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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Loving memories of a turkey and the woman who cooked it.....

..'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 the day...November 23. I can't remember what year it 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?


Jody V said...

Ah...memories..we all have them. Mine are of us getting in the car the day before and driving down the shore to my aunt's house. I was always so excited because I could help cook. My mom was not a good cook at all. I learned my best stuff from Aunt Carol.

Anonymous said...

I remember that very Thanksgiving you wrote of. It was a sad, sad day on our little street.
I'm sure you have many happy memories of Thanksgiving with your family over the years. One of my fav's is the year I forgot about the yeast rolls (Emma's recipe)in the oven and Gretchen or Dean yelled "Mom , The oven is on fire!!" No Proplem, that's what those small kitchen fire extinguishers are for. I give thanks for friends. Debbie

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

I was hoping you would say you ate the turkey.
Whatever happened to all her aprons?
My grandmother always had an apron on also. My cousin has them all. I guess my aunt(her mother) gave them all to her. They have been hanging in her dining room on hangers for over a year. Last year when they asked what I wanted for my 50th Birthday, I told them I wanted one of my nana's aprons. I wanted to get one framed and hang it in my kitchen.
She has at least 15 of them, so what's just one?
Don't know why, but I never did get an apron.
Oh well, I'll ask again on my 60th.

Great story.

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

By the way, my nana died in 1961 so it's not like they still couldn't bear to part with one!
They are hanging all washed, ironed and starched like she wore them yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Judy...I knew she died while cooking, but didn't realize it was Thanksgiving dinner! How could I NOT know that!
Anyway...I called my mom after reading your blog and read the whole thing to her. She is always telling stories about her Nunna Dip. It lead to a long phone call and a million stories of your lovely grandmother. My mom had similiar memories. And it was amazing to hear about this life-changing event from two different perspectives. She was wowed at all the detail you remembered. I love family stories. I should know more stories like that. Thanks!