For many years, the joke in our family was what to cut out of our Thanksgiving dinner. The matrons of the family decided on the soup; the lightest dish on the menu. We never really did cut anything out of our big Italian Thanksgiving dinner. There were so many choices that it would have caused hurt feelings to eliminate a traditional dish.
Going to school, the teacher would go around the class and ask them for a run down of their Thanksgiving meal. The main responses were turkey and stuffing and perhaps a side of cranberry sauce. Our family Thanksgiving dinner was list much longer than that. As a matter of a fact, we were met with quizzical looks on how we can possibly eat so much food in one day.
What exactly is an Italian Thanksgiving? Well it meant that Italian American families took the American traditions of a Thanksgiving meal like turkey, stuffing, and apple pie combined with Italian traditional dishes. No meal no matter the holiday was complete without a pasta dish. A pasta dish during Thanksgiving was a not a dish of spaghetti. That was when your mamma or nonna started cooking the week before. They were in the kitchen making and rolling out dough for the home made lasagna. They were hand rolling the tiny meatballs for the escarole soup. They took out the big boiler pots to start on the homemade tomato sauce. A holiday was cause for a celebration. A food holiday, such as Thanksgiving, was really a cause to create the best meal of the year by combining traditional fall comfort foods with an appreciation of the bounty of the new land.
A Thanksgiving meal was really a reason to be surrounded by family. Thanksgiving dinner was a reason to tell stories of the old world and tell new stories of the new world. Thanksgiving dinner was a reason to put away the stress of every day life and laugh with each other and even at each other. For many, an Italian Thanksgiving dinner may not be quite the same as in the old days but traditions never fully go away. We may not be doing the home made cooking with working parents and grandparents, but we’ll always set time aside to pass down old traditions to new generations