It finally feels like fall in the Lowcountry! The heat is no longer engulfing us, the sunlight dissipates when the work day ends, and the beaches have become a location for locals again. Around this time of year, nostalgia starts to kick in as we trek home for the holidays, catching up with family, reminiscing about old times and, of course, gathering around the table to devour a grand meal together.
These meals are part of family traditions passed down for generations, distinguished with unique dishes made specifically for these special occasions. Though most would think of turkey and ham as the main components of a holiday meal, some families depart the land and enter the sea to satisfy their palates.
The “Feast of the Seven Fishes” is an Italian-American tradition that originated from the Catholic religion’s custom of abstaining from meat on the eve of significant holidays, such as Christmas. Its purpose was two-fold – to celebrate their religious beliefs as well as to celebrate the sea, a staple of life in their native Italy. The tradition’s popularity grew in the early 1900s, sparked by Americans’ desire to connect to their heritage. The modern version incorporates a seven-course meal of different seafood – sounds oddly similar to our Good Catch dinners, doesn’t it?
There are numerous reasons for the significance of seven dishes. Some believe it is because the number seven is a popular form of reference in Catholicism – seven days of creation, seven sacraments, seven deadly sins. For us, we can represent a great variation of our local and sustainable seafood options in seven courses, such as oysters, clams, blue crabs, black sea bass, lionfish and more.
Here’s a sample menu of what a Lowcountry “Feast of the Seven Fishes” might look like using local, sustainable options:
- Blue Crab Dip
- Oysters on the Half Shell with Green Apple Mignonette Sauce
- Lionfish Fritters
- Swordfish with Pomegranate, Onion and Pistachio Salad
- Spaghetti with Clams
- Classic Oyster Stew
- Pan-Roasted Black Sea Bass with Citrus-Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette
Even if you’re not ready to cook your own seven-course meal, the basic concept behind this feast can be incorporated into any family’s holiday tradition. Adding sustainable seafood fare as staples on your table not only helps support a balanced ocean, it sets the foundation to inspire future generations of conservationists. Plus, how amazing is it to have the opportunity to create new traditions spanning generations while also supporting local?
When planning the menu for your own feast, be sure to check out our Good Catch page for a list of what’s in season as well as local partners to purchase from or dine with. Have a hearty and happy holiday season, from our Aquarium family to yours!