Italians are among those ethnic groups who set almost greater store by Advent, the hushed period of hope and penitence that leads up to Christmas, than to Christmas itself. They know that, without the breathless waiting, the Gift--the Christ Child--will not be valued as He should be when He arrives.
A cherished Italian Advent tradition--almost the last tradition of the season--is a "penitential" meal of seven types of fish and seafood to be consumed just before the family sets out to welcome the Christ Child at Midnight Mass. Now a young Italian-American couple, Linda and Rocco Maniscalco of Allentown, have produced an attractive little cook book called "Italian Christmas Eve: The Feast of Seven Fishes". It has the revealing subtitle "A Reminiscence with Recipes", because it is a little trove of ethnic and family heritage, as well as of well-loved recipes.
Speaking of the recipes, they are about more than fish and seafood. What would a holiday cook book be without cookie recipes? Linda has kindly given me permission to share one of them with you, and here it is:
WHITE ITALIAN DROP COOKIES
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 sticks butter
2 cups flour
Mix eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Mix baking powder with flour. Add flour mixture to wet mixture. Dough must be soft!
Drop with teaspoon onto greased pans, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Top with icing made with equal parts of powdered sugar and milk, blended together.
That's it. Shouldn't be too hard. Linda says the white icing represents the purity of the newborn baby Jesus.
For information about this book, or about anything else the Maniscalcos may be doing, visit their website at www.statabuon.com
(So what does "Stata buon" mean? It means "Be well." A great greeting for a holiday, or for any other time.)