A child of immigrants looks back at giving thanks their way
My parents were southern Italian immigrants from a tiny mountain village where no one ever heard of the American Thanksgiving holiday. Anyone who had could surely relate to the idea of a big family dinner with special food. They had all kinds of festival dinners with specific foods for that particular celebration: La Vigilia, the feast of the seven fishes, for Christmas Eve; ricotta pie and homemade ravioli for Easter, pizzele and torrone at Christmas. So my parents got it, this idea of a traditional American menu. They just didn’t have any idea of what was a traditional American menu for Thanksgiving. In the late fifties and early sixties, Italian food hadn’t yet achieved its superstar status among foodies, because foodies hadn’t been invented yet. In that pre-internet, pre-cell phone, three-networks-only era, what Americans knew of Italian food was pizza, Chef Boyardee canned ravioli, Franco-American canned spaghetti and aerated tricolor spumoni. My Italian parents knew that they were now living in America and that they should celebrate Thanksgiving like every other American. And they did. They celebrated the holiday in a way that would make any artisanal food-craving locavore genuflect in tribute.