If you know me in real life or have been reading my blog for more than a year, you might know my somewhat intense feelings about Thanksgiving. If not, well, I wrote about these feelings last year and my strategy for turning them into something constructive and fun. Here is a snippet:
Thanksgiving in Italy only works if you do it with Italians. And you need it to be a different group of guests each time, so they are all very excited about it and don’t know what to expect. It means you can choose all the dishes and make them yourself from scratch, so you are so busy that you don’t have time to feel homesick. It means that when your guests ask about Thanksgiving, you can give them your family’s version and to them, just as for you, that will be the only way to do it right. Then, by the time you sit down to eat, you are already stuffed from taste-testing all the dishes your mother makes at home and your house is excessively warm and excessively fragrant, with that rich, nearly nauseating smell of turkey. You are flushed from the heat of the kitchen and the wine the Italians have been slipping you as they watch, mesmerized, and somewhat repelled, while you whisk gravy made from turkey drippings.
Now well into my second decade of expat Thanksgivings, I am carrying on with this strategy of staging an American Thanksgiving for unsuspecting Italians wherein I am the Boss of Everything. And if you know me in real life or have been reading my blog for more than a year, you might be aware of my slightly bossy streak.
It’s all happening Saturday night, and I am very excited. This year my guests of honor are my trainer and his wife. My big goal for 2013 was to run my first marathon and he got me there; his advice and encouragement are what I am most thankful for this year.
I have also invited the friends without whom I might not have found the courage and wherewithal to get to the end of it (and over those 14 merciless bridges at the end). I’ve invited the secretary of the running club who warmly welcomed me to the club’s Christmas party when I called him up nearly a year ago to ask about joining, a close friend from my photography group who watched Four for me when I was scheduled for one of my longest long runs and he was home sick. She came to see me in Venice too and took that picture in Piazza San Marco with the bird flying overhead. There will be the two guys from my club who picked me up at dawn to drive me to the race and the couple who invited me to an early, healthy dinner the night before. With the +ones, there will be 12 of us, which I think is a good number for a Thanksgiving feast, and a big enough group that I am justified in moving the table to the living room, making all-out decorations and assigning everyone’s seats.
So far the first and only mishap happened this morning when I went off to pick up the 6-kg turkey I’d ordered and it hadn’t arrived yet. The butcher’s wife called the turkey farmer and he promised to have it to them by tomorrow, 4pm, which should still give me enough time to brine it before it hits the oven on Saturday immediately after the local Turkey Trot.
The shopping has been a gradual process, which began with a trip to the closest US military base for supplies like cranberries and pecans. They did not have yams for my mom’s yams à l’orange, an essential side dish, but luckily I found some at the health food store. I am still not done with the shopping and I started the cooking today. I like all the recipes to be American and I like all the food to be fresh, authentic, from scratch. Everyone always offers to bring a dessert but I won’t let them. “Bring wine,” is what I say. I’ll make an exception for the wine, but I won’t have anyone’s torta della nonna stealing the spotlight from my mom’s pumpkin pie. No tiramisù allowed on Thanksgiving!