An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, November 30, 2009

American? Italian? It's All About Giving Thanks.


People often ask if our Thanksgiving meal is modified to reflect our Italian background, and it is a question that doesn't have a short answer.

My mother came to this country as a young bride. She was only 20 years old and determined to embrace this new life. She became fluent in English, learned to drive, earned her American citizenship.

It's not to say that she wasn't Italian anymore; on the contrary, she made sure that we grew up with a strong sense of our Italian heritage: we traveled often to Italy, grew up speaking the language, and were very close to our relatives.

But there were some things quintessentially American that my mother embraced ... and the traditional Thanksgiving meal was one of them.

She had a lot to learn, however. In one of her earliest letters to her mother, she wrote about this strange, white stuff that came in a blue can (Crisco shortening).

She had never eaten turkey, much less cooked one.

She had never heard of sweet potatoes. Why, in America, even the potatoes are sweet!

And cranberry sauce? All that jiggling red stuff didn't look like food at all.

It took years of trial and effort, but today she has perfected the art of the Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is always moist, the sweet potato casserole has just the right amount of brown sugar and marshmallows, and we always fight over any leftover dressing. There are two ceramic pilgrims decorating the dinner table and we enjoy a family game of football or baseball in the afternoon.

Of course, there are small concessions to our Italian background: we sip espressos with our pumpkin pie and have a small glass of limoncello as an after dinner digestivo.

But it is an American meal, celebrating an American holiday, and with a hearty Buon Appetito! we raise our glasses of vino rosso ... thankful for it all.

5 comments:

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El) said...

Okay, perhaps because I have yet to eat lunch, but I want another Thanksgiving dinner now!

Good for your mom, in that respect she is more American than I am. My first turkey effort was well into my 40's!

Check out the photo from our t-giving feast on my blog...(I wasn't the cook this year.)

Therese said...

I love hearing about the blending of cultures, our family was much the same way. With my parents gone, I am trying to maintain that as well with my kids.

Tiziana said...

Penso che Millie sia stata americana fin dalla nascita.
Conservare le proprie tradizioni è bello e importante per salvare l'identità della propria nazione.

Kathryn said...

I'm so inspired by your mother, what a well loved holiday THanksgiving must be!

Anonymous said...

Thanks dear daughter for sharing your feelings and experience of our family Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a wonderful American that every nation should adopt.
I love this country as much as I love Italy....even on a day like today when my wallet was stolen and I spent hours talking to the police, cancelling the credit cards, applying for a new driver's licence etc.
Love. MOM