Real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner?

A Real Italian

Real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner

This morning I started planning Thanksgiving dinner, of course, with an Italian flair. Out of curiosity, I searched to see if there was anything out there that even slightly resemble what I grew up with and heard about.  Guess what?  Not-a-one.  Let me introduce you to what a real Italian Thanksgiving dinner is like from before soup to past nuts:

1. Appetizers

  • Pepperoni, wine-cheeses and crackers
  • Prosciutto and green olives as well as black olives that are dried and then soaked in oil
  • Braided Buffalo Mozzarella with tomatoes and parsley gently sprinkled on it
  • Stuffed mushrooms (these were Frankie Boy’s favorite) —

Oh in the Italian culture, sometimes junior is known as boy or sonny.  My brother (age 57) hates being called Frankie Boy now.  However, in my family, he is Francesco’s son, so from now till forever, he is Frankie Boy.  And no one, I mean no one, likes calling him that more than me.)

  • Sometimes you may also have stuffed clams
  • Sausage in the oil
  • Also, at this phase of the event, drinks include things like Rob Roys, Manhattans, Scotch, Compari or Martinis

2. First Course

  • Soupa escarole – if it has the little meatballs in it, it’s Italian Wedding Soup.
    •   Another option is pastina, escarole and shredded chicken soup.

Also on the table are Lupini beans, more olives, hard crust Italian bread, and butter as well as home-grated Parmesan cheese and dried roasted red pepper flakes. *The cheese can be sprinkled in the soup or on the bread. 

This is eaten as all the minor sides are passed around.  I’d like to tell you these are only cups of soup, but they are not.  The bowls are large and deep,

Some might have wine at this point.  For us, it’s usually a bottled water such as Pellegrino.

3. Second course

You’d think now is the time for Turkey.  Not yet!  Now it’s time for Lasagna.  With the lasagna, is sauce-soaked meatballs, bracciola, sausage and possibly egg balls.  Sauce is usually in a gravy boat, because we love it.

An antipasto is put on the table too.    Antipasto in my family, was lettuce with tomatoes, prosciutto and olives as well as homemade oil and vinegar dressing.  Some families save the salad for after all the courses.  Mine didn’t.  Here, it’s a side dish.

Now the wine comes out.  Some families have a jug wine … Carlo Rossi perhaps.  If you go with bottled wine, it’s a Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.  These are hearty and pair well with the sauce.

4. Third course

Stuffed artichokes which is a mess when you have a table full of people with the artichoke dish and the leaf bowls.

5.  Fourth course — The Key course of a Real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner

Finally, turkey!

The turkey is brought to the table on a wooden dripping board.  This is where the ceremonial carving takes place.

As the patriarch of the family becomes a Samurai Warrior sharpening the knife on the honing stick, all the sides come out.

That’s right; more food.

Mashed potatoes with butter and mozzarella inside, roasted potatoes in oil, and candied yams, squash (both mashed and in the gourd), cranberry jelly, crescent rolls, stuffing, garlic green bean casserole (no funions on top) and gravy are some of what you find.

Another gravy boat for the gravy? But, heck no!  You’ll find  gravy is put in a bowl with a silver ladle spoon.

Here’s the trick, gravy is spread as a gentle drizzle while sauce is a generous pour. That’s how we roll.

Wines are on the table, same as before.  My dad also likes having peaches in his wine at this point in the meal.  Why,  because it cleanses the palate.

My dad also says Rinfreschi il palato tra una portata e l’altra.  I guess when you transition from Italian food to Italian food, you have to get your palate ready for the change.

Drum roll, carving of the turkey begins.  Relatives call out what piece of the turkey they want.  Cousin Sal is always first to call dibs on the leg and Frankie Boy calls the other one.

6. Fifth course

Dessert?  No not yet.

Time for roasted chestnuts, almonds and hazelnuts as well as walnuts are served. These are accompanied by the demitasse coffee and black coffee with the Sambuca and Anisette.

Let’s not forget the biscotti for dunking.

You’d think people would run out of things to talk about, but nope.  The conversation, singing and laughing is just beginning.

7. Sixth Course

Dessert?  Yes!

You have pumpkin pie, apple pie, blackberry pie, pecan pie, gelato, and whipped cream.

This course is accented with cordials such as Galliano,  Crème de cacao, Chambord, Amaretto,  Crème de menthe and Curaçao.

Shh, we also had Baily’s Irish Cream.  Don’t tell anyone.

