I was lucky enough to be invited to two Thanksgiving meals this year–dinner on Thursday (the actual holiday) and lunch this past Sunday. The great majority of the guests at both feasts were non-American and it struck me as rather wonderful that so many people were eager to help celebrate this quintessentially American holiday. There was the food of course and boy howdy was there a lot of it. This being Italy, we talked about the food before during and after we ate the food. Judith, who hosted the Sunday lunch, told the story of how, many years ago, she had a Thanksgiving dinner for a number of Italian friends. Long afterwards, one of the guests revealed that it had been the most awful meal of her life. Now Judith is a great (and abundant) cook so I found that pretty hard to believe. The mean guest of yore went on to explain why: all that food, both hot and cold, and all on one plate! Disgusting!
In the Italian context, that reaction–although frightfully rude–makes a certain amount of sense. Here, you very rarely see more than one food item on a plate. Everything comes on the side. And salad is traditionally served after the meal, which strikes Americans as odd since we are used to having it first.
But back to my Thanksgiving feasts. The usual suspects were there of course: turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie. The first meal featured a truly miraculous stuffed pumpkin courtesy of friend Vicki who hosted and very generously allowed turkey to enter her vegetarian home. But I missed the two side dishes I grew up with. My Nana always made coleslaw with a special secret ingredient (pickle juice). And Mom insisted on rutabagas (which my brother still calls Rude Bagas to this day) every year, even though she was the only one who ate them. Because that’s what she grew up with.
My point? Not sure I have one. I just love Thanksgiving is all. And I love sharing it with people from all over the world, people who may not fully understand the roots of the holiday but know how truly wonderful it is to commune over a groaning board. That’s something to be thankful for. I’m also thankful for the leftovers, which mean that I don’t have to cook for the dogs for a few more days.