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.