“Yes, mom, it’s made with bread and it’s cooked on the side”
She can’t wrap her Italian head around the concept that a stuffing is cooked on the side and made of bread.
“I thought you stuffed the turkey with other meat.”
Well, yes, that would be the Italian method of choice. A lot tastier too.
My very first Thanksgiving was, of all places, in Milan. Just a couple of weeks before my departure for the US, I thought it would be fun to have a farewell, American dinner with all my friends. I schlepped to Peck’s, Milan’s rotisserie of choice for those with a lot of extra income, and bought a stuffed turkey. I believe chestnuts were inside. I didn’t know yet about cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pecan pies so we probably had a salad to go with it.
It took me a while to become fond of the Thanksgiving meal: my Italian palate had a lot of questions. Why is stuffing cooked on the side? Why am I supposed to smear dry turkey with a purple jello-like substance? Why am I asked to have pumpkin as dessert?
The food had to grow on me. Once I became more familiar and I started handling some of the dishes myself, I could tweak and adjust for better results. But, after 22 years in the States, this will be my very first time hosting Thanksgiving at my house, with the meal prepared entirely by me. And, while I have become as American as they come (sort of), I am planning adjustments to suit my tastes.
There will be turkey, of course, and stuffing cooked on the side (mushrooms, leeks and bacon) but the bread will be the challah I stashed in the freezer a while ago. There will be cranberry sauce, albeit made with a lot of fresh orange juice and less sugar, for more tang. There will be mashed potatoes but also very Mediterranean cauliflower with raisins. And, finally, I will be taking a break from the pecan and pumpkin pie making – as the professional baker in the family, the task always fell to me, despite not having great affection for either dish. I tried, over the years, to improve matters and I have: maple syrup is used instead of corn syrup, chocolate is added, bourbon, whisky or rum are called, in turn, to jazz up things but, this year, I put a stop to it.
There will be a giant apple pie. Because I can’t think of anything more American to celebrate a quintessentially American holiday.
If you live in the States, a very Happy Thanksgiving. And if you don’t, indulge anyway. Not with turkey. With apple pie.