Skip to comments.Remembering Thanksgiving Day
Posted on 10/31/2002 11:16:35 PM PST by carlo3b
The voyage of the Mayflower in 1620 from Plymouth England, to Plymouth Rock started as a journey to find peace and justice in a new world. It began as a fervent prayer to give freedom a chance, and remains today as the promise each year for a new beginning. Thanksgiving Day is a celebration of hope, and remembrance.
Today, we bring our families and friends together to share our tables and our hearts, and give thanks for all that we have to be grateful for in our new and glorious country. From this grand experiment and it's courageous settlers, to the greatest nation of the world, we have a lot to be thankful for, indeed.
My earliest memory of Thanksgiving was the fuss of preparation of the wonderful food being prepared in advance of our holiday feast. Being a traditional Italian American, midwestern home, a full cornucopia of cookies of every ethnicity was in abundance. Thanksgiving morning was a special treat with a home filled with the scent of baking bread, and roasted turkey which transformed our tiny cold water flat in "Little Italy" on the lower East side of Chicago into a 3 room palace. Everyone was involved, family and friends, young and old, with 4 generations of our own majestic women. An unspoken but respected hierarchy prevailed, with the eldest women in control, and a dance like rhythm appeared to take charge of this traditional and noble endeavor. It didn't take long before our small kitchen and dinning room filled, and every flat surface was covered. People scurried into the hallway, where neighbors shuffled pans and pots in and out of their homes to their own kitchens to make room for more, always more so everyone could share in the abundance.
Preparation started days earlier, with the making of the pasta. I recall my great aunt bringing in the clothesline from our back porch, the one that strung across the small yard to the adjacent porch and back. She washed and bleached this cord to string across our living and dining rooms, from sconces to chandelier, and doorjambs to windowsills. It was strung as tight as possible to hold the pounds of lasagna noodle, and spaghetti needed to hang dry, to satisfy the hearty Italian appetites. I recall as if it were yesterday listening to our nightly radio programs with the shadows of stringing pasta on the faded floral wallpaper, lending an eerie overtone to the Green hornet, or Gangbusters. How could I ever forget opening my eyes in the morning with the sight of hanging pasta overhead, but then, why in the world would I want to forget that magical moment after all, and what it meant to a young boy that a wonderful and glorious holiday was just around the corner?
Each family was represented in the choice of menu items. Every wonderful cook in each branch of the family offered to prepare their own special version of the chosen food. This made for a memorable feast indeed, there were at least 4 successful individual restaurant owners in our family. The competition was playful and fun filled, with chunks of bread, ladles, and spoons dipping into everything, testing, tasting, and teasing.
The Family and Friends
It should not be construed that the food preparation was the exclusive provence of our family women, to do so would be to underestimate the culinary contributions of some of the finest cooks in the clan. A few of my uncles, cousins and grandpa were cooks in the Army, Navy, and Marines, as well as in their own restaurants. My great uncle served as a cook in the Italian army, then captured and recruited to cook in the prisoner-of-war camp, when upon his release, served 2 tours as a cook in the US Marines during The Korean War. However, whatever greatness the men may have achieved in the outside world, the kitchen was ruled by those formidable, yet diminutive, strikingly gorgeous, black clad matriarchs of the family. Great grandmothers from both sides of the lineage, grandmothers, great grandmother-in-laws, and great great aunts. Man I'll tell ya, it was a sight to behold at best, and an Italian culinary rivalry at least. Although sharing an Italian heritage, the 6 uncles married outside the Calabrian niche, creating a scrumptious provincial food fight.
Children weren't immune from the holiday chores. Chairs were pulled up to the stove for short perpetual stirrers. The teens were given the sink, for the neverending pots and pans, and preteens were runners for last minute fetches and food deliveries. I was honored almost exclusively with the delivery of food for the church and hospital shut-ins because I had the bike with a giant basket. Trying to describe my cousins and most of the local kids wasn't hard, the first thing I recall was, hair, lots of black hair, big doe eyes, dozens of beautiful children with wide grins. At least one kid, sometimes more, was forced to bring his or her accordion, and at every holiday gathering some poor child was browbeaten into playing "Lady Of Spain"!
