Our close friends Florisa and Franco had kindly invited us to spend New Year’s eve at their house. In Italy New Year’s Eve is known as Capo d’Anno or La Festa di San Silvestro.
We arrived to find a house full of people, their family and friends. Florisa doesn’t bat an eyelid about cooking for 25 or more guests at a time. She comes from a big family and is one of 7 sisters.
A hearty fire was burning in the hearth and we noticed that there was a traditional earthenware pot simmering there on the side, our first indication that by the end of the evening we would have had our fill or fine fayre.
Indeed we were treated to a delicious meal, which commenced with a seafood pasta dish made with both fish and shellfish, followed by fried fish and roasted potatoes. Next, calamari (squid) was grilled alla Braccia over the open fire and served with various vegetable contorni. This was followed by a selection of fresh fruit and nuts, and roasted chestnuts.
Next came the delicious, hard, if potentially jaw breaking Cantucci hazelnut biscuits and Rococco chocolate covered gingerbread biscuits, not forgetting the obligatory Panettone, Italian spongey Christmas cake of candied peel and dried fruit.
Then someone suggested playing the traditional Italian game of Tombola. We duly purchased our cards for 50 euro cents a time. Soon we were all sat, eyes down, anxiously scanning our cards for the numbers that were being picked and called out (in Italian of course). There was a prize for the first person to get a full horizontal line, and of course for getting a “full house”. Each game was incredibly noisy and boisterous, with much ribbing and teasing going on. As the games continued the atmosphere became more animated, with the lucky winners yelling out triumphantly whilst the deflated losers muttered “Managia la miseria !!!” and huffed and puffed sulkily. It was all good clean fun, except for the fact that as usual, we managed not to win a single euro cent !!! A cheap price to pay for such a wonderful evening of merriment and entertainment.
As midnight approached they put on the TV and popped open a bottle of “bubbly” and we gathered in a circle and watched the countdown to 2009. The New Year was enthusiastically greeted with lot of hugs, kisses and Auguri’s whilst Florisa threw herself into dishing up the evening’s gastronomic finale of lentiche stewed lentils and cotechino sausage. Traditionally it is believed that the more lentils you eat, the more prosperity comes your way throughout the year.
Perhaps there is really more to the phrase
“with luck and a following WIND” !