On 31 December 2017, the sky in Venice looked pale white. You felt inundated by a strangely weak light against the marble stones, so characteristic for the short days in December and January. On such a day, the sun isn’t strong enough to draw reflections on the water. The air is very moist and can be even sharp, depending on where you are going. Such a labyrinthic city as is Venice also has refreshing spots (which is good to know on a hot summer day, by the way :-) but they can be awfully wet in winter ).
While there can be cold and clear hours when the light isn’t strong enough to illuminate the facades of the building in town, in general, December and January is called la stagione senza colore – the season of invisible colors. White and blue days like these call for red and yellow food, according to the tradition of the Venetian spice masters – speziéri.
You relax in a cozy environment at home or spend an hour in the afternoon with hot chocolate in one of the Grandi Caffé on the Piazza. Then it’s back out on the Piazza again, and this time we have company. People are looking for protection from the cold and moist air under the arcades, and many have come here well before night falls, I think just to secure their spot and witness whatever happens on the Piazza tonight. They are enjoying le luminarie – the Christmas lights and a new view of the Christmas tree that in 2017 is poised in the midst of the Piazzetta.
According to the calendario contadino – the farmer’s moon calendar, it had to be a simple, yet warming meal, and just like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve was a thoughtful day. In the 1990s, the New Year in Venice was welcomed with fuochi d’artificio.
Breakfast on 31 December is thus much like breakfast on 24 December – starting with a pinsa – a polenta cake, flavored with grappa and raisins.
La pinsa was prepared in the morning and eaten as hearty breakfast, lunch, enriched with home-made fig-cardamom jam. This is the food Nonna has been eating all her life, on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and also on the day Venice celebrates Christmas a second time, on 6 January.
In the campagna veneta, in the Veneto, so to say, four spices were used in winter and to prepare a traditional New Year’s Eve menu, Grandmother tells me. Spice ingredients meant to instil strength and health during the white and blue days of December and January. We will use this mixture for our menu this evening.
Miscela de spezie par 'e zornate blu
We use this spice mixture to flavor creamy soups- le velluate, but also meat, potato pies, vegetable pots … this is an invigorating spice mixture, chasing away any blues one might get due to cold and foggy weather:
Ground lemon peel, black pepper corns, dried peperoncino, oregano and mustard seeds …
It’s very delicious, and we have added a home-made red curry mixture to flavor the crema di lenticchie – lentil soup garnished with baked slices of sweet potatoes and puntarelle salad.
The spice mixture also works well to make insalata calda speziata alle lenticchie, bietola, cicoria, puntarelle, pere e cipolle dolci – warm spicy salad made from lentils, bietola, cicoria and puntarelle salads, pears and sweet white onions – in case you have any of the lentils left. Or, use it to flavor fish, exceptionally. This is how we prepared the pesce di San Pietro fish.
So, this lentils soup is a traditional course of the Venetian New Year’s dinner, and the second is fish. Fish should also be eaten on the first day of the year, according to ancient proverbs eating fish will make good luck and riches swim towards you.
Menu del Cenone per il Capodanno
Vellutata di lenticchie al forno con patate americane e puntarella (the lentil cream soup mentioned above)
Tacchino al forno al pepe verde, fernet branca e miscela di spezie – Turkey baked in the oven with green pepper corns, Fernet Branca (herbal liquor) and the spice mixture, garnished with puntarelle and radicchio salad flavored with a cream made from boiled eggs and sweet peppers.
Sorbetto al Campari e anice stellato – Star anise-and-Campari-flavored sorbet
Cioccolatini fatti in casa al profumo di bergamotto – Home-made chocolates flavored with bergamot juice. These chocolates are also heaven if you add a few drops of neroli essential oil.
Thank you for following La Venessiana in 2017, for your all your questions, comments and your support ! We wish you all a healthy and generous New Year, or Bon Ano, as we say in Venice !1