Serving 30-40 people, in a one bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor, rear, walkup, was a challenge, but doable. It took the coordination of most of our wonderful neighbors, and the cooperation of all of the residence, which were always invited anyway. Everyone brought pots, pans, dishes, and utensils, at least a chair, and some brought their kitchen tables. Everyone brought something eatable, most were prearranged as in bread, but some were heirloom dessert recipes, enough for at least a good spoonful, for everyone to get a taste. Older adults, always got a chair at the table, all adults got a seat, and kids sat at the card tables, on the stairs or on a carpet in front of the radio in one of the neighbors homes.
The Holiday Table
All kids had to be within earshot of the saying of the formal Grace before dinner. Then everyone recited their own prayer in various languages of their native tongue. Our family and friends were of many faiths and nationalities, the overwhelming majority of coarse were Italian. Most remembered a loved one not present, and the names of every absent serviceman and woman were individually read aloud. With all heads bowed, everyone gave thanks for the wonderful gifts of food and health, and each and every person present, gave a special thanks and how grateful they were for being in the United States of America.
Any good excuse to gather the clan in our family was and still is, paramount. Weddings, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, births, baptisms and unfortunately funerals are used as good excuses to get together and, you guessed it.... eat. This is usually done at the familial home of eldest member of the family. The Italian family circle is close and tight, and many families still living within their hometown, even today, live within walking distance of one another. In our family, as in many, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins grow as one family unit. The elders live within the homes of their offspring or siblings. The hierarchy is established by the ability of the surviving parents to have living arrangements central to the greatest number of kids and kin. Love of family is the reason, and love of food is the cement. Thanksgiving is one of the most popular days of the year, and has been since my earliest memory. Even today as I did with my parents in my youth, I talk to each of my 5 children and grandchildren, almost everyday, and have even when we lived thousands of miles away... I am truly blessed.
Food for an Italian holiday is second to only to the family. Present at every holiday feast were several types of entree, lasagna, ham, veal, and one or more specialty pasta and of course the giant stuffed Turkeys. There were Kosher dishes aplenty for our many Jewish friends. Our next door neighbor kept a Kosher kitchen and always shared their wonderful food with us as we did in return. Not counted as entrees were homemade sausages, meatballs, and grilled peppers. A strange calzone, one I recall with nuts and octopus was always somewhere on the table as was braciole (Italian beef rolls, and great cannoli desserts were always compliments of our Sicilian side of the family).
Salads and antipasto were a mainstay, with favorites cellentani con Insalata di Peperoni (cellentani with pepper salad), and the ever popular soups, usually a bean, as in minestrone. Breads, rolls, pizza and a mixed variety of biscotti, were always in abundance. Side dishes were a meal in themselves. A vast array of vegetables prepared as specialty items, like artichoke and bacon frittata rounded out every holiday meal. Even our popular lasagne, the recipe that created a chain of famous restaurants, has broccoli or spinach as a principle ingredient to the recipe. Desserts... oh my, great custards, and pastries, ice creams and cakes such as lemon berry tiramisu or frittelle di zucca (pumpkin fritters)
The Moment of TruthMy grandfather sat at the head of the table, and next to him sat a gallon jug of his homemade Italian red wine. Almost everyone seated for dinner were given a glass of his wine, if only for the many toasts that were posed, to the cooks and a milieu of other celebrations. The moment of truth came when he would call the name of the boys that he felt were to be worthy of manhood, a scholarship know only to him, usually by some unknown merit method. If you attained that status in his trusted eye, he would invite you to accept a glass of wine and he would toast your new position and with everyone's applause you drank a glass and thanked him.
