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An Italian Thanksgiving

An Italian Thanksgiving?  Naturally, or did we forget that Columbus discovered (or re-discovered to be politcally correct) the Americas? But even as far back as in Roman times, they also celebrated something called Cerelia or Ceres, who was the goddess of corn (the English word of 'cereal' comes from this word). The feast was held each year on during the first week in October and offered to the Goddess the first fruits of the harvest.  Naturally, music, parades, games and sports were part of the feast, as always.

And in the fine pilgrim tradition, my ancestors (grandparents) came over here to the New World, America, and they celebrated and gave thanks for their new fortune, freedom and prosperiety.  However, they were very reluctant to give up the traditions of their own, that is why they still serve manicotti, lasagna or stuffed shells prior to the turkey.  If you are ever invited to a real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner, do not eat beforehand, and bring your appetite, and plan on staying for a while or even sleeping over.  You see, they start off with the antipasto: salami, pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, anchovies, sweet roasted peppers, assorted cheeses like mozzarella, provolone, and even the American cheddar, etc.  Then comes the salad, next the pasta, and of course nexts comes the turkey, complete with stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy and anything else you might expect.  Afterward, you of course have the fine Italian pastries, and that is always the hightlight, the conversation then consists of where you got them, how long you waited on line, and who has the best.  This final course includes black coffee done in the double boiler, better known as demitasse or espresso, with the usual cordials, amaretto, sambuca and/or anisette.  Homemade or jug wine is served throughout the meal, so in conjunction with the turkey, it would then be time to go into the den or living room to watch the game and doze off, only to wake to the leftovers, turkey sandwiches, leftover antipasto, pastry, etc.

So Thanksgiving at my aunt's house (after my grandparents in Newark were gone, that was family headquarters), went a little something like this:

Antipasta Freddi (Cold Appetizers)
Assorted Italian Cheeses
Assorted Olives
Assorted Sliced Vegetables

Shrimp Cocktail
Seafood Cocktail Salad

Antipasta Caldi (Hot Appetizers)
Stuffed Artichokes
Stuffed Mushrooms
Stuffed Peppers

Primi Piatti (First Course)
Manicotti or Stuffed Shells or Baked Ziti or Lasagna, maybe even Ravioli
Always served with Meatballs, Sausage, Braciole

Secondi Piatti (Second or Main Course)
Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, yams, potatoes, Italian string beans

Dolce (Desserts)
Pastries from Calandra's, or Ferrara's, or whoever else arguabley "has the best"
Roasted Nuts, chestnuts, and homemade like pumpkin or apple pie (or both), homemade Italian cookies

Beverages & Drinks
Brookdale Soda: Any variety, I am not even sure if they still make this anymore, as it was a regional soda that came in such favorites as black cherry, grape and orange.  And of course, for the "adults" lemon lime, ginger ale and club soda for "highballs" or cocktails as we call them today.  These bottles had a deposit, and you had to pry off the top cap, reseal with plastic tabs or corks to keep from going flat, they were delivered weekly like the milk in those days. 
Rose and/or Red Wine by the Jug (I never recall seeing white wine, though I am sure the had it on hand), nothing fancy, whatever was cheapest, the wine would never take presidence over the food for any reason!  Of course, there was also a small amount of homemade wine on hand.
Dessert Drinks: Demi Tasse (or espresso) and American Coffee
Italian Cordials & Liquers: Sambuca, Anisette, Blackberry Brandy, Amaretto, Fangelico

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