Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Buona Festa del Ringraziamento!

Thanksgiving is upon us.  The day when the country comes together as one nation indivisible for unbridled eating, the one holiday that truly revolves around food and comes closest to typifying an Italian festa in the volume of food and length of meal.  Each year, friends and family inevitably, innocently ask us, “What do Italians do for Thanksgiving?”

The answer is, nothing. Thanksgiving is not a holiday there. (But no Thansgiving also means there is none of the lunacy known as Black Friday, either.)  Italians know about Thanksgiving, of course.  Our Italian friends, upon hearing the words “festa del ringraziamento,” immediately respond with, “Ah, si. Tacchino!” They’ve all seen enough film and TV images of enormous turkeys roasted to perfection and carved tableside to know our national fondness for fowl.  They are always happy to learn first-hand that it is, indeed, our official holiday food.

Then they usually shrivel their noses and say, “Mah! Wouldn’t it be better to have a nice porchetta, or something with...flavor?” They don’t generally think of turkey as being very tasty, but that, I tell them, is because they’ve never had the pleasure of a succulently roasted bird. Finding a whole turkey in Italy is about as hard as finding a decent caffé in America.

We always debated about inviting friends and throwing an American Thanksgiving shin-dig, but since it’s not a holiday for them the party would have to be held on the weekend; for us it just didn't feel right to not celebrate it on the correct calendar day. I mean, part of the fun is in knowing that the entire nation is celebrating together.

Thanksgiving may not be celebrated in Italy but don’t feel too bad; Italy is certainly not lacking in holidays. In fact, according to their national calendar they have twelve public holidays compared to our eight in America. Throw in a few local festas and a couple of saints’ days, and you can garner yourself even more days away from the office. Italians also receive an average of 33 vacation days, compared to our depressing national average of 13.

And that is before they start building bridges. It is common to fare un ponte by tacking on a day or two before or after a holiday to “bridge” it to the weekend and thus turn an ordinary one-day celebration into a three or four day affair. Many of our friends take advantage of the opportunity to pass a long weekend in a neighboring region while also crossing off a few extra days from their work calendar. Clever, actually.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving is the one holiday in America that usually comes with a built-in 'bridge'. We are going to enjoy the four-day weekend, while being careful to avoid all streets that lead to malls or shopping centers.  We will enjoy our first full-on Thanksgiving meal in three years and stuff ourselves in the company of friends and in the national, gluttonous unity of the whole country, and give thanks for the blessings, opportunities, and joys of the past year.

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8 comments:

Evey said...

Eat and drink well, Valeria!

Valerie said...

Grazie Evey! Anche a voi...mi manchera il posole e chile verde di NM!

Laura said...

Ciao Valerie! Happy Thanksgiving to you & Bryan! Hope you both enjoy the celebration in America this year. Eat some cranberries for me! :-)

J.Doe said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you. My family is not so fond of Turkey but we wouldn't exactly call it tasteless. (At least I wouldn't) I'm making a lasagna though.
I know what you mean about Mexican food needing the green chile to taste good. I've tried many a restaurant east of the NM state line and nothing tastes even remotely good. I miss green chile so much....
And as for coffee, I buy my own and use my little cheap espresso maker. While not as good as most coffees from a bar in Italy it is much better than Starbucks. I use Kimbo brand or Lavazza gold.

il Terrazzo Italiano said...

I have always been curious how successful a party for Italians would be featuring food from the US. Do you think it could be enjoyable? I know as a nation, there is a reluctance to explore other cuisine...

Giorgio Tomassetti said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Bryan!

Valerie said...

Laura - Right back at you! I'm sure Amalfi would be a beautiful place to be celebrating the holiday! I'll be sure to hit the cranberries twice...the sacrifices I make for friends! ;)

J. - I am with you; green chile is the bomb. I used to put in my stuffing and put red chile sauce in the gravy...yum! I'm a Kimbo girl myself.

Terrazzo Italiano - I'm not sure about an entire menu of American dishes but when I've made one or two for friends, they always liked them. My friend Francesca did have a problem with the "fagioli dolci" she ate at a barbecue - note to self, don't serve baked beans again!

Giorgio - Grazie! You deserve a real Thanksgiving feast to make up for the poor example you experienced during your year here. Next year while you're at UNC! Tell your parents hi.

Vicky said...

Hi Valerie, when I lived in Florence my American friends and I insisted on celebrating Thanksgiving, much to the amusement of our other Italian/Belgian/British/German friends. We ordered a turkey a week or so in advance from the Mercato Centrale -- dead giveaway that I was American -- and roasted it in the miniscule oven in my apt (I was the only one with an oven)! We all had a fabulous time and even the Europeans admitted they liked it.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday!