Columbus Day has been a national holiday in this country since 1971. Its first official celebration, however, dates to 1792, the three hundredth anniversary of the exploration that brought Columbus and a crew of 120 sailors to the New World. The 1792 celebration took place in New York City, where today’s Italian-American population equals the population of Genoa.
The first Columbus Day celebration included a gala banquet$a thoroughly appropriate way to mark the event that changed the eating habits of the Old World forever. The enriching exchange of foods between the Old and New World affected all the cuisines of Europe, but none more than that of Italy. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomatoes or peppers or corn.
To many of us “eating Italian” is a favorite experience, and what could be a better excuse for a “festa Italiana” than “Cristoforo Colombo Day”. Here’s a complete menu for just such a holiday dinner. In fact, it could be two dinners, because there’s a choice of main courses one with the color, spice and flare of southern Italy, the other with the rich creaminess of the North.
Because large numbers of immigrants came from southern Italy, especially from Naples and Sicily, lively southern Italian dishes are most familiar to Americans. These typically include tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, spices such as cinnamon, raisins, and olives. Layered pastas and pizza come from the South.
In the North, foods are lighter, more varied, and are frequently delicate in flavor. Many dishes call for butter, cream or cheese, and filled pasta and rice are also served. Chicken is suited to either style of cooking, and boneless Oven Stuffer Roaster thigh meat is as delicious with a spicy tomato sauce as with wine and cream. In all parts of Italy, fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs are important. Columbus’ own city of Genoa is most closely associated with the use of fresh basil.
Whether inspired by the North or the South, Columbus Day is a time to wave the flags, both our red, white and blue and the Italian red, white and green, and to salute Christopher Columbus with a meal to remember.
Chicken Recipes – The Perdue Chicken Cookbook
Copyright (C) by Mitzi Perdue – Used with Permission
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