Outside the good ole US of A, the fourth Thursday of November is hardly more than an any ordinary day. In Florence, however, we roasted a giant turkey had a little American style Thanksgiving celebration.
It’s nice to share a little piece of American culture with friends abroad. Compared to my Thanksgiving experience in Munich (which involved multiple turkeys, a tiny kitchen, a lot of students, and a lot of cleanup), this year’s festivities were much more intimate- I did the cooking at home for my lovely host family.
Turkey doesn’t make much of an appearance in the Mediterranean Diet and is thus not an item you typically come across at your run-of-the-mill supermarket. We hoped to find a smaller tacchina (female turkey) but upon special ordering the bird, my host mom was informed the minimum would be around 5 kilograms… that’s about 14 lbs. Yikes. A bit more than we’d bargained for. I’ll be honest with you, I’d never roasted a turkey. Chicken, sure… turkey, never. But hey, a turkey is just a big chicken, right? That’s basically how I approached it. I read a few recipes, in particular the classic roast turkey from The Joy of Cooking and made a few personal tweaks. Then, after building up my confidence, I cleaned the bird; with all my courage, tentatively rubbed butter and herbs under the skin; and dosed it with a bit of olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It cooked much faster than we expected – in just about 2 hours. To accompany the super-turkey, I prepared stuffing (another recipe I improvised and Italianized), creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, carrots confit (just a fancy way to say carrots and shallots cooked very slowly in olive oil and thyme until they take on a lovely caramelized coating), and good old fashioned american gravy. For dessert, I made two pies – pumpkin and apple. The pumpkin pie I took to school to share with my classmates, the apple (and a smaller pumpkin pie) we enjoyed with Thanksgiving dinner. Related side note – this is my favorite piecrust recipe; with the secret ingredient of vodka (which evaporates and leaves the crust flaky and perfect), it’s nearly fool proof.
It was a very successful dinner. Everything turned out great and the family enjoyed taking part in this unique American tradition.
Thanksgiving is about so much more than turkey, however. It’s a time to spend with family, to reflect, and, as the name suggests, to give thanks. I missed being at home with my family but I got to skype in for some of the festivities. I realize I’m pretty much living the post-grad dream in Italy and I am so, so thankful to have this opportunity. My family in Virginia has given me the guidance and support to make me the person I am today and they’ve allowed me to explore my dreams and to live my life to the fullest- I have you guys to thank for my strong roots at home and for the courage you’ve given me to spread my wings and to live me life. My new family in Florence is beyond wonderful. I had never expected to make such a strong connection when I began to explore the idea of living with a host family and now I can’t imagine this experience without them; they’ve been so helpful (and were very patient with our little bureaucracy hiccup!!) and have made me feel very welcome. Needless to say, I have so much to be thankful for and I feel very, very blessed.