I guess I just gave it away. Let me explain ... .
I had a wish come true this holiday season, two actually, sort of. I grew up occasionally wondering where my family came from but I could never get a satisfactory answer, or really much of an answer at all, about our origins, our heritage. My maiden name is Molisee. I thought maybe we were German but I settled on us being regular ol' American mutt. And I was sad. Though not sad or curious enough to dig into genealogy. My Aunt Mary was spurred by her desire to join the Daughters of the American Revolution to unearth the roots of our family tree. She ascertained that the Molisees are from the Molise region of Italy, beneath Abruzzo (kinda the Achilles heel of the boot) on the Adriatic Sea.
So my first wish -- to know my heritage -- came true. And my second wish, which I am almost too shy to publish, was to be Italian. I was romanced mainly by the food, by travel stories and movies to a lesser degree, and by the rich traditions -- of which few are as magnificent as the Christmas Eve celebration from Southern Italy: La Vigilia di Natale or the Feast of the Seven Fishes. You don't have to be Catholic to observe the midnight watch for the birth of the Christ child with much food, although the seven seafood dishes are said to represent the sacraments of the Church. You don't even have to stay up till midnight. Nor do you have to be Italian, as the founders of an annual local festival celebrating The Feast are fond of saying. And if you go to the festival, held a couple of weeks before Christmas, I guess you don't have to wait till Christmas Eve to start celebrating.
Now my work really begins but it won't feel like so much work. It is my responsibility to read and learn all I can about the region, very much geographically and culturally like Appalachia, from where my forebears struck out. Then I must share it with my family and, as it pertains to food, with you, dear readers. Don't worry everyone, I'll break you in slowly with familiar foods like oysters and anchovies. You're gonna love it! Eventually I'll have to go to Molise, you know.
My education starts today, right now in fact, at the third annual Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival in Fairmont from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. today. Consider it my coming-out party, where I will mingle with my kinspeople and literally taste my heritage, authentically, from street vendors and at the cooking school, where I intend to soak in every detail of preparation. As a food reporter, I have written about The Feast and the festival before and now I am rightfully part of that glorious heritage. I am so excited! Buon Natale!