That was me, last Thursday night, trying to explain Thanksgiving to two Japanese girls - of course, with the help of our friend Anna from Baltimore, and Auntie out of California.
Thanksgiving is a festival for eating... and giving thanks. And watching football. Or playing football, depending on your family. And perhaps, napping, and eating leftover sandwiches made of broccoli-rice casserole at two in the morning in front of the refrigerator. Or eating an entire fried turkey as an appetizer.
They understood perfectly when I told them that each family has their own way of celebrating, and that your way is obviously the only correct way. Jun told us that it's exactly the same on New Year's in Japan.
Of course, being in Italy meant that putting together the traditional Thanksgiving feast would've been more than a little difficult, what with unfindable cranberries, nonexistent cream of mushroom soup, and hidden sweet potatoes. We heard that turkeys are very difficult to locate, but we did see them in our market during our Thursday shopping time... we just bought a couple of ducks instead. Eh, it's still poultry.
This meal was the first time I really wanted to have all of our beautiful table things, which are currently boxed up in Mandeville.
I still think we set a very nice Thanksgiving table.
Cheiko and Jun loved the exhibit of my paltry folding skills... "Ah, origami! A bed for the forks!"
Husbear put out a beautiful finger-food antipasti spread, with these beautiful dates stuffed with gorgonzola
along with raw and cooked veggies to dip in bagna cauda, a warm anchovy and oil dip that is truly delicous, though it sounds suspect (those big celery-looking things are actually cardoons, and they taste like a mild artichoke - they're hanging out at the top with radicchio di treviso)
and pecorino served with two jellies. The brighter one is a relic from when we went to visit Dario Cecchini back in September, while the other is a wine jelly from Mercato Sant'Ambrogio up the street.
All in all, a beautiful appetizer table. Everyone fell to happily. It's always so much fun to eat with your fingers! Totally delicious. Bagna cauda is probably one of my favorite things Husbear makes, and the fact that it's very very bad for me doesn't stop me loving it.
You know those ducks I mentioned earlier? Well, at some point Husbear's going to do a post about the pleasures of breaking down two big ducks, and all of the possiblities inherent in a whole animal, but for now... he used the duck leftover after he broke it down to make a delicious, warm and hearty duck broth that he served with a crouton spread with roasted garlic. This made for a nice pause between the heavy antipasti and heavy main.
And oh, the mains. Husbear really went all out for our Thanksgiving feast. There was a large range of vegetables, for the harvest. We had home-made creamed spinach (in a prosecco cream sauce), roasted green beans, a mash of celeriac and potato (the celeriac really lightened up the potato), and ridiculously wonderful duck breasts served with a rich tart red currant/orange sauce.
On seeing the creamed spinach, Anna announced "None for you - all for ME!" We were forced to wrestle her to the ground, but luckily everyone got their share. (Husbear had to hold me down to let others at the red currant duck sauce.)
But, after all, what is most important about Thanksgiving?
Spending it with friends and family.
I had a lot of fun, trying to be the translatrix for discussions of politics and entertainment in the United States and Japan. You try explaining the concept of censorship as it related to pre-war Hollywood movies after nine weeks of Italian!
This was the first time we've hosted a dinner party of any size since we've been in Florence, and it couldn't have gone better. We had such a wonderful time.
I wish everyone could have been here to share it with us.
Hello from Italy!
The house felt empty after everyone left... waah.
We miss you all!
The next day, after two or three hours of cleaning, off to Lazio to visit Anzio, the town where my great-uncle was part of an enormous invasion in 1944. A great trip.