Do you think people are drunk and ready to bust?  No, it’s just time for a short break.

8. All the men watch a few quarters of football

They may nap too, but they always unbutton their pants temporally.  It’s supposed to be a secret, but we all know.

9. Home movies

When we were young, we’d get the super 8 camera, put up a portable screen and watch the events and family reunions from the last year.  Now we are using wifi and linking the computer to the big screen TV.

I like the super 8 events better.  It feels more nostalgic.  In a storage unit, I have all the old super 8 films and slides because there also used to be slide shows.

9. More Soup

That’s right!  Now there is turkey soup with pastina, more bread and more drinks and the ability to sample anything eaten at any point during the day.

By this time we’ve gone from about noon to 10 pm.

Time for the card game to start.

The night it isn’t over until someone is practically falling asleep at the table.

Once that happens, everyone decides which kids are sleeping over and which are going home and finding out who is coming over the next day for left overs.

Because we do it in an edited version the next day too.


Every family has some variations here and there, but this, in essence, is a real Italian Thanksgiving Dinner.

If anyone tells you that an Italian Thanksgiving includes dishes made with saffron or any other fad spices, they are not Italian.  They are wannabes or trying to sell a cookbook.

Happy Thanksgiving week.


What’s your Thanksgiving tradition?









Country Music – Not Always Southern

Northern Country

Country Music – Not Always Southern

If you listen to some Country Music, whether Johnny Cash or Miranda Lambert, you hear songs about Georgia, Texas, Alabama, etc.   You also hear about huntin’, fishin’, pickup trucks, dirt roads, cornfields and porch swings.  Well let me tell you about what it’s like to live in the Northeast.  Almost 90% (89.4) of the Northeast is non-Urban.  It is farms, mountains and undeveloped property.   As for pickup trucks, Ford 150 followed by the Chevy Silverado are some of the most purchased vehicles.   So where is the Country Music from the Northeast? Because it’s not only Southern.

Why It’s Not Only Southern

Most of you know I grew up in a small city (60K) and small town (300).  So farm land, Adirondack mountains, and cool natural nooks were everywhere. 

My brother had a black standard Ford pick-up.  One of my cousins brought me to a party in a cornfield.  The local swim club in my town was actually a pond.  Another cousin had a farm where I milked a cow.

My friends (not me) would race and speed their cars through the winding roads around a gorge.  There we’d meet new people from other local towns and made immediate friends.  And, no there was no Cello Lambrusco or beer (yuk) to accelerate the friendships.  🙂

And, something few people know, I was given a ticket once for fishing without a license.  I was really holding it for a friend.  Funny, but true.  The ticket was contested and the matter dismissed.  BTW – The magistrate took this event very seriously. 

Another time, I came home, pressed the button to open our garage door; and there was a deer hanging with blood on the hole on its chest.  I screamed and closed the door.  A deep laugh could be heard through the door.  Frank, my brother, enjoyed grossing me out.

Since I mentioned Frank, he used to hunt with gun and bow; and even fish with a bow.

Sound Country?

Uhhh, yeah.   So where is the country music from Upstate NY.  The only thing that came close was American Pie.  That’s only because it mentioned a levy and a Chevy.

The soundtrack of Upstate included some southern rock (Lynrd Skynrd), pop music (I won’t write Madonna, but will write Phil Collins), progressive (Rush) and hair bands like Bon Jovi.  Not too different from other places.


A few years ago, an article was written in the Washington Post outlining that the Northeast is embracing country music to the point it could overtake local music.

Gotta thank the marketers for getting us to like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton and more.

There has to be new talent in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest that contribute to the country music scene.  These areas have large areas many would describe as country.

Think about it … Australia is even represented in the country music scene.

Some music scouts and marketers need to get up North and even-out the playing field.

It’s Possible

Across North America, people now have eclectic music taste.  People may have a genera they favor, but they are open to new music too. 

Let me say it again, the north is under-represented in the Country category.  

Record labels, scouts and marketers … take a plane north and change that.  The financial payoff and contribution to the evolution of music will remember you as innovators.

Just Some Country Music Fun Facts

Other than Sawyer Brown, the kid who won the Voice a few years ago; and New Jersey born Clint Black, there are no big music acts from the region.

As reported by Wide Open Country, here is the list of famous country music artists by Northeast states.  I only knew a couple.  Most are songwriters or studio musicians.

Connecticut – The Carpenters.  Are they country?

