November 24, 2011 – Thanksgiving Day
Today is an American holiday; Thanksgiving Day. Today we should all reflect on what we have and be thankful for them. In all actuality, we should be thankful every day. Some days are easier to feel thankful than others.
When the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11, a co-worker of mine said to me that we should feel sad for what we’ve lost, but also grateful for what we still have. No truer words were ever spoken. I’ve been reminded of that sentiment many times since then.
There are many loved-ones who’ve gone; family members who were so important in my life. Papa Joe, Daddy, Uncle Johnny, Uncle Sam, Jeffrey and Nana. I am so fortunate to have had them in my life as long as I did. It doesn’t mean that the pain of losing them has diminished; no, it hasn’t. I miss every one of them more and more with each passing day, and the holidays only intensify my feelings.
I am also grateful for the family members and friends who are alive, and are still a very important part of my life. Each one is so important to me, and I love them so very much.
For most of my life Thanksgiving dinner was at Nana’s house. I remember when we lived on Keap Street in Brooklyn; I used to go with Nana to the slaughter house so she could pick out her fresh turkey. Even today, I can still smell the place! Nana would watch them run around. When she decided on the turkey she wanted, she’d point it out and the guy would take it to the back to prepare it for us to take home. Nowadays, “fresh” turkeys are purchased in the supermarkets.
Nana cooked for hours and hours; preparing everything from the antipasto to the turkey and stuffing, to the coffee and dessert. When I was old enough I’d help her; rolling the cold-cuts on the serving plate, spooning out the Caponata, ladling the sausage and mushrooms into their serving bowls and setting the tables. The whole family was together and the house was noisy with kid’s laughter, the men watching the football game and the women in the kitchen telling each other which tables to put the food on. This senario played out every year; first on Keap Street in Brooklyn, then on Clarke Street on Long Island.
One year I took my sons to Manhattan the night before Thanksgiving. We met Jeffrey, had dinner with him, and then he took us to Central Park to watch them blow up the balloons. It was a chilly night. Recently, I asked Joseph and Andrew what they remembered most about that night. Andrew’s most vivid memory is watching Snoopy come to life as they filled him with helium. Joseph’s vivid memory is having dinner at the restaurant where Jeffrey worked and how good the food was, especially the onion soup with melted mozzarella cheese on top. My most vivid memory of that night was when we went back to Jeffrey’s apartment and had hot chocolate and relaxed. Jeffrey and I sat at the table and talked while the boys played with Petey, Jeffrey’s beloved dog.
Jeffrey was a terrific cook, and he made delicious Caponata. Here is his recipe:
- 1 medium eggplant with skin, diced into ½-inch cubes
- 1-2 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped
- 2 tbsp, capers, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup small pitted black olives
- 1/4 chopped celery
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt, Oregano, Basil, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°
In a large bowl, mix together diced eggplant, tomatoes, capers, celery olives, onions, olive oil, tomato paste and salt and spices
Place in a 9×12 oven proof baking dish
Bake for 35-45 minutes until eggplant is tender