By Melissa Cannavo-Marino (and Sara)
I never understood why every fourth Thursday in November, if nonni and Mamma always said they missed Thanksgiving. It seemed just like another day in Frosinone. Business went on as usual and except for the quick blurb about a holiday in the United States on the telegiornale (newscast), mamma went to school and i nonni went to work.
One year the family decided one year to take time off and head to Sicily for a visit with relatives. When we got to the town village of Graniti in the province of Messina, our relatives gave us the traditional warm welcome for which they are so well-known. To our surprise, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, our relatives planned for us a Festa di Ringraziamento (Thanksgiving Feast). They killed one of their own turkeys for the feast. Cousin Peppe butchered il tacchino (turkey)and Vincenzo de-feathered and cleaned the bird. The bird was so big that they had to take the stuffed and trussed turkey in their car to La Flora restaurant up the road for the roasting, as it would never have fit in their woodstove oven!
Nonno and Zia Mela baked “pumpkin” pies, which were actually made from a savory local winter squash. Our home-baked cornbread was made from corn flour that my mamma found at the local bottega (shop). On the family farm they do raise corn and send it to the local mill for grounding, but it’s primarily used only for feeding the farm animals.
Cranberries don’t exist in Italy, so we all put our heads together (I helped by being my cuddly self) and chose a winter squash/sausage risotto as a first course – to add an Italian touch. Nonno and Zia Mela rounded out the menu with traditional turnips, creamed onions, cornbread, and Waldorf salad. That afternoon, 10 guests joined us on the terrazza (terrace) to celebrate the day. We all had a great time and it was especially touching for us because it was one holiday we truly missed celebrating during the years that we resided in Italy.
Nowadays, back in America, we roast our turkey here at home. Before stuffing the turkey, it is expertly seasoned expertly seasoned by my Sicilian nonno, Joe. He rubs the meat inside and out with his mixture of lard, wine, lemon juice, sage, rosemary, garlic, hot red pepper, olive oil, salt and then stuffed with a traditional stuffing with added chestnuts soaked in wine (a Peppe influence!) Placed neatly in the roasting pan surrounded by sliced potatoes seasoned with rosemary and garlic, the turkey will roast in our gas oven while bread for bruschetta with our store bought olive oil toasts on top. Of course for a truly Italian-American Thanksgiving, we always start with lasagna. (And I am a lucky cagnolina (puppy) because I always get a little bit to enjoy as well!)
Felice Giorno di Ringraziamento! (Happy Thanksgiving!) IAH
Melissa Cannavo-Marino lived, studied, and worked in Italy for seven years. She attended the American University of Rome where she earned dual degrees in communications. After graduation she worked on the set of the Italian television reality court show “Forum,” behind the scenes and on-air. Melissa can be heard hosting “Mattinata Musicale” on Sunday mornings at 8 on AM 1450 WILM and at 9 on 610 ESPN.