When my moment came, I had just turned 10, and having worked with him on his paper stand in downtown Chicago for 3 years and to my surprise he felt I was ready! Proudly I swallowed a huge gulp, and felt the heat go down my throat and explode at the core of my stomach and began to rush back up. I forced a smiled and swallowed again and hugged him as tight as I could, until my uncle secretly handed me a chunk of bread, which I bit into and forced down before I let my pa loose, perhaps in the nick of time because he slapped me on the back and everything went back down... I never drank another drop of his wine, but accepted his offer to take a glass, each time he offered it until he passed a year later. How I loved that man.
The Carving At each end of the long tables were placed huge turkeys. The head of the households were given the honor of carving these beautifully prepared, golden trophies. It was a ritual and with surgical skills each bird was sliced and distributed to all in attendance until nothing remained but the bare bones. At the conclusion of this wonderful occasion, the men stood and with glasses raised toasted the blushing ladies as we sang... in our best voice, and in Italian, a song dedicated to our wonderful women, .. "Mamma"
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey and reserve for the broth.
3. Rinse the turkey with cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
4. Place onion and lemon quarters in the neck and body cavities.
5. In a small bowl, mix the oil with the herbs, salt and pepper.
6. With your finger tips, gently loosen the skin from the breast without pulling off the skin.
7. Place 1 tablespoon of the herb mixture under the skin; and replace the skin.
8. Rub the cavities and outside of turkey with the remaining herb mixture.
9. Secure the neck skin to the back of the turkey with skewers. Fold the wings under the back of turkey. Place the legs in tucked position.
Note: May be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for several hours.
10. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large shallow (no more than 2-1/2 inches) deep roasting pan.
11. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful it does not touch the bone.
12. Cover bird with a loose tent of foil. Roast turkey in the preheated oven for about 2-1/2 hours.
13. Remove the foil and baste bird with pan juices.
14. Continue to roast for about another hour, until meat thermometer registers 180°F in the thigh.
15. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
16. Transfer to a large platter and serve with gravy.
Yields 18 servings at 6 ounces per portion
Good Old Fashioned Bread Dressing
The night before
1. The night before you want to eat the stuffing, break the bread into small pieces (about 1 inch squares) into 2 huge bowls or pots. Let the bread sit overnight to dry out.
The next day
2. The next day, remove the insides of turkey and boil them in water in
2/3 quart sauce pan until cooked (about 20 to 30 minutes).
3. Remove the insides from the saucepan for later use or discard. Keep the broth and set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
5. Chop the onion and celery and place into food processor until minced.
6. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
7. Sauté the onion and celery in butter until heated through. Do not brown! (Sauté the mushrooms also at this time, if wanted).
Note: Depending on how much stuffing you want and how much celery and onion you've chopped, you may have to sauté the onion and celery in two parts.
8. Once cooked, pour the onion mixture directly over the dried out bread.
9. Sprinkle the sage over bread mixture.
10. Take your turkey broth and pour slowly over the bread mixture. The bread will shrink as you do this. Be careful not to pour too much water in.
11. Mixture thoroughly.
Note: If you need more liquid, open a can of chicken broth and pour over bread. If you need more spice, add more sage.
13. If you are using oysters, add them now.
14. Once stuffing is of a consistency that it will stick together and does not look too dry, do not add more liquid.
16. Either stuff in turkey to be baked in oven, or put in 9 x 13 pan.
17. If using oysters, it is recommended that you bake the stuffing in a pan so as to ensure the oysters will be cooked through.
18. Bake in 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You want the stuffing to have a nice brown crust on top.
Note: If you are cooking the stuffing in a pan and not inside the turkey, try stuffing the turkey with small apples. It smells wonderful and the apples have a great flavor when you take them out.
Real Homemade Turkey Gravy
1. In a 3-quart saucepan, place neck, heart, gizzard, vegetables, and salt in enough water to cover, and cook over high heat.
