Thursday, November 24, 2011

My First Italian Thanksgiving in New York

Thirty-five years ago I was a young (skinny) woman who went with her fiancé to meet his family in New York (Brooklyn, to be exact) for the first time - it was Thanksgiving Day. As a “guest” I wasn’t involved in any of the preparations. We just sauntered in said some hellos, then went to make the rounds of meeting his friends in the “neighborhood.” 

A few hours later it was time to eat so we returned to his mother’s home and  met another 15 or so more relatives. I took a seat next to my sweetie at the table and settled in to enjoy my first Thanksgiving meal with my new family…

It started out like this:


Now, in my own (admittedly WASPY) turkey day experience the “holiday” meal began with perhaps, nuts and butter mints in a little dish, a tray with some olives and sweet pickles and carrots – perhaps some deviled eggs. But, these people are Italian, so I went with the flow. I loved salami anyway, and there were my familiar olives on the platter, too (although brown, not green.) I indulged and enjoyed.

Afterward, the women cleared away the first course and the men and children went into the living room to watch the game – I accompanied them since I was a guest.

About 20 minutes later, it was time to sit down again – we were called to the table and my future mother-in law brought out what I believed would be the turkey.    As the platter was set down, I discovered it was not turkey, but


 With a side dish of

MEAT and a bowl of“GRAVY”

  OMGosh, I’m thinking to myself, no TURKEY? But, it’s Thanksgiving! I looked around and everyone else was digging in and eating like there was no tomorrow, so I resigned myself to a turkey-less Thanksgiving and began to eat my (FULL) plate of lasagna, after all – they worked hard on it and I didn’t want to offend anyone since it was my first close encounter with the future mother and sister-in-laws.  I ate everything in front of me and hoped that they had some pie for dessert. 

Once again the women of the family got up, removed everyone’s dishes, headed into the kitchen to clean up the aftermath of the holiday dinner. The men, children (and I) returned to the living room and football.  15 minutes later out came the women calling us back to the table. Ahhh, a familiar dessert I hoped! We settled back into our places around the table and out came


Hmmm, now I was definitely confused. Soup. At the END of the meal instead of dessert. I’d never heard of such a thing. These New York Italians, had they never heard of the Pilgrims, Squanto and the corn? Pocahontas and Pumpkin Pie? Talk about backwards… This was crazy. No turkey, and now soup for dessert.

Not wanting to make waves I proceeded to slurp to the bottom of the bowl. Aha, I discovered what happened to the turkey… These crazy Italians didn’t roast it, they put it into the SOUP! Unbelievable. But, I was a polite guest and said not a word. Perhaps, I could get a slice of pie somewhere at the airport.
Once again, the women cleared the table, the men, children and I returned to the living room and to the game on TV.

I was so stuffed – How could I get this stuffed without the turkey?

Suddenly the ladies returned to the dining room, calling us back to the table. Thinking to myself, “What now?” I retook my now familiar seat at the table.  The women came in bearing more platters, dishes, and bowls. No! How could this be???






OMGosh, once again…. How could this be happening? I had already eaten enough food to feed a family of four, and now THIS??? An entire, traditional, GIGANTIC Thanksgiving turkey dinner – after all of that?

I looked around, everyone was settling in for the long run and dishing out a LOT of everything just placed on the table. I thought to myself, “When in Rome…” So, I too, dug in.

 Once again, the ladies cleared the table, we returned to the football game.  Uh-oh. We were called back to the table.  I didn’t even bother to wonder, by this time I was overly full, bloated and just wanted somewhere to lie down and rest.  The bowls being placed on the table now contained


 One more time, I wondered to myself – SALAD? At the END of the meal?? Too confusing for my little WASPY pea-brain to contemplate – again, I just ate what was on my plate.

Hopefully, for the last time, the men, children and I left the table while the women cleared the dishes to the kitchen.  Would this day  - this MEAL – ever end??? 

Nope, back to the table once again.  Only now it was filled with dishes of



FINOCCHIO (don’t ask)

There was no more leaving the table now… Things were moving along at the speed of light and dishes kept coming from the kitchen in a blur.





It’s such a blur, I don’t remember, but perhaps we had a pumpkin pie…

There were also some after dinner drinks




It was at that time that I learned the meaning of two more Italian words –



With much love and good humor, I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Italian relatives who took me in as one of their own and showed me the good life!  Kathy


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