November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

to all!

For those of you who will be introducing Thanksgiving to the natives today, I would like to share some bits from a short story by Mandy Dowd, A Mediterranean Thanksgiving, Take Two which describes just this experience, but in Southern France. True to form, the guests she had originally invited cancelled at the last minute (not understanding the IMPORTANCE of this very particular meal) but she recuperated by inviting friends of friends to stop by and experiment this American tradition.

The food was ready and she was feeling like a proper host as she asked, "What would you like?" Her guests looked at the array of dishes on the table and replied,"I will try everything. Tell me, what does one eat first?" Only then did she realize what her guests were really asking, "Ah, I see. Well in the United States, we eat it all at once--I mean forkful by forkful, but there isn't really a starting place the way there is here in France. But, of course, we will have the pie after."

While the French feast is similar in many ways to an Italian one, the American feast is something quite different. They eat course after course while we bring it out all at once, overwhelming our foreign guests with the timing and mixing up of flavors. Mandy describes the French feast in which, "The appearance of gluttony is replaced with an idea of civilized dining." Instead she recalls her cultured and worldly aunt once following the Thanksgiving prayer with, "On your marks, get set, go."

So our crowning accomplishment of serving the entire steaming meal onto the table at once is exactly what confuses our foreign guests.

But the pie comes last, although her guests had eaten the baked yams at the end as a separate portion, assuming that this was the dessert. "The pie is special" explains Mandy, which her French guests interpret to mean "strange" -- never a compliment, "as what is strange to the French palate is on the whole unwelcome."

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner and be kind to the natives by prepping them in advance on the art of the American feast.

a domani (after a long swim to work off the pumpkin pie),
(last Thursday from the Gianicolo hill on my way back from an American Women's Association Thanksgiving lunch -- the turkey in the photo that tasted as good as it looks. Complimenti to the chefs at the Grand Hotel Parco dei Principe.)


sognatrice said...

I don't even try the whole shebang on the natives--I stick with my OH who picks and chooses what he'll try...this year, Sunday to be more precise, I have my fingers crossed for the sweet potatoes. But if he doesn't even want to try, it leaves more for me, so I don't mind ;)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jennifer said...

I thought the picture of the turkey was beautiful until I got to the photograph at the end. What a gorgeous shot!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Elizabeth Abbot said...

Thanks Jennifer, the light was incredible that day, just after the rain, and there was even the trace of a rainbow (more photos. I just happened to have my camera with me (for the turkey) and HAD to stop and oohhh ahhhh at my favorite view in all of Rome.

hi dreamer. I made a pumpkin pie last Christmas and practically ate it myself -- my men do not like the spices and texture. I say too bad for them!!

Anonymous said...

How much easier it is when cultural differences can be limited to turkey-stuffing-string beans-smashed potatoes (as they are called at Hard Rock Cafe)-cranberry sauce all on one platter covered in graving... but the pumpkin pie rigorously at the end on its own separate dish. Differences in food and eating habits can always bring a smile, and hopefully a sense of thanksgiving.

A good one to you too, Larc!


nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Your photos are beautiful.

I just spent my first Thanksgiving in Italy and it was fun.

Sara at Ms. Adventures recently wrote a post on how to explain Thanksgiving to your non-expat friends when you live in Italy.