch. The first course for most would be invariably tortellini in broth, although some favoured lasagne. The second, main, course would consist of various types of meat including lamb and roast beef, but never turkey which in Italy is considered a rather cheap meat fit only for fast food outlets. One student said his family always had fish for Christmas lunch which I and the rest of us thought rather strange since, traditionally here, it’s the meal on Christmas Eve that is taken “lean”, that is with fish replacing meat. Another student, who is a vegetarian mum, said she always prepared her own meal for Christmas since the rest of her family were meat-eaters. I asked her if she found difficulty in being a vegetarian in a country which is seemingly predominantly geared for non-vegetarians. No, she replied, saying that there were so many purely vegetarian dishes in Italy. I thought about this and realised she was right. Polenta with mushrooms and many different types of pizza came to mind. One doesn’t always have to rely on nut roast here!
Most of my students said they would have their Christmas lunch either at home or with their respective in-laws. Two, however, would have their meal at a restaurant since around twenty family members would be involved. This was not always the case but Granma, who would have supervised such a meal, sadly was no longer with them and so they decided that a restaurant location would be the best catering alternative.
The trend, however, due to the continuing “austerità” is now to increasingly have Christmas lunches at home. Indeed, the most popular presents in Italy for this festive season have been food mixers, automatic pasta makers and bread machines! Another trend is that of going to “zero kilometre” markets to source one’s food. “Zero kilometre” means, of course, that the food is local and isn’t transported hundreds of miles on polluting trucks or flown on even more polluting freight planes from distant locations. No strawberries grow locally at this time of year so why get them from Australia? The true pleasure is to wait until fruits come into season here!
Coming to our own Christmas lunch – we had a wonderful lunch this year – it’s our ninth here! But the photographs I’ve dug out show that even back at our first Christmas in Longoio, December 2005 we had a crackingly decent nosh . A picture is worth a thousand words so here they are!