Happy Friday and welcome to another collaborative post with my beloved COSI (crazy observations by stranieri (foreigners) in Italy) blogger roundtable team. We took a short hiatus and now are back with a post every month on a common theme, each of us adding our own, sometimes awkward, points of view. We welcome a new member to the team so say hello to Andrea from Sex, Lies & Nutella, I liked her the second I saw the blog’s title. Also we are opening up COSI to anyone who wants to participate, just use the hashtag #COSI while sharing your post about our monthly subject, today’s being regional food with an options Thanksgiving tie-in.
Turkey day is coming up for us Americane and the anticipation of stuffing yourself into a lethargic coma, falling into said coma, only to do it all over again sounds pretty darn fun for most of us. That is what Thanksgiving is all about, all of the historical details are better left uncovered as they often don’t match up with the happy ‘coming-together’ holiday we all love so much. Since I have been in Italy, I have undergone all sorts of Thanksgiving celebrations with friends and (adopted) families.
Cue extremely high, unreasonable expectations (gulp).
Is it just me or does living abroad only highlights the want, or actually the need, to celebrate these holidays in an over-the-top way even more. We immigrants grasp any moments to revel in our left-behind cultures allowing for things we would never do back home. This could mean garish turkey napkins, that awful sweet too-sweet-potato casserole and orange plastic cups with some sort of ‘felt’ turkey sticker. I’ve had those group dinners at restaurants with dry turkey (gross) and cranberry sauce from a jar.
I’ve done it wrong, I’ve done it right – at some times if I am 100% honest, I don’t remember what day it is anymore, as life revolves much more around the holidays in Italy. If you want to see what my very first thanksgiving in Italy looked like, in 2005, here you go. Hint to many: The first time you attempt a group dinner, ever, should not be on Thanksgiving.
So flashback to a few years later, when returning to Italy was more of a long-term goal. This meant Thanksgiving was much more of an institution, to be celebrated yearly with good friends in merry good fun. What no-one tells you is just how hard it is to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 15-20 people in a country where you have to go on a ‘scavenger hunt’ for many of the products you need.
If you’re in Florence, Vivi Market will be your best friend, and you can get your turkey at the Central market in San Lorenzo.
Also you can order your turkey, cooked and stuffed from some places in town. I was very happy with my chestnut & sausage stuffed bird from a local rosticceria on via romana (info below). Just go in a week or two ahead to order your bird, they were more excited than I was about it ;-).
La Mangiatoia, Piazza San Felice 8-10 r., 50125, Firenze, Italia
+39 55 224060.
Now I will never, ever try and attempt such a large dinner by myself because it is just too much of a pain in the ass. Don’t believe me?
Thanksgiving Awkward Moments Round-UP
- Traveling with a enormous turkey on the public bus with a bag that might have been leaking (luckily no-one sat to me on this dreadful journey)
- Waking up at 6am to start cooking this asshole turkey
- Getting turkey juice on my brand-new chiffon top from London, f&*&*#(_#[#_)#. Of course it never came out.
- My first attempt at stuffing had to be thrown it away because I put too much thyme in it.
- Carrying a cooked turkey (or let’s get real – having my boyfriend carry) our cooked turkey across the Ponte Vecchio to a friend’s house.
- I forgot to buy water but instead had plenty of alcohol, great for me – bad for any non-American
- After drinking too much I attempted to cover up the fact that I broke something made by my ex’s grandfather in a cabinet next to the dinner table. Shame Georgette Shame..
- In order to make sweet potato casserole in the ‘traditional’ (with marshmallows) way, I ended up getting the multi-colored ‘fun’ bag from a local Blockbuster (which yes, still existed in Italy) resulting in a very scary looking casserole. I don’t even like sweet-potatoes made in this way
- Arguing with my ex-boyfriend’s Italian mamma about hosting a dinner with my friends in the family house and for having to use the oven for so many hours, resulting in plenty of passive-aggressive ‘help’ from said mamma.
- Having so many leftovers that I ended up throwing away most of this turkey in the outdoor dumpster at 2am so no-one would see
- Spending more on a dinner than I do in a month for food and spending two hours cleaning it all up
When I think about it now, I don’t know why I didn’t incorporate more Tuscan autumn flavors? My alter-ego ‘Tuscan Texan’ would happily embrace that. I don’t even need to tell you how good the food is in this region because you probably already know. I would love to try mixing it up next time, using local ingredients such as my beloved, beautiful chestnuts (the flour can be used to make all sorts of interesting desserts, like the local ‘castagnaccio’ chestnut cake), mushrooms and if I could get my hands on it, truffles.
Make friends with someone who knows Tuscany’s woods like the back of their hand, because then you might be invited to a truffle/chestnut/mushroom hunt and dinner afterward. The worst that can happen is that you come face to face with one of Tuscany’s finest animals, the ‘cinghiale’ (wild boar) but no worries, they tend to be the frightened sort.
Needless to say if you want a hassle-free Thanksgiving, either embrace your inner Martha Stewart and embrace the fact that you will need to go to a few different places to get everything you need for the dinner or just go to one of the events organized around town. The best Thanksgiving’s I have been a part of normally involve a sort of ‘pot-luck’ with friends doing a few dishes each to lessen the load on everyone. Can’t find the ingredients for crappy over-sweet casserole?
Use some of Tuscany’s finest (see above) to make a new & creative dish, see this article for tips. I was at Il Santo Forno bakery the other day and they made chestnut flour & apple muffins = heaven! Luckily The Florentine has done the work me and made this handy article on where to go for Thanksgiving, you can order the meal to your house or go out, the options seem pretty decent.
Also if you just want to go out and eat a massive hamburger at the food truck along the arno instead of slaving over the stove all day with leftovers you know you’ll never touch, that’s ok too.
I’d love to hear about your own Thanksgiving experiences abroad : good or bad. Comment, share and if you have some handy tips of your own, I am all ears (well one because technically I’m half deaf).
This article is part of the COSI Blogger round-table that chats, snarks and writes about Italy in their own perspective. See their own holiday foodie thoughts
Winter is coming. Arm yourselves against Emilia’s arsenal of food.- Married to Italy
Foraging, Toxoplasmosis, And Eating Until You Die In Cassino, Italy– Surviving in Italy
‘Typical Products of Romagna‘ – Rick’s Rome
‘Nobody Leaves the Table Until They’ve Eaten So Much They Hate Themselves – The Florence Diaries
Englishman in Italy