I Survived A 13 Courses Dinner | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

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New Year’s Eve in almost every Italian homes is like history repeating itself. A 13 courses Lucullian dinner awaits to be consumed. Soon after Christmas people start planning their New Year’s Eve, whether it will be in a club, restaurant, or at home with family and friends, the end of the year is an important day of the entire year. It is a common believe that whatever one does on that evening and the first of year, one will do it for the rest of the year, therefore no crying, no paying bills, no arguing, only cooking, eating, laughing and spending a pleasant passage into the new year.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

The street markets and stores stay open at least until 5:00 pm for those who need the last few ingredients, or to find the last-minute outfit for the evening.
The people who stay at home to celebrate with their loved ones, end up cooking all day long. It sounds like an awful stressful activity to do right at the end of the year, but in reality Italian people love to cook in company of other people and even with their guests. Lot of laughter and camaraderie goes on during the cooking and that is one of the many reasons food in Italy taste so good, we make them with love and pleasure.

It is customary at lunch to have a small snack of vegetables and a fruit, but at night the New Year’s Eve dinner is an act of culinary cleverness and serious professionalism. The dinner table is well set, but not overly decorated with useless stuff, the food will take a center stage on the table of this evening.


Orange Appetizer

The dinner for this special night consist of 13 courses by tradition, one for each month of the year and one more in honor of the new coming year. It seems a whole lot of food to brush off in one night, but starting at 6:00 pm when everybody sits down at the table, until midnight when the champagne bottles pop, there are six hours of nothing but food paced with intervals and slow enjoyment.
It starts with many antipasti of different kind, but a mixture of raw and shell-fish is the king for this night, as it is for all the eves before an important holiday.

The evening continues on the note of fish. Any type of pasta with any fish sauce is served as a first course and grilled, fried or baked fish as a second course.

Olives and savory munchies fill the table to help passing time between those courses which need to be cooked fresh on the spot, to encourage conversation and wine drinking. In some families between the first, the second and third course, it is customary to pass a small portion of lemon or orange sorbet as a palate cleanser. What a delightful and fine dinner practice!

After the most important part of the dinner is served, all the minor plates will be parading such as, fried vegetables, fried puffy dough, food preserved under oil or vinegar, dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruit, typical regional home-made sweets and cookies, along with the store-bought sweets.

One specialty must never be forgotten before midnight strikes and that is cooked lentils with a swirl of olive oil and basil leaves. The popular belief is that each lentil represents money, more lentil a person can eat, more money that person will make. Needless to say we consume a large pot of lentils every end of the year just to wish ourselves a good financial stability.

At midnight the champagne is popped, kisses, hugs and laughter fill the air, accompanied with panettone, a typical Italian sponge cake sometimes filled with chocolate, sometimes with champagne cream, or tiramisu’ as I like, or candied fruit.

The 13 courses dinner is over after midnight, but the night is young and it is the first day of the new year. Outside, people shoot fireworks from their balconies and windows. It is important to welcome the new year and celebrate it any way people can. If people celebrate this first day, they will be celebrating many more times during the year, so the old folks saying goes. Then at 5:00 am in the streets is time to taste freshly made croissants, hot from the baker’s oven with a warm frothy cappuccino to fight the cold temperature of this winter night spent in boisterous festivity.
Buon Anno, Happy New Year to all and peace in the world.

I would love to design your kitchen and show you the way to comfort and good cooking through a functional space. Contact me, I am at your service. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

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Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer in business since 1990 with a special passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos. She also the author of two Italian regional cookbooks available on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Custom and Traditions Of An Italian Christmas Dinner | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

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In Italy, in the province of Pavia, Christmas Eve dinner starts with a soup of lasagna mixed with mushrooms sauté in oil and garlic. In old times in Italy newborn babies were wrapped in bands of white cloth to keep their tender legs very straight and prevent them from growing bowed. In the fantasy of the local people this dish represents those bands, it is made in honor of baby Jesus being born on Christmas Eve.

Many specialties follow this first dish: marinated eel salted stockfish and escargot. The small horns of the escargot allude to discord and disagreement between people, therefore they need to be hidden in the stomach of the guests to properly prepare themselves for a peaceful Christmas, as the legend says.
Other fundamental specialties are risotto cooked in any style, roasted turkey, boiled capon dressed with mustard. In the same province of Pavia, going more toward the inland towns and villages, included in the typical menu of the holidays, after a risotto plate, one finds stuffed onions with meat and focaccia bread.

A must-have dessert for the end of the dinner is the Sbrisolona Torte, a typical dessert of that area. It is a crisp and friable torte, which accompanies Torrone, Panettone and Pâte Brisee’ all hand-made specialties found in each home. The Sbrisolona Torte doesn’t really mark the end of the dinner, there are still all the fruits of the season parading on the table: citrus, grapes, and dry nuts. Apples, even though are fruits of the Christmas season, are not eaten because they represent the fruit with which Adam and Eve committed the original sin.

(photo Sbrisolona Torte: http://cucina.corriere.it/ricette/lombardia/62/torta-sbrisolona_d5e0be70-1afb-11df-af4a-00144f02aabe.shtml)

Women bake hand-made bread for the Christmas holidays. The portion to use for every meal is cut and reserved, then all Christmas types of breads are placed on the center of the table and everyone, in turn, must take a piece every day from Christmas Eve until the 31st of December. It is a belief that Christmas types of breads do not go bad, do not grow mold and therefore they are good to cure bellyache.

