Thanksgiving at the in-laws’ house yesterday proceeded exactly as expected, which is to say: “not well.” The Mrs. insists I should jump for joy merely because, for once, none of her family members clamored to disown me. I may’ve been thinking I should be so lucky, but I diplomatically limited my response to: “Small consolation for ruining one of my favorite holidays.”
Fact was the day began badly and went downhill from there. I’d decided to contribute my most beloved Thanksgiving side dish, string bean casserole, to the family repast. I’d followed the classic recipe almost to a tee, with the exception of the main ingredient. Though the Gambinos cook their vegetables almost beyond recognition, they refuse to eat anything but fresh greens. So I substituted fresh string beans for the canned ones specified in the recipe. A fatal mistake, it turned out. As I learned, if a chef uses fresh beans, he needs to add extra water to the mix. Otherwise, he ends up with a congealed undercooked mess, like I did.
Disappointingly, the Italian family I’d married into cared nothing for the loss of a holiday mainstay from the menu. Sophia’s parents didn’t seem any more unhappy to see me empty-handed than they normally do when I arrive.
The only aspect of Thanksgiving I love as much as the food is football. Knowing the Gambino living room sports a 55-inch LED flat screen, I’d looked forward to camping out on their couch for the afternoon taking in the NFL contests. Instead, I arrived to find cable news airing. The closest I came to seeing a gridiron slugfest was footage of violence erupting during a Thanksgiving Day parade.
Bereft of football, I had nothing positive to anticipate than dinner itself. At the least, I knew my very favorite dishes, turkey and stuffing, would make their appearance. I’d begged Sophia to ensure that the Italian cornucopia included those holiday mainstays, and I’d overheard a conversation with her mother confirming their addition to the menu at my request. Once I had my fill of good ole’ turkey and stuffing, I knew I’d walk away content.
When we sat down to dinner, the women piled the table with a veritable bounty. But every dish I spotted seemed Italian: an antipasto platter; severely overcooked asparagus in olive oil and garlic; marinated fennel and olives; and lasagna. Fearing my mother-in-law had reneged on her promise, I testily blurted: “Where’s the turkey and stuffing?”
My mother-in-law looked at me like I had a penis spouting from my forehead. Pointing to two separate platters, she replied: “They’re right there.” She proceeded to name the dish containing unidentified meat swimming in a red sauce, served on a bed of linguini: “turkey cacciatore.” And the second plate, featuring baked bell peppers filled with a mixture of chopped eggplant, zucchini, leaks, garlic, ham, and grated Parmesan cheese? Why, “stuffed peppers” of course … “just like you wanted,” Maria added.
Two traditional Thanksgiving delicacies?