Thanksgiving in February? I know it is a strange time to retell about my Thanksgiving adventures but it was such a great event I could not leave it outjust because I am a bit (ok, almost 3 months) tardy in posting about it. So without any further ado...
For Thanksgiving this year my friend, David, and I planned a dinner for 60 people!
The preparations started a month in advance and thankfully in that time we recruited about 10 people to help with the cooking - there were four people making pies, two on stuffing, one on vegetables and another on bread. We actually eneded up having so much help that I didn't have to cook anything. I was excited about that because cooking for others (especially 60 others) tends to make me a little (or a lot) anxious. I was happy to be the behind the scenes planner and also, later, the menu maker. So here is how the days and hours leading up to the dinner went:
Thursday November 25th (actual Thanksgiving day): It is strange to be outside of the US on Thanksgiving. It is just a normal day! No family gathering together or the smell of a bird roasting - just the usual, wake up, go to work, come home. This year it all threw me into a bit of an existential crisis of questioning what is real. Very dramatic, I know. I made it through work and then I headed home to start making the menus. For those of you that know me well, you know that I often take on really huge tasks with no ability to foresee how much work will be required - this is exactly what happened with the menus. David and I had the idea to make Turkey hands, like you did in kindergarten, and have them serve as the menu. I took this a step further - I traced my hand 60 times on brown construction paper and then Andrea and I proceed to cut them all out. Then I drew and cut out around 180 "feathers" out of red and orange construciton paper. I then glued these onto the turkeys along with yellow construction paper beaks. I also drew an eye on both sides of the turkeys. Then I typed up the menu and a description of what Thanksgiving meant to us. I printed these and then cut them out and glued them onto the turkeys. I was up until 2 am at which time I was forced to go to bed because I had run out of brown construction paper. The turkey menu making would have to continue the next day.
Friday November 26th: Work. After work I met David and some other helpers at the venue for the dinner (a sort of community center with a large room which served as our dining room and a huge industrial kitchen). David made a marinade for the birds out of 2 kilos (almost 5 pounds) of butter and paprika while Monica, a friend of ours, and I, a former vegetarian, pulled all of the leftover feathers out of the birds. Is it normal for whole birds to have feathers left in them? Then David proceeded to inject each of the birds with the marinade using a mad scientist looking syringe that he had specially ordered online.
With the birds all loaded up with butter and tucked into the refrigerators for the night we left and went for pizzas. Then I returned home to finish the turkey menus. I crawled into bed after 2 am with 60 completed menus and bruises on my hands from too much scissor use.
Saturday November 27th: Our Thanksgiving Day! Looking back now the day was oddly multicultural and very wirlwind. Andrea and I went by the kitchen around 11 am to drop off the menus and the cranberry sauce. We found David along with some other helpers already hard at work. Then Andrea and I had to go to Modena to take some of his clients to a rugby game. It was sunny and surprisingly warm at the game.
The game was enjoyable although often totally incomprehensible. Gosh, I thought I knew a little bit about rugby but it is a complicated game. Here in Itlay though I have learned that if you just scream the word "dai" (prounced amusingly enough as die) you will look like you know what is going on. The word in this context means, more or less, come on. It does not matter what is happening in the game, good or bad, people will be screaming "dai"! Italy defeated Fiji much to my surprise - not to be unpatriotic but the Fijians had a lot of size and weight on the Italians.
Then Andrea and I were off back to Bologna. We arrived at the hall around 6 and began preparing the dining room. Trying to arrange the tables to fit 60 people was like one of those bad jokes: how many Italians does it take... After much discussion and people speaking over one and another we arranged the tables and got them set just in time for the first guests to start arriving.
Frank and Pasquale manned the door and acted as our cashiers.
The funny thing about the Turkey menus is how culture specific they are. When the Americans saw them they all exclaimed, "Turkey hands! Like we made in Kindergarten!". The Italians on the other hand all said, "What are those?".
All of our guests came and mingled and found their seats.
We prepared the buffet.
Everything tasted amazing! People came back for seconds and even thirds. Then we had the dessert buffet complete with pumpkin and apple pie, homemade whipped cream and brownies.
Then we all went dancing.
Then we all went dancing.