Feast of the Seven Dishes by Gary De Mattei


I’m not a religious person, however, I am spiritual. And now that I’m a vegan the holidays have taken on an even deeper spiritual meaning for me, especially when it comes to food. I no longer see the meat-centered dishes of my pre-vegan holidays as a way of celebrating the true spirit of Christmas. Now the holidays for me literally mean, Joy To The World, and that includes all of the animals, even the fish.

Growing up we rarely ate fish, my dad could not handle the smell. I found this funny because my father’s parents came to America from Genoa, which is a major Italian seaport. Many Genovaise dishes are centered around sea animals. Plus, Italian Catholic families around the world spend Christmas Eve “fasting”, and to them this means eating fish. As a matter of fact, in many homes the meal on Christmas Eve is called The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Well, the joke there is fish is still flesh so one is not abstaining from eating meat when one eats sea animals, and seven dishes of anything can hardly be considered fasting.

Don’t get me wrong, I may be vegan but I’m still Italian and I love a Holiday feast well done. So, I’ve spent the last several years taking some of my former holiday favorites (originally centered around animals) and “veganized” them, turning them into my new holiday favorites centered around love! I hope you enjoy my new take on the traditional Christmas Eve feast that I’m calling, The Feast of the Seven Dishes.

Of course, you could add more dishes to this feast and call it The Feast of the Ten Dishes or The Feast of the Thirteen Dishes or whatever you want. Also, these dishes can be enjoyed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, or on any day you wish. After trying theses dishes I hope you will agree that, in addition to being delicious, they bring kindness and compassion to your table, and that makes every meal a true celebration of life!

Peace On Earth and Goodwill to all living beings. Andiamo a mangiare vegano! (Let’s go eat vegan!)

Listen to Caryn and Gary on IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD talking about Holiday Favorites including the dishes in this fabulous menu.


The aperitivo is served the hour the guests arrive. Be they alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages, in our house they are accompanied by something to munch on. Our all time favorite drink to serve our guests during the holidays is a Bellini. A Bellini cocktail is a mixture of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach purée or nectar and originated in Venice, Italy. We usually serve them with some assorted olives, homemade bread, raw nuts and seeds, homemade vegan cheeses. You can put out crudités with some dips too. The important thing to have with the aperitivo is some classic holiday music playing in the background and a group of groovy hungry people eating and drinking in the foreground.

After everyone is well acquainted, the antipasto is the first course and it is typically served after everyone sits down at the table. However, if you are doing a buffet you could have the antipasto and the aperitivo happening simultaneously. Either way it is usually the time to serve the cold and lighter fare. Our favorite antipasto at the Christmas Holidays is my sundried tomato carpaccio. It just looks so festive. Here it is.

This is my personal favorite. This course starts the hot food coming to the table and it is usually a pasta or rice dish and that’s why it’s my favorite; I love pasta! Here are some examples.

This is the course in a nonvegan household that would include different meats and fish dishes. We’ve created some wonderful vegan recipes with vegetables, seitan, tofu and tempeh for you to try. Enjoy!

A contorno is a side dish and it is served alongside the secondo. These usually consist of vegetables, raw or cooked, hot or cold. They are always served a la carte, never on the same plate as the meal but you may serve it anyway you want. I suggest serving the Risotto Veganese as a contorno with the Osso Vita. Here are some other favorites.

In my house growing up, even if the contorni contained many leafy vegetables, the salad would still be served. And it would have lots of tomatoes, onions, avocado and a very tangy red wine vinegar dressing. If you are a traditionalist, the salad would go here to end the savory part of your meal. If you’re not, the salad would have opened the meal. Either way here are some great salads for you to try.

Here is an entire course dedicated to homemade or store bought vegan cheeses and fresh seasonal fruit. I also like serving dried fruit here. If you did this already during the apertivo, just bring it back on the table. It is something for guests to do while you prepare the dolce.

Dolce simply means “sweet”. Naturally after all of that savory food one needs something sweet. My favorite is the Cannoli but I’ve also included some others.

Strong coffee such as espresso, which is often drunk very quickly in small cups at very high temperatures, is something I recommend after a feast like the one we have just outlined. However, in our house Caryn and I drink a lot of tea so if you are like us, make the tea incredibly strong. We also like Teeccino. Whatever you like that is hot and wet, this is where you should serve it, simultaneously with the Dolce. It is up to you.

Digestivo means digestion. The drink you serve here should aid that process. Some ideas are grappa, amaretto, limoncello or other fruit/herbal drinks. If you aren’t sure if they are vegan check with Barnivore.com.

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