Thursday is for Turkey

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...
Tomorrow is thanksgiving! It is the traditional day for Americans to give thanks for all the bounty within their lives. As children we learn and they still persevere with the tales of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans sitting down to a feast in thanks for the sharing of knowledge. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is mostly a lie. I didn’t learn this myself until I came across the book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. After that eye-opener, I continued reading other accounts that put my political correctness into better perspective. Native Americans got the short end from the beginning.

Speaking of Thanksgiving myths that were not unraveled until later in my life, there are other things that are kind of embarrassing, but heck, I will share. I was probably about twenty-five years old before I realized that Thanksgiving didn’t start with antipasto, followed by either a pasta e fagioli or a chicken soup with tiny meatballs with homemade pasta shells floating around. It never occurred to me that these didn’t precede the turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and the lasagne, manicotti, or other pasta dish for everyone’s ‘traditional’ holiday dinner. These were after all staples for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year‘s (add baccalà for this holiday; it is dried fish that brings good luck for the NY). This was the typical celebratory meal for weddings, christenings, earning an A on your report card, the disappearance of your cold
sore, a happy meal for getting the lawn mowed, and so
on. However, the end of the Thanksgiving meal was not complete without the homemade pies made of pumpkin, apple, mincemeat, and pecan or ricotta cheese joined by an assortment of an early appearance of homemade Christmas cookies. Added to this foreign assortment, with foreign meaning American recipes, there had to be struffala. Struffala is an Italian cookie made into little balls, piled high and then drenched with honey and colored sprinkles. Is it a wonder I battle my weight?

Having led a sheltered life, there was never an opportunity to have a holiday meal outside the confines of less than two dozen Italians and that was only immediate family. When I was really young, this approached five dozen. My grandmother was one of twelve kids, so the entire family joined in as one. It took close to an hour just filling your plates, plural, with all of the foods the aunts and my grandmother would prepare. My family decided at one point that they needed to let me loose into the outer world during one holiday, so I could get a taste of the harsh reality of life. I learned the cruel facts the hard way; I suffered from culture shock in my own country. When I went to a friend’s family for Thanksgiving dinner, the sparse table was only inhabited by a turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffed mushrooms, green beans, cauliflower, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce. My first thoughts were fear of deprivation followed by streaming thoughts of a starvation sequence. It didn’t take a full blooded Neapolitan to figure out that this was just wrong. How do these people survive like this? 
From this time onward, at every holiday, I take a private moment for a minute of silence not only in appreciation for my Italian heritage, but also for the despair of those who have no clue what they are missing.
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