Annalee and I went to the grocery store on Christmas Eve morning to buy all the fish needed to make our traditional Italian Christmas Eve fish extravaganza. How many [fish] dishes are traditional is subject to argument, despite the fact it's usually called the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We make sure we have 7 at least, but I figure anything over that and it's just extra good luck. This year we reached 9. In various other years we've managed to hit 12! We tried, as usual, to make small amounts of each dish, but we still had way too much food: clams casino, calamari salad, lox on homemade crackers with dill sour cream, mushrooms stuffed with anchovies, lobster ravioli, shrimp cooked in a red sauce, mussels in white wine, swordfish Sicilian style, and ceviche. We went a little international, but hey, fish is fish. I did miss having baccalà, though, but there's only so much you can eat (I think). There were only five of us this year—me, Rick, Annalee, Erica, and Chris.
Now, in our immediate family, we have a tradition that only one person opens a present at a time. We historically sit around for hours and hours and hours on Christmas morning. Even the tiniest stocking stuffer deserves to be watched by everyone and oohed and aahed over. Erica was feeling a little left out because this was her first Christmas away in her new place, so we opened presents with her and Chris on Christmas Eve instead (which is why we kept dinner to just the 5 of us) and oohed and aahed with them then. Of course, Rick, Annalee, and I had to do it all over again ourselves Christmas morning. Round two.
Unfortunately, by Christmas morning I was also beginning to feel a little sick. Rick had actually started feeling under the weather a few days before Christmas, but he was holding up to some extent. I guess I caught it from him, or whoever he caught it from, but a bit worse. Well, not to have a pissing contest, but I was definitely more disgusting. I got through our second round of oohs and aahs okay, my spirits buoyed by the plastic spoon, can of anchovies, and onion Rick gave me (he didn't think I had enough stocking stuffers so he went "shopping" in our pantry!). I laughed so hard I couldn't stop coughing. By Christmas evening, though, I could barely talk and was sinking pretty fast. Kind of like the Titanic. By the 26th—and Christmas #3 at Rick's mom's house,—I was reduced to a shivering, shaking mess. Ugh!
And that's pretty much how my week went. I slept on the couch (so as not to keep Rick awake at night) with my handy dandy jar of Vicks, a handkerchief dabbed with essential oils, a hot water bottle, a glass of water, and a box of tissues. I'm pretty sure I have bronchitis, hopefully not pneumonia. I haven't been that hungry, and yet I've craved food—something, anything, to make me feel better. Not the tins of cookies we made, nor the many scrumptious leftovers. I didn't open any cookbooks nor pour through any of my cooking magazines; a favorite past time. I did, however, drag out my copy of The Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi. For colds, flu, upset stomachs, and generally not feeling well, Artusi recommends "una dieta in bianco." This translates as "a white diet," and although many of the foods literally are white or light colored, what it really means are foods that are easy to digest. Mild foods prepared simply. Something that won't get in the way of the body's attempt to heal itself, but will actually help the process.
One such recipe is Minestra Mille Fanti, or Thousand Soldiers' Soup. Artusi writes his recipes in typical Italian style—no exact measuring. I love it.
Figure on half an egg per person. Dot bottom of a bowl with as many heaping teaspoons of flour as the number of eggs you will use. Add 2 tablespoons of grated parmigiano (or to taste), a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of salt, and finally the eggs. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Pour it into boiling broth through a colander with widely spaced holes, stirring the broth as you pour. Continue cooking until the egg is done. Serve. For a variation you can use breadcrumbs instead of flour.
Artusi doesn't say what kind of broth, but I favor chicken. A good homemade beef broth would work perfectly, too. This is a simple recipe. (Note: There's another less expensive edition of the book with the original title of Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. I assume they're one and the same, possibly a different publisher?, but Artusi's is the quintessential Italian cookbook. Kind of like The Joy of Cooking for Italy. And definitely worth the read.)
I wish everyone a wonderful, healthy, and blessed new year.