I’m sitting in my living room, staring down the hallway that inexplicably comprises most of my house. There is laundry to be done, rugs to be cleaned, and wine glasses to wash. The heater in my dining room is only blowing cold air.
Shit needs to get done or Thanksgiving will be noThanksgiving.
But it will get done. Because it always does. Thanksgiving is never without incident in my home, a tradition that started, oddly, in Italy.
My best friend lived in Rome for some time. One year, fed up with my Thanksgiving options, she said, “Come to Rome! We have an American Thanksgiving here for my friends, who know nothing from American Thanksgiving so they have no idea I don't know what I'm doing! Also, don’t even think about picking up a pan, I will be doing ALL THE COOKING.”
I packed my digital thermometer and two boxes of Stove Top, and Thanksgiving morning, I was on a flight. Imagine trying to explain to the customs agent in Italian what Stove Top is. Tara met me at the gate and explained, somewhat upset, that she’d made an error. She had not ordered a Turkey. As it was now Friday, I assured her, “This isn’t a problem! It's after Thanksgiving, all the turkeys will be on sale.”
People, its a big fucking problem. Turkey, or tacino, is not something one just “picks up” in Italy. It’d be like ordering a penguin for dinner in the US.
You’re gonna need “a guy.”
We didn’t have a guy. So we dropped my stuff and started visiting every butcher we could in the vain hopes of finding a damned turkey. After all those years bemoaning such a tasteless, dry bird (maybe the Italians are onto something here), we’d have sold our souls to get ahold of one.
We found a lovely man who I estimated to be 503 years old at the open air market. He assured us he had a turkey and we should return tomorrow. How big did we want? Tara conducted the whole transaction in Italian, but I caught the “6 kilos.” Turkey in Italy is insanely expensive, and even if you were Daddy Warbucks, ovens are the size of microwaves. THERE ARE LIMITS, PEOPLE.
So pleased we were with ourselves, we immediately availed ourselves of the nearest red wine. I’d like to perpetuate the idea that in Rome, every square foot is filled with either red wine dispensaries or nuns. It is not altogether inaccurate.
The next morning, we practically skip to the market. I was enjoying trying to negotiate for some romanesco at a stand while Tara went off to collect the bird. At some point I realized it had been a while, so I went off to find her.
When my best friend is in crisis, there are a few signs. Other people’s brows furrow and get angry. Tara goes into Dodo bird mode. She literally flaps her hands, shoulders hunched, in a sad attempt to take flight away from whatever is upsetting her, and talks in Italian a million miles an hour. There is no way of negating TaraGoesDodoBird except to step in. No one seemed angry, just upset.
“What is the problem here?”
Tara looked at me. “IT IS (flap) 18 KILOS! (flap flap)”
“18 kilos, what’s the big...(math)...HOLY FUCKBALLS THAT IS A 38 pound TURKEY.”
“(Flapping and nodding)”
“ARE WE SURE IT IS A TURKEY? WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY FEEDING IT?!?!?!”
Now we are both flapping.
The guy felt terrible, it was apparently his only turkey. After a cursory Q and A regarding laws for use of anabolic steroids in farm animals, we establish that he is more than willing to cut the turkey in half. Tara is crushed, as the moment the turkey leaves the oven, roasty and brown as her friends ooh and ahh in what I assume is an Italian accent, is her moment in the sun.
“It’s going to be FINE,” I assure her. I mean, I assume. Who even knows if half of this space alien will fit in her tiny oven? We agree to this scheme and everyone takes a deep breath.
The farmer lays out this intensely massive bird and takes out what is easily a saber, raises it and we both immediately realize he will be cutting it the wrong way, essentially giving us a 20 pound turkey ass.
Commence wild arm flapping.
We managed to stop him, and get him to cut the turkey into mirror images, which he carefully wrapped up for us. We trudged home, both exhausted, Tara carrying the turkey as if it were a toddler, on her hip, legs dangling.
When we arrived home, she looked at me, took out a cigarette and muttered, “So you’re cooking, right?”
It wasn't even my worst Italian moment that week -- before I left I spent a day walking in out and of stores, I thought, asking for glass pens, but really, asking for glass penises.
Point being, if I can find a turkey in Rome, I can probably solve your Thanksgiving cooking crisis. Lay it on me!
Do potatoes put you in a rut? Is your gravy just the pits? Worried about what to serve your lacto-ovo gluten-free kosher vegetarian guest (the door, I say)?
WE ARE HERE TO LISTEN. I invite my fellow #xofood writers to join in.
Non c’è di che.