• Cara Cilento

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been a time of friends, family and food. Recently, people started talking about how Thanksgiving has become a time of controversy. Between politics, COVID, and run of the mill family drama, people worry about how they will get through the one day of the year we are supposed to be thankful for each other.


How I did It


I remember that my family dinner table was always set even if no one was eating. My mom said a set table completed “the look” whatever that meant, but it did come in handy for the family Sunday dinner at 2 p.m. But on Thanksgiving, green placemats laid like mattresses waiting for the dishes to lay their weary heads. The cloth napkins were engaged to napkin rings, and they matched as if anyone would forget they were a pair. The silverware had carved wooden handles that had nothing to do with rest of the place settings. They were an important heirloom within our family, but I always thought their rusticity just accentuated the fact that my family ate like Vikings.


But let’s be real for a minute. All the placemats, fancy napkins and cutlery can’t cover up that holidays have been a source of stress way before the pandemic and divided political landscape. Imagine sitting at a table during the Vietnam war? The 60s? Think about it, the Revolutionary and Civil War divided families way before today and even I divided mine when I decided to come out of the closet on Thanksgiving. Yes, you read that correctly. I chose Thanksgiving to come out of the closet to a traditional Italian family, in the early 1990’s, over linguini, meatballs and a stuffed breast of veal called, panzetta.


Here’s how I remember it:

“I’m gay,” I said.

“What do you mean, you’re gay?” my father exclaimed.

“I’m gay, Dad, gay. Not happy gay, not ‘don we now our gay apparel’ gay, but lesbian gay,"

“I can’t eat," said my mother.

“Oh, come on. Don’t be dramatic. Where’s the panzetta?” said my grandfather.

“Your granddaughter said she’s gay and you want to eat?” said my grandmother.

“Don’t be dramatic, I said.”

“Look, it’s not a big deal...” I began but I was interrupted.

“Happy Thanksgiving. Cent’anni!” said my aunt. She toasted me. We all sat in silence as she stood and sipped her wine. Cent’anni means “May you live one hundred years in health”.

In that moment of silence, I like to think that my family remembered that Thanksgiving is supposed to honor the connectivity among individuals of all backgrounds. It is where I would like to place my energy this coming Thanksgiving. In these times, I believe that this day is more important than ever. It's a holiday that's ideal for spending time with family and friends while also expressing thanks for our many blessings.


Given everything that is going on in the world—as well as the instability, anxiety, and uncertainty that many of us are experiencing—there is no better time than right now to take a moment to reflect and express gratitude for everything that is wonderful. We must constantly remind ourselves of the necessity of incorporating thankfulness into our stream of consciousness, and we must remember that even when it appears that we have reached rock bottom, there is always the possibility that we may emerge on the other side stronger and better.


Thanksgiving serves as a gentle reminder to be thankful for all that brings me joy in my life, which includes my cherished family, friends, and coworkers, as well as my healthy lifestyle and overall well-being. Because it focuses on all things pleasant rather than materialistic incentives such as thoughtless gift-giving.

I wish you all a very enjoyable holiday.

Panzetta

You will need:

· 8-pound veal breast; have butcher cut a pocket at one end.

· 1 pound ricotta

· 2 eggs

· 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

· 1 tablespoon salt

· 1/2 tablespoon black pepper

· 3 pieces of sliced prosciutto, cut into strips

· 1/4 cup white raisins

· 1/4 cup pignoli nuts

Olive oil

Directions:

· Preheat oven to 375°F.

· In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 2 eggs, cheese, salt and pepper.

· Add prosciutto, white raisins, and pignoli nuts and mix well. If the mixture seems dry, add another egg; the mixture should be soft but not mushy.

· Stuff into pocket, spreading evenly.

· Close pocket with turkey trusses.

· Place veal in a baking pan and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper.

· Bake in preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 170°F.

· Cover with foil when top begins to brown.

· Let the roast stand for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Slice into serving-size pieces and arrange on a platter.


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