2. Heat to boiling.
3. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Add the liver and cook for 15 minutes longer.
5. Strain broth into a large bowl; cover and reserve broth in the refrigerator.
6. To make gravy, remove the cooked turkey and roasting rack from the roasting pan. Pour the poultry drippings through a sieve into a quart size measuring cup.
7. Add 1 cup giblet broth to the roasting pan and stir until the crusty brown bits are loosened.
8. Pour the deglazed liquid/broth into the measuring cup.
9. Let the mixture stand a few minutes, until the fat rises to the top.
10. Over medium heat, spoon 3 tablespoons of fat from the poultry drippings into a 2-quart saucepan.
11. Whisk flour and salt into the heated fat and continue to cook and stir until the flour turns golden.
12. Meanwhile, skim and discard any fat that remains on top of the poultry drippings.
13. Add the remaining broth and enough water to the poultry drippings to equal 3-1/2 cups.
14. Gradually whisk in warm broth mixture.
15. Cook and stir, until the gravy boils and is slightly thick.
Makes 14 servings at 1/4 cup per serving
Home Sweet Home Potato Casserole
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Mixture will be very soupy.
3. Bake for 1 hour.
Crackpot Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes
1. Spray the crockpot with the cooking spray.
2. Fill the crockpot with half of the sliced potatoes.
3. Layer half of the soup, velveeta cheese, Cheddar cheese, and milk.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Layer remaining the remaining potatoes.
6. The layer the remaining soup, velveeta cheese, Cheddar cheese, and milk.
7. Cook on high for about 6 hours.
Note: You need to check to see if you need to add more milk. You can preboil the potatoes for quicker cooking.
Yummy Pineapple Cheese Salad
2 (16 ounce) cans pineapple chunks, drained; reserve the juice
1 1/2 cups to 2 cups miniature marshmallows
3 in. off of a 3 pound loaf of Velvetta cheese, cubed
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
l medium egg
l tablespoon sugar
1. In a large bowl, mix the pineapple chunks, marshmallows, and cheese.
2. In a medium saucepan, mix the cornstarch and water.
3. Beat the egg, pineapple juice, sugar into the cornstarch mixture to blend.
4. Cook over low heat until thick.
5. Cool slightly and pour over the pineapple mixture.
6. Mix well
Country Bumkin Pumpkin and Praline Pie
1. In a large bowl, mix the sugars, flour, bitters, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
2. Stir in the egg in and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, melt butter over low heat.
4. Add the pumpkin and simmer, stirring occasionally until the purée thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
5. Gradually stir hot pumpkin into sugar mix, stir in evaporated milk, milk and water.
Note: If desired, cover and refrigerate overnight.
1. In a mixing bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and pecans.
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Spread half the praline mix in each crust.
3. Bake until the praline is golden brown and bubbly, around 10 minutes.
4. Cool slightly.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.
6. Pour half of the pumpkin filling into each crust and smooth top with spatula.
7. Bake until pumpkin is firm and crusts are golden brown, about 1 hour.
8. Cool completely and serve.
9. Garnish with whipped cream or topping, if desired.
These recipes are excerpts from the cookbook "Chef Carlo Cooks with Teens"...Enjoy!
Triple Pepper Salad with Cellentani
Cellentani ( whirls, or large elbow macaroni) con Insalata di Peperoni
Got a recipe???? Come on, no holding out! LOL
My hertiage is Hungarian, and desert, for Thanksgiving, was always two different kinds of strudel ( usually apple/ walnut amd cherry/almond )and homemade, from scratch, pumpkin pie. Hungarian cucumber salad was ( still is ! ) as necessary to serve, as cranberry dressing ( again, two kinds. LOL ), with the turkey.
An early HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you too, old friend. :-)
That's sounds so crazy that it MUST be something from south Louisiana. heh heh.
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