Santa’s Sandwich

{Photo courtesy NYC Food Guy}

I was thinking about Christmas traditions.  This, of course, brings my mind to cookies (it’s easy for me to bridge quickly from any given topic to baked goods). Did you all leave milk and cookies for Santa as a kid?

We didn’t.  In our house, we were raised to leave Santa an Italian hero on Christmas Eve.  Seriously.

If you’ve never had a real Italian hero, well — that’s a whole other discussion for another day (and you have my sympathy, by the way).  But my mom used to make them a lot when we were kids, mainly because my father loved them.  She piled up the meats, the cheese, some shredded lettuce, oil and vinegar.  Amazing.

So how stupid were my sisters and I not to put the pieces together?  It’s like a basic 2nd grade workbook problem:

  • Dad loves Italian heroes. 
  • Santa loves Italian heroes. 
  • Dad and Santa were under the same roof Christmas Eve. 
  • Therefore, Santa must be…
  • (Come on, girls, you can figure this out)

Nope, we were clueless.

Maybe my parents billed it that Santa couldn’t run on cookies all night and needed a real meal (or sandwich) at some point in his travels.  Maybe it was about food for the reindeer.  But, if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t think they had to sell it at all.  I think we just believed them because leaving that Italian hero on Christmas Eve was what we always did.

 And that’s what I like about tradition — you don’t question it because it’s just the way it’s done your family.  It’s not until we’re older that we compare notes with the real world and realize that our way might have been wonderfully different, a little quirky, pretty naive or — in some cases — just a bit off kilter (see Competitive Post-Thanksgiving Gaming).

But I like the story of Santa’s sandwich and, as my kids grow up, I wonder what variations we’ll bring into our own Christmas traditions — and whether I should buy some sopressata, cheese and a 6-foot roll this week.

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  1. Jen T says:

    I love your family’s traditions! Although honestly, I would have a hard time choosing b/t the sandwich or the cookies.

  2. Therefore, Santa must be…Dad’s poker buddy?

    As an Italian family, our Christmas Eve tradition was fish, fish, fish, and more fish. But fried calamari gets limp and cold sitting on a plate waiting for Santa, so we stuck with the cookies.

    My son added carrots and/or reindeer food sprinkled on the lawn. (I don’t know who thought this one up. It’s a mixture of oatmeal and sparkles. My theory is that the oatmeal causes severe flatulence in the reindeer, which blasts out the sparkles and causes a jet propulsion effect, thereby allowing Santa to get all those presents delivered to good boys and girls in a single night). Just a hypothesis. 😉

    • fordeville says:

      Oooo, the Italian fish feast. My grandmother used to do that years ago and I wish someone had kept it going. So good.

      Nice, uh, scientific work on the reindeer food — I’ll buy it.

  3. Kim Holcomb says:

    The fact that I can’t pick up that sandwich and take a bite is killing me. Bah humbug.

    • fordeville says:

      I know! I have had Italian hero on the brain for days now. Maybe I can convince my mom to make one for me — she is the master. I’ll ask in the name of all things Christmas tradition.

  4. Whitney Barkey says:

    Growing up Italian, I have to say, we too did the 7 fish dishes. My Great Grandmother used to go to the market and buy one smelt. (which by the way couldn’t feed a mouse, but she liked it!) I can say I am the only one of us, besides my Dad that keeps that tradition alive, minus the smelt. Maybe Santa would like to try a smelt this year, but after the shrimp cocktail, shrimp chowder, scallops, crab legs, scampi, flounder, and many other ocean animals….probably not!!!

    Love the thought of a real Italian Hero, they are just not the same in Florida!!

    • fordeville says:

      Smelt — now there’s a blast from the past. Aren’t they extinct now? 🙂
      I’ll make you a deal. Next time you’re in NJ, I’ll make you an Italian hero if you make me the 7 fish courses. (Yes, you are getting the raw end of this deal!). It doesn’t even have to be Christmas. Are you in?

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