Everyone is talking about Thanksgiving, another non-holiday. All ‘holidays’ are non-holiday to me since I celebrate none of them.
Being Italian-American Thanksgiving is probably a little weird, not one of our cultural traditions, certainly not the food! That said, any holiday that involves food, we could embrace – with our own food.
Thanksgiving we always had guests what we didn’t have was Anglo food – I refer to non-Italians, Northern European people as Anglos, just so you know.
Our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinners usually went something like this
Appetizer: A huge antipasto consisting of several types of salami, genoa, sopressata, prosciutto or prosciutine, celery sticks, roasted red peppers, olives, lots and lots of olives – cured black olives, cracked green olives, kalamata olives, pimento stuffed olives, provolone cheese, pepperoncini aka tuscan peppers, pickled eggplant, sometimes pickled cauliflower. That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. And of course, bread.
Pasta Course Next: Lasagna or manicotti. If manicotti then accompanied by the meat from the gravy aka tomato/spaghetti sauce.
And then: Eggplant parmigiana, sausage and peppers, asparagus with homemade hollandaise sauce, the meat from the gravy (if not previously served with the manicotti), sausage stuffing (my mother’s recipe is lost to history but it was mostly sausage and grated vegetables and often never made it out to the table because we scarfed it in the kitchen while preparing the rest of the meal. Too bad for the guests.) Probably more vegetables like broccoli or broccoli rabe and a mixed green salad. Also – more bread.
The Turkey? – Ah, well – if one was cooked, and sometimes, as I said before it never made it out of the freezer, it stayed in the kitchen, mostly forgotten unless someone asked. Personally I just liked the wings so I would snag them.
After Dinner: Black coffee aka demitasse or as you may know it, espresso served with anisette. Plus fruit, nuts, and roasted chestnuts hot from the oven.
After After Dinner: Dessert – served with ‘brown coffee’ aka just regular coffee or tea if someone wanted. Store bought Italian pastries – you all know what they, are including cannoli and sfogliatelle. Homemade pumpkin pie, mince pie (oh how I love mince pie) and homemade cookies – OH MY GOD – the cookies. My mother wasn’t much of a cook but man oh man could that woman bake! Her cookies were famous, famous, I tell you. You can start with the simple cream cheese cookies and go to nuggets, fig bars, mounds of struffoli plus Hamantaschen, which is a Jewish pastry/cookie associated with Purim, but which we ate throughout the year because my mother’s were the best Hamantaschen you ever laid your lips around.
This eating marathon usually started around 3pm and lasted until about 9pm when leftovers were parcelled out and people started for home.
I know I’ve left foods out – these dinners ended when my father died in 1973, so my memory may be a little fuzzy.
And, yes, Christmas was pretty much the same. Easter dinner not quite so elaborate because it featured roast leg of lamb. New Years Day dinner, again not so elaborate and it featured a pork roast. Lamb and pork being traditional for those ‘holidays’.
So there you go.