As a child, I never enjoyed Thanksgiving. In my family, I always saw it as a very sexist holiday where the females would cook from sunrise to sunset, while the males would lounge around on the couch drinking beer, watching football, and complaining about how late the meal would be served. When we would finally sit down at the table, dinner always involved a generous portion fighting, followed by overeating and self-loathing.
By default, when I moved away for college, I stopped celebrating this "holiday." I'd travel somewhere exotic or just bury myself in my studies and pretend it didn't exist. I wasn't missing anything anyway.
Things are a different now. I'm surrounded by a boyfriend who has no qualms about cooking, supportive friends, and people who have never raised their voice at the dinner table.
This year, I wasn't able to travel, so for the first time ever, I decided to host Thanksgiving, or rather Friendsgiving.
There is just one little - how do I say it... roadblock: I live in Italy! Never in my life have I ever seen a sweet potato, cranberry, or whole turkey in this country.
3 Weeks Before
Pick a location
In this case, my apartment is the most suitable. It has an oven, stove, and a dining table (though, not very big). It is okay to spread out some dishes, such as appetizers or desserts, on the coffee table. It is also okay to eat on the couch, or even the floor.
Decide who to invite
Instead of printing out invitations, I went with a private Facebook group. I'm saving paper and avoiding overly active texting group chats. Sometimes, I feel terrible when I can't invite everyone. I must remind myself that my apartment is not infinite in size and I can't realistically fit twenty people in it.
Delegation is key
I have a lovely group of friends. That being said, if things are not delegated to them specifically, they tend to not delegate individually. I made a checklist with all the food and materials I would need, and anyone who is coming is supposed to write their name by at least one item on the list. No food repeats and no mooching friends. For some reason, everyone always wants to make potatoes. Make sure only one person has each dish. Green vegetables? Check. Squash? Check.
2 Weeks Before
Find the Recipes
This is where things began getting tricky. I wanted my mother's cranberry chutney, but cranberries don't exist in Italy. I wanted pumpkin pie, but pie crust and pumpkin pie filling is rare here. Luckily, I came across an American store here in Rome which sold pumpkin pie filling and Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. My boyfriend was just going to have to pray that those cheddar biscuits transported themselves here, as we couldn't find a block of cheese.
Not everything works out perfectly like in the USA. Like I said before, cranberries are impossible to find. Certain recipes just don't work out. But that doesn't mean that Thanksgiving is ruined. Make do with what you can find. I had never tried this before, but one of my British friends brought over Camembert with apples.
1 Week Before
Send out a reminder
"Hey! Don't forget to come over on Thursday with food!" or whatever else sounds nice and also authoritative.
Buy the foods which won't rot quickly.
Potatoes, frozen vegetables, and wine. For me, this meant taking a trip to a specialty import store to pick up pumpkin pie filling and Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. We have one friend who has Celiac disease, so we were in awe when we found gluten free biscuit mix here.
1 Day Before
Get the turkey! We had to go to a butcher and specially order it. But, the 20 pound turkey was worth the extra effort. After all, what is Thanksgiving without turkey?
Wake up early and begin cooking!
Our kitchen is smaller than I am used to, but we made it work by being extra efficient. My boyfriend chopped the peppers and onions for the turkey chili, while I sipped my coffee. Then I washed dishes. He then made the green beans, I washed dishes. Next, he coated slices of zucchini in Parmesan cheese. When people began to eat, I popped the pumpkin turnovers in the oven for dessert.
Last but not least....
Have everyone share what they are thankful for. Don't let this aspect of the holiday slip through the cracks. It really helped my friends and I become closer. With all the stress of cooking and trying to have a perfect day, it can be easy to forget the real reason for putting in so much effort.
What are your opinions? Did we do a good job?
Curious to learn our recipes?