This Thanksgiving did not feel like Thanksgiving. A normal Thanksgiving in my household usually goes like this: wake early with my mother, tidy the house, and START COOKING. Usually an aunt or cousin or more will come over mid-morning to help so that we can get the feast on the table around 2 or 3. (I think.) Usual dishes always include a turkey, of course—although one year we may have had a turduckin—and for the past seven years or so a pancetta stuffing, which I almost ruined one year by forgetting to take the plastic off the thinly sliced ham and we spent a good part of an hour hand-picking the fragments of plastic out. I am never going to live that down. The past few years, I’ve perfected a sweet-potato cheesecake with a maple syrup dressing. Someone usually brings a cranberry concoction, often a cornbread or green bean dish. Tucson weather is generally perfect this time of year, so we tend to eat outside on the side patio. Not only family comes, every year there is usually someone not related, be they significant others or friends. This year, I imagine Thanksgiving at my home to have been quite small in comparison with other years—20 or so people is the norm. This year, though, I’m not there, and a few family members are visiting other relatives who’ve moved recently. At least the dog will be a constant, begging for food (and getting it from her bad, bad owners whom she has expertly trained).
Of course, Thanksgiving is a purely American holiday, and as such, it was a regular Thursday for the Italians. Store front windows are already sporting Christmas decorations. There are no Black Friday sales. We gathered at Alba’s apartment for dinner, all the students and teachers and even one of the student’s host mothers. The spread was quite good: appetizers, including an amazing artichoke dip which I am DEFINITELY trying at home, crostini with different spreads, quesadillas, 2 turkeys, 2 different stuffings, glazed carrots, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, gelato, torts, apple pie and our funfetti cakes. I’m sure I’m forgetting something delicious. It was really wonderful. Everyone ate and drank and chatted and by the end of the meal, everyone was moaning a little bit about how full they were, which is exactly how Thanksgiving should be. A violent game of Spoons followed, and around 11pm we left with our plastic plate of leftovers in hand, and the remaining funfetti cake.
Why funfetti? You may ask. Yes, I know it’s not a particularly Thanksgiving-y dessert. It happened that two of our friends had gifted us boxes of funfetti from the States, and with our relatively imminent departure, we figured we probably wouldn’t make another cake for ourselves, so why not make it for Thanksgiving? A little taste of delicious, boxed baked good America. So, Thursday afternoon, between grading final exams, I baked the cakes. Jeremy returned home from work and we started frosting them; I, of course, just sprinkled the confetti sprinkles over the top of my cake, thinking that was what one did with funfetti. It would taste the same either way. Then, Jeremy had the idea to make a design with the sprinkles. Probably for only twenty minutes—though it felt longer—we sat at the kitchen table, individually separating the sprinkles by color. We did not finish the whole pile, but it was enough that when Jeremy arrived with the students, he had a lovely presentation of a funfetti confetti hand-turkey on the face of the cake. Everyone “ooh”ed and “aah”ed and “how cute!”ed and took pictures. Then, at the end of the evening, we devoured the cake. It didn’t matter that I substituted sunflower oil for vegetable oil, nor that I baked the cakes at roughly 177 degrees Celcius. These estimations still produced a tasty, moist yellow cake with red and green flecks and white vanilla frosting, and I happily ate a huge slice of it for breakfast this morning.
The weather has turned cloudy and rainy. Now that my students have had their final exam, we have only one class meeting left, so I will have a lot of free time between now and our departure. Tomorrow we are going to Rome to see Maddalena and the kids again, and to visit our friend, Giovanni. I’ve finished and submitted all my graduate school applications, so I think today I might go to the library and pick up a nice new book to read. I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Although we were not at home with our own families and friends, we had a delightful and delicious Thanksgiving here in Italy with our Orvietan family and friends.