..'tis the season....
Every time I think of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, I think of my Nana Dip who died basting her turkey one Thanksgiving morning. In fact, it happened many years ago...to the day...November 23. I can't remember what year it was...my mom was still living and I was young enough to be excited about the Macy's Day parade. I'll venture to say it was over 40 years ago. So, while Nana was up the street (she lived a few houses from us) basting her turkey and my mom was upstairs at our house putting on her pearls and my sisters and I were happily watching the parade on our RCA black & white console TV, it happened. The incident that has marked our family's Thanksgiving turkey cooking escapades for the rest of our lives. Like I told you....I come from a long line of very serious cooks. Our supreme matriarch and the originator of many of our most beloved Italian recipes--Antoinette Gianella DiPippa--took her last breath while preparing an American holiday meal for her family. It was her last act. Her final curtain. And, it couldn't have been more prolific. Naturally, it wasn't quite like that on that Thanksgiving day when it all happened. Who would have thought that 40-some years after my dear deaf mute Aunt Carmy banged on our door that cold November morning in a panic--motioning to us that her mother fell over the turkey, that I would blog about it? (for that matter...who would have known what a BLOG was!) It was just sad and confusing. But,now, many many years later...I know that every Thanksgiving turkey my cousins and I pull out of our ovens, we think of Nana Dip and her final moment--basting a turkey for all of us. And, you know....we ate Nana's turkey that day. When all the crying and the panic and the phone calls and the people coming and going and the decisions on what she'd wear in her casket were done, my mom and her sisters and brothers took that turkey over to my Aunt Congie's. Then, we all sat down to eat it--amid the tears and the loss--we did what every other American did that day--we ate. Afterall, it was Thanksgiving and Nana had made us a turkey. With sausage stuffing.
My Nana was one of those stout Italian women with long black hair with a whip of grey that she wore tightly coiled in a braid at the nape of her neck. It was the longest hair I had ever seen. My Aunt Carmy would wash it for her and brush it with a big wooden paddle brush using long strokes. When it was sunny and warm, they would do it in the backyard under the grape arbor. With great fascination, I would watch the procedure of brushing it and putting it into a long braid that draped down to her waist. Nana's hair would glisten in the sunlight---a sight I would marvel at as I pranced about my Papa's garden a few feet away. All of my girlfriend's grandmothers had short hair or updos. No one I knew over the age of 20 had long hair. Except my Nana. And, the only time I saw it uncoiled is when she was having it brushed. My Nana always wore a dress with a full apron over top of it. She had 18 carat gold earrings she brought from Italy in her ears and her slim gold wedding band on her finger. That was enough jewelry for her. She wore support hose and black chunky shoes with laces. (clearly, I didn't inherit my love of fashion, shoes and baubles from her!) No matter if she was washing windows, sweeping the sidewalk or cooking the Thanksgiving turkey--that's what she wore. I always thought she slept like that too. There was never any fan fare about her. As far as I knew--she spent most of her time in her tiny kitchen creating that aromatic deliciousness that would fill her house and the rest of her time yelling at my Papa (grandfather) in Italian. Years later, I found out that she wasn't really yelling--it just always sounded that way--my grandfather was hard of hearing. But, growing up, I just figured that the only way to talk Italian was to yell. I thought Italian and loudness were one in the same. No one in my family ever spoke Italian softly. But, that was okay. It was the way it was.....oh so long ago.
What are your turkey memories?