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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McIlvaine

A Simple Thanksgiving for 50

Choosing which holiday to spend in which country can be difficult, but after 3 years, I've got it down:

Christmas: USA - Umbria is so lacking in Christmas spirit that it makes me almost miss the commercialism of America, plus, you can't beat shopping the Christmas sales when you are buying with the Euro!

New Years: Italy - I love the big multi-multi-multi course end of the year dinner! (skip the cotechino though....)

Easter: could go either way - I can definitely live without Easter breakfast in Umbria - a hard boiled egg, salami, lamb-innard stew (which I like, but not first thing in the morning), and the dry dry dry Pizza di Pasqua, which looks like a delicious cheese brioche, but its the driest, worst bread in the world. Lunch/dinner is another story - whole baby lamb or goat roasted over the fire, fried artichokes, more innard stew, and lots of other good stuff! However, I do like a good honey baked ham, easter baskets, and all things easter bunny!

4th of July: another either way - obviously the spirit lies in America, but its fun to try to recreate here in Itay - plus it gives Italians a chance to eat a real burger, not the weird gross little patty things they have here. (and of course the burgers are good - Americans only know how to cook and eat hamburgers anyway, right? McDonalds, right???)

Halloween: USA - its a new holiday here - and there are no mini-Snickers.

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that I don't mind spending abroad, because I've found that Italians get just as excited about it as we do. Who doesn't love the sight of a giant stuffed turkey??? This year at Trattoria Basilikó we even had a turkey carving race!

Here's what you need to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 50 in Italy:

45 pounds of turkey

2 old hens for broth

10 pounds of butter (unheard of in olive oil-only umbria)

12 liters of heavy cream

3 loaves of Pugliese style bread - the saltless bread of umbria will not work for stuffing

13 pounds of cippollini from Cannara for creamed onions

25 pounds of potatoes for mash (actually, more - Italians eat mashed potatoes like they are going out of style)

11 pounds of brussel sprouts - special request item

10 pounds of sweet potatoes, or "American Potatoes" - another special request item - and they only have the white kind

20 pounds of whatever root vegetables you can find - difficult because everything has the same name - rape (RA-pay)

cranberry sauce - sent from USA - enough for personal use only - the thought of eating any kind of jelly with meat makes Italians absolutely sick!

6 cans of pumpkin puree - also sent from USA - there is no differentiating between different kinds of squash here in umbria - every type is called zucca - trying to ask for butternut or delicata or kabocha is futile - don't even try for sugar pie pumpkins - if they exist here, they exist only to be carved on halloween!

a good egg nog recipe - the Italians were so-so about the egg nog, some liked it, some just didn't get it - the only person who loved it (and finished off everone's glass at her table) was a tall, thin, model-like girl from Romania - you never know!

Originally posted November 2009

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