Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Past

My first pecan pie

When I was a kid, growing up in Verona and attending the local Italian school, Thanksgiving was just another Thursday for my classmates. But for my brother Stephen and me it was special. We would race home after school in the cold November fog, climbing the marble stairs of our old apartment building two at a time, into a house already full of delicious smells from my mother's cooking. My two great aunts, Josie and Milly, would be cheerfully setting the table and helping out on what was indisputably their favorite holiday of the year. My uncle Brother (that's what my Mom called him so that's what we ended up calling him) would be there, having just arrived by train for the long weekend and there would be the usual discussion about whether it made any sense to cook lasagna since there was already so much food. "We won't enjoy the turkey." "Oh, we definitely will," Josie and Milly would reassure everybody. They were very much pro pasta regardless of what food the occasion might warrant. 
Before Josie and Milly moved in with us (allegedly just for Christmas as my father was quick to point out), they lived with Uncle Brother. But things didn't go quite so smoothly. And they definitely came to a head on the Thanksgiving he woke up to discover that at 10 am they had already eaten the entire dinner without him. "Don't worry," they reassured him, "We'll eat a second dinner with you later." In fairness, they did wake up early. Like 4:00 am early. Milly used to take Penny out for a walk at that hour (Penny was a doberman pincher) occasionally shocking the neighbors who were certainly not expecting a doberman to come bounding down the stairs just as they were coming home from a late night out.
Sometimes, we invited an Italian friend over for Thanksgiving. An interesting cultural exchange often ensued, as the guest politely noted: "Corn on the cob? Interesting. We usually give that to livestock. And this is pumpkin pie? I guess you need an acquired taste for that. Root beer? Smells like the medicine my grandmother uses for back pain."
As I make my very first pecan pie today, with kids of my own about to come home from school (and probably marvel at the fact that I have made a pie from scratch and not just bought one from a shop), I think of Josie and Milly. And wish I could share it with them. Perhaps, with some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or the way they liked it served best, after a pasta dish.


  1. Lovely! And I have been looking for a dependable online grocery here in Singapore. Will give them a go, thanks!

  2. Great memories and thanks for the pecans tip!

  3. Wonderful post Thank you.