The capitone and the married soup: the Neapolitan Christmas

by Francesco Li Volti

The lunch of Christmas in Naples is one of the most anticipated moments of the year, like the dinner of New Year's or the lunch of Easter. Unmissable on the tables of Neapolitans during the Christmas holidays are his majesty the capitone and the famous soup married. But what lies behind these two MUSTs of Neapolitan cuisine?

First of all, we must specify that when we talk about "capitone”Refers to a female; and not just any female, but to the female of the eel (which is a male). Unlike the eel, the capitone goes up the rivers, therefore it is possible to find it both in fresh and brackish fresh water, as well as in the sea, however this fish is considered in danger of extinction due to intensive fishing, while it is not very sensitive to pollution: for this reason it is still possible to find it and fish it at the mouth of the river Sarno, one of the most polluted in Europe.

Il capitone e la minestra maritata: il Natale napoletano
The capitoni in a fish shop

The theories on the tradition of the capitone on the tables of the Neapolitans is very ancient. Anguilla comes from the Latin anguis, small snake: according to ancient Christianity in fact the snake is the symbol of evil, the one who tempted Eve to feed on the famous apple. Therefore eating the snake (our capitone) is an act of superstition to drive away evil. Clearly the capitone is also a very cheap fish and therefore over time superstition has helped those with little means to eat a very fatty and more accessible food to the people. Virgil and Seneca wrote that in the Crypta Neapolitan very often propitiatory rites took place, including that of tearing snakes to pieces and eating them.

Superstition had the function of encouraging people to eat it.

Il capitone e la minestra maritata: il Natale napoletano
The married soup

Soup married instead it is one of the oldest dishes of the Neapolitan tradition. Its name derives from the fact that vegetables are combined with meat through the typical delights that our land offers: chicory, small escarole (scarulelle), cabbage and borage with regard to vegetables e
 tracchie, sausages and other cuts for the meat. Its origins date back to 1300 when the Spaniards exported a very similar dish, the "Olla Podrida", in Naples. His recipe is even present in De re Conquinaria of Apicius, a collection of Roman recipes compiled in the 1st century.


Misery and nobility in the history of Neapolitan cuisine, Egano Lambertini, Enrico Volpe, Antonio Guizzaro, Tempo Lungo, 1999

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