As I placed the bowl of stuffing down on the bar, I looked up and asked, “Maurizo have you ever tried stuffing before?” He shook his head no. This was his first Thanksgiving. He then asked me, “What is this holiday celebrating anyway?”
Celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy isn’t the easiest thing to do. For starters, you don’t find many turkeys in butcher shops in Bra…well unless you special order them. Our turkey day celebration hit a minor complication when a “lost-in-translation” moment led to one single 14 Kilo turkey. Ovens are small in Italy and 14 Kilos is a whole lot of bird. This conundrum led to the master mind of the day, Matt, sawing the bird in half and utilizing ovens in two different apartments to roast the star dish for the evening.
The bird being in half then led to a rather heated debate on whether or not the stuffing needed to be actually inside the bird to truly be called stuffing. Who knew people felt so strongly about this topic? The stuffing was my department. I was cooking my family classic…Southwestern Stuffing (outside of the bird). A spicy cornbread accented with pork sausage, pine nuts and cilantro. It is a tradition in my family. Knowing this day would be filled with moments of home sickness I wanted to at least have this familiar dish on the table. The only problem was…Salsiccia di Bra.
This sausage is typical of this area. It is veal mixed with pork fat and seasoned with clove, pepper and sometimes nutmeg. It is served raw and incredibly popular, so popular that its cousin the pork sausage is often forgotten. I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt trying to find pork sausage. Popping in every butcher shop and polling my class on Facebook, “do you know where I can find pork sausage??” Eventually I discovered it in the German Supermarket on the outskirts of town. Finally securing one of the main ingredients I needed to find the other important ingredient, cilantro. Luckily, a classmate had recently traveled to Torino where he had purchased several bunches from the market. This was good, since my other option was the Asian food lady that has the back corner in a small supermarket and only gets cilantro occasionally on Thursdays. A quick bike ride to my classmate’s house and I had all of the ingredients I needed.
By the time we finally arrived at Vineria, our local watering hole, to kick off our Thanksgiving dinner, we were all a little frantic, slightly tired, and definitely hungry. Slowly the 44 guests trickled in. With a variety of accents you could hear “Happy Thanksgiving” being echoed throughout the bar. Dishes were placed, seats were found, and wine was poured.
All of the classics were magically there, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, biscuits, gravy, and of course pumpkin pie. There were other dishes with slight variations of the classics, but somehow the dishes blended together into Thanksgiving harmony. We ate, we drank, and we chatted. As the first serving came to an end and we started on our second, our host Matt stood up and started the chain of “what are you thankful for”.
One by one, we stood and we shared. Here we were from America, Austria, Korea, Canada, Kenya, Germany, Belgium, India, Finland, Denmark, Georgia, Taiwan, and Italy. No matter how different we were or whether we were celebrating Thanksgiving for the 1st time or the 29th, we shared. The common thread of gratitude bound us together.
It was at this moment that I forgot about that the hassle of cooking, of hunting for products, of translation and equipment issues. It was at this moment that I realized a true thanksgiving is never that complicated. It is full of gratitude.