Friday, December 19, 2008

a fish named peter

Merry Christmas and a Blessed Holiday Season to all - I will be away from this space for about three weeks.

Turkey dinner is a north American Christmas staple - as if Thanksgiving does not offer enough of the dry, poultry fare - however in many parts of the world, and especially across Europe - fish is the traditional Christmas Eve meal.

My first recollection of a Christmas fish was when I was about five years old and still in the Czech Republic. I am not certain why this was the case, but in those days people typically bought the Christmas Fish live. The Fish swam in our bathtub for a few days - I think it was a carp. I played with it constantly and named it Peter. It would stick its head out of the water and flap its carp lips at me. I loved it - I had never had a pet and Peter the Fish was my pet. Christmas Eve day came around and Peter the Fish had to be sent to Fish heaven. My dad could not do it!! I think he got one of our neighbors to butcher Peter for him. I don't have many memories of that dinner except for the fact that the fish tasted bland, I did not like it, and I also remember that I did not have any remorse about chowing down on my best friend. That was the last time my parents bought a live fish.

Christmas Eve menu at my house every year:

  • Orange soup (curried carrot ginger soup), which my boys hate but always want to know will be on the table for dinner (it's tradition you know)
  • Baked salmon stuffed with tangerines, lemons and dill (the fish is purchased directly from Fish Heaven)
  • Lime and yogurt sauce for the fish
    Lemon basil rice pilaf
  • Haricot vert with fried mushrooms sprinkled with nutmeg
  • Czech potato and ham salad (vlaskej salat)
This year, my sister and I got together to make traditional Czech Christmas cookies - we call them vanilla crescents (vanilkovy rohliky). It really was more about getting together, drinking wine, chatting and solving the world's problems - the cookies just kind of happened as all the rest was going on. I think this is something we will do again next year.