Every region in Italy has different customs and traditions. In the South, the main item on everybody’s table is fish, cooked in any way possible, in addition to the delicacy of raw fish and shell-fish and it doesn’t matter how much its price sky-rockets in this time of the year, it is a must-have! Christmas dinners last many hours, they could go on for 5 or 6 hours. Italians people spend a lot of money for a Christmas dinner and cook for days to make it ready, but the only important thing is the togetherness of the family, the love for one another, and that in itself is priceless. Ciao.
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Watch the trailer of my second book: ©Sins Of A Queen, due to be released in a few days.

********

Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

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Valentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990. Her life is a continuous evolvement of colorful events. She will not only design your home, build it, and decorate it, but she will also design your palate with her new productions of Italian regional cookbooks. She is the author of
©Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity and ©Sins Of A Queen.  Both books are available on
Amazon and Barnes&Nobles 

 

Every Trick Is Permitted At Carnival, Just Need The Right Mask | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

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In Europe around this time of the year we celebrate Carnevale, or Mardi Gras. The Christian calendar marks Carnevale as the period between the Epiphany and the first day of Lent, this being the day when all the fatty food must end until Easter Day. In Austria and Bavaria, Carnevale called Fashing starts the day of the Epiphany, in Cologne it starts at 11:11 of Nov.11.

At Mardi Gras, the day before Lent, we Europeans consume a variety of meat dish, food high in calories and proteins, lot of fried food and stuffed food, but on the Lent day and for forty consecutive days, until Easter, the diet must be light and lean.
In Carnevale time every trick is expected and accepted. I remember the sugar, or the white flour being thrown at the passerby in the streets, especially if they were wearing a dark coat. Getting mad was out of the question, next street corner it would have happened again. In the history of time, Carnevale has been a magic time of divertissement, debauchery, costume parties, eating, unrestrained sex, and a time during which life challenges were momentarily forgotten.

The etymology of the word Carnevale could be deriving from the Latin “carrus navalis” or from the Medieval “carnem levare” which it means to eliminate the meat from the diet for 40 days as the Lent requires. On Ash Wednesday, Christian people must spread ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance.
During Carnevale it is a must to wear masks to disguise one’s identity, but the usage of masks is not a novelty of today, it goes back to Paleolithic time, when the chief of tribes wore masks during spiritual, or magical propitiatory rituals to invoke riches, or to get rid of maleficent spirits. Romans celebrated their Gods with Carnevale festivities. The use of masks concealed their licentious behaviors and their social status, allowing old and young, rich and poor, nobles, servants, slaves and prostitutes to mingle and dance together until dawn.

During the festivities of Carnevale, Romans celebrated Bacchus, the God of wines, with rivers of wines and long hours of dances all in the streets of Rome, hence the name Bacchanalia. The gladiators entertained the public and the king of the festivities, elected by the people for only the duration of the feasts, organized public games to which everybody could participate.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

 

In Italy, masks for Carnevale have been used in theatre plays, especially in Goldoni’s comedies, a famous Venetian writer of the 1700 and in the Commedia Dell’Arte in the second half of the 16th century, based on improvisation on stage. Plays of Commedia dell’Arte are still fascinating and alive in the arts and in the memories of theatre lovers.

Carnevale in Venice, renowned all over the world, is a magical and mysterious event that takes place every year around February, it calls for unruly behavior and the masks are breath-taking. Browsing in costumes through the narrow streets of a foggy Venice is like walking in the 16th century. Everybody is disguised, people laughing, chatting, a glass of wine here, a dance there. Carnevale in Venice is what it was and still is.

Paintings of Venice Carnevale scenes, or paintings of masks can be included into today’s home décor very easily. Think about a room in a total white color scheme with very colorful paintings on the walls as the Geraldine Arata’s art work. She knows how to capture on canvas the mystery of Venice and the complicity of secretive lovers. Her oil paintings are beautifully executed, colorful and unconventional.

(Defiance – Geraldine Arata)

Another example could be a room painted in grey gun-metal faux finish with a modern style décor and Geraldine’s colorful mask paintings just laid casually against the walls, or hung on a wall washed with light. Loose white chiffon draperies swinging in the windows as a sweet melody in Venice would carry two lovers in each other arms.

Find Geraldine Arata at:
www.aratafineartgallery.com
450 Columbus St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

As an Italian born designer and a lover of Commedia dell’Arte, I can help recreating the mystery of Venice, its flamboyance and Bohemian atmosphere into today’s home décor and I can help placing this particular art in a special home. It takes a sunny eye to see the sun light.

Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Please forward this article to anyone you think might be interested in reading it and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Thank you. Ciao,
Valentina

www.Valentinadesigns.com

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VBlue2Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior and Fashion Designer, working in the USA and Europe. She combines well fashion and interior in any of her design work. She loves to remodel homes and loves to create the unusual. Author of the forthcoming book on the subject of Colors.
Author of the book: ©Come Mia Nonna–A Return to Simplicity
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles:http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

outskirtspress.com/ComeMiaNonna


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