GHOSTS OF THANKSGIVING PAST

My departure date was set for December 5. The decision to accept a job offer in Los Angeles had been sudden and, to try and get in an “American mood” and to celebrate my bidding goodbye to Italy, I thought it would be fun to celebrate Thanksgiving in Milan. At the time, my notions of what Thanksgiving was amounted to the pilgrims’ story and the celebratory turkey, a bird who never found its place in Italian cuisine.

My first task was to actually find an entire bird, possibly already cooked because I most certainly had no idea what to do with a whole turkey. I was also under the impression said turkey needed to be stuffed – I still haven’t come to grips with the idea of serving stuffing on the side, doesn’t the term in itself imply “being inside of something else”?

My first port of call was my neighbourhood butcher who, well-meaning, offered to procure me a whole turkey, but that would have left me alone with  a small oven and a bird I didn’t know how to handle. My second, brilliant idea was Peck.

Peck is the Tiffany of food emporia, what in Italy we call a rosticceria – all kinds of salumi, cheeses, condiments and other accoutrements can be purchased, as well as to- go dinners for when you are in a hurry or have a dinner party you can’t cook for. Located in the heart of Milan, its windows are an ode to abundance and can be downright mouth-watering.

The man behind the counter listened to my touching Thanksgiving story and seemed a bit stumped by the stuffing part – he then concluded he could get me a whole turkey stuffed with a chestnut filling. Although I don’t love chestnuts, it seemed like the best I was going to get and, after recovering from hearing the price, I placed my order.

Negotiating a whole turkey on the subway was a whole other endeavour I hadn’t bargained for but I somehow made it safe and sound, if a bit sore in my arms, to my boyfriend’s apartment where my friends were gathered for the occasion. Not knowing about cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, the rest of the meal was decidedly Italian but that giant turkey made us feel very American. And like self-respecting Americans, we ended up eating leftover turkey until the day I boarded the plane.

This Autumn, 16 years later, I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal all by myself. Usually I would contribute pecan and pumpkin pie to the family function I attended but this November I decided on a smaller affair at my house, with my personal twist on the meal. There was cranberry sauce and stuffing (on the side) but also a mashed potato gratin and roasted butternut squash with bacon. And it was perfect. Also, for the first time since I have been here, it felt truly mine.

 

For a look inside Peck, click here

 

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