I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. Not because of its history, which is absolutely terrible, but because of what it’s become today. A long weekend to recoup and recover. A time for family. An entire holiday with the simple idea of giving thanks for the wonderful things in our lives. And one of the few holidays with no gifts attached.
The premise of Thanksgiving is simple, unassuming, even if the marathon cooking and dinner is not, and I love that. The simple flavors that rarely stray. The best pieces of turkey, the perfect combination of white meat and dark meat, the times you get the perfect ratio of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes on your fork, each side dish the perfect complement to the other side dishes.
Thanksgiving is the flavor of home.
Then, of course, I went abroad.
Missing Thanksgiving my study abroad year hurt but was tempered by my budding relationship with Marco and his quest to find me an Italian baker who made pumpkin pie. It was only temporary and the novelty made my first Thanksgiving away from family tolerable.
Then, my first year after I officially moved to Italy we improvised a mini-Thanksgiving with a fellow American and my ex-Florence roommate who had come to visit. It was small and simple, but cozy. The thought was nice.
Another year Marco did the impossible and made homemade stuffing that came far closer than anything I could have ever made. He served it with a turkey leg and some potatoes and I ate filled with love after a long day of work.
But the truth is, none of these moments came close to replacing my “real” Thanksgiving.
None of them had the magic of all of America preparing for the feast, counting down the days until they’re off work, meeting up with friends and family and your hometown. Little can replace my grandmother’s massive table filled with cousins, my aunt’s farmhouse with each window lit up by a wreath and fake candle, the family football games post-nap that should be touch but sometimes were tackle.
My family’s Thanksgiving menu has always been classic—no roast or fish or elaborate sauces here—but in the end the day can’t be replaced by a replica of the food. You’d need a replica of the meal, the atmosphere, the soul of it all. Thanksgiving is about family.
And so for the past few years here in Italy I just haven’t celebrated the holiday at all. Because I think, even if I were remotely capable of making a Thanksgiving dinner, how could I make it on a normal work-day Thursday? There are always random restaurants looking to offer something new, but what do they know? And sure there are expat dinners, but I’ve never participated in any other expat event of the year, why this one? I can’t bring myself to jump in on such an important occasion.
There are so many things I had to give up as an immigrant in Italy.
Thanksgiving is one I chose to give up.
Someday I’d like to bring Thanksgiving back into my life, even here in Italy, if only to introduce Adeline to that side of her culture. For now, I prepared some ossibuchi on Thanksgiving night, a classic but special Lombard dish perfect for a wintry evening with my little Italian family.
Read more about life abroad in Italy, from holidays to healthcare!