Maine – Patty Griffin (mostly songwriter)

New York – Pete Seeger – Song Writer (If I Had a Hammer)

New Hampshire – Tom Rush (known from work in the 1960s)

Vermont – Grace Potter (she wrote “You and Tequila Make Me Crazy”.  Just born there)

Massachusetts – Jo Dee Massina

Rhode Island – Billy Gilman (our state is so small we only have a tween as our famous act).

Top 10 Per Capita Music States

The 10 you’ve been waiting for. The states where country music has a firm place in the past and in the future.

10. Pennsylvania Of all the Northeastern States, Pennsylvania definitely has the largest country music appeal.  They get to claim Taylor Swift.  That’s a skew.

9.Mississippi Not Just Elvis Presley, Mississippi has produced countless country music stars, most notably Charley Pride and Faith Hill. 

8.Arkansas Johnny Cash – enough written.

7.Missouri -Mostly because of Branson.

6.West Virginia “Take Me Home Country Roads” by pop country artist (John Denver).  It has one of the largest country stations in the nation.

5.Georgia – Zac Brown Band, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan – all native Georgians. And you can’t forget superstars like Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt or Trisha Yearwood. Georgia is much more than just peaches.

4.Kentucky – For a state that’s known for bluegrass, it also delivered Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, The Judds, and Montgomery Gentry. 

3.Oklahoma – There was a time, about 10-15 years ago, when  Garth Brooks, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire were topping the charts, it was ‘the’ top state for Country.

2.Tennessee – Nashville is the center of commercial country music, and also the place where the Country Music Hall of Fame, all its famous honky-tonks, the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium are located. 

1.Texas While country music is a way of life in Texas. There are no other places with as many country music concerts, nightclubs, small town Opry shows and legends). And it’s also the only state to have an independent country scene apart from Nashville. 

One of my most-Boston friend is married into a family of doctors, lawyers and investment bankers from Dallas.  Every weekend they’d go to a rodeo.

The Real Deal

You can easily find me at a cool restaurant or shopping as you can hiking or enjoying a lake-side picnic.  

Because of Chip, I have gone to a bunch of country concerts.  You know what, whether the venue is 5K people or 80K (think that’s what you can fit in Gillette Stadium), country concerts are low tech, friendly and genuine … other than the jumbotron.

Let’s hope there are some smart marketers who are willing to visit cozy country bars in the North and find talent.

If you have a country concert, open spaces or music favorite story, tell us about it.  I bet you have ones much better than mine.

Please share this post.  Your friends may like it.








Watermelon Cold in The Stream – Good Thing

Watermelon Cold in the Stream – Good Thing

In the grocery store today, I passed the watermelon and then fresh basil; and a bunch of 4th of July and summer memories popped in my head.  

Some of you know, I grew up in the Adirondacks in small (I mean under 200 people) town and a small city.   It made me decide to set aside the post I had ready; and just share some things that make me think of summer.  Most of them revolve around our lake house, we called it camp. 

It was 35 minutes from our house.  That’s how we roll upstate.

We did have a fridge in camp and all other modern features, but with all the Italian and American food in it, the watermelon couldn’t fit.  Yet, still needed to be cool.  So it went in between the rocks with the cold water flowing over it for a couple days.  (no bears ever got it)

In the moving water in the Adirondacks, lake temperature ranges between 53 to 65 degrees.  Some can get up to 73.  So, the watermelon was in good care.

When it was cut into slices, it was cold, sweet and delicious.  An event worth the wait.  It’s the same level event as cutting a Thanksgiving turkey.

Hot Spring



Across from our camp was a small island.  It’s about 40 ‘ x 15’.  Somehow in the middle of it, there is a small hot spring.  We would wade through the cold, water climb the rocks and sit in the pool.  We didn’t know that years later people actually paid to do things like that.  Not sure. but I do not think it preserved my skin all that much.  Ok, not at all.  

Never occurred to us to bring watermelon over there.  Bet that would have been good.

The Rocks

Around our camp’s shoreline and in the water to the island, the floor was covered in rocks.  We used to have to wear old stringless, Keds and Converse to protect our feet.  Over the course of years our parents cleared all the rocks leaving a smooth, water floor.

When we skipped stones, it defeated the purpose, but it gave our parents something to do.

The rocks at the shoreline had some spots were they jetted out into the water.  This gave us an opportunity to scale the boulders.  And, my cousins would fish there.  However, rarely were any fish caught.  Not for a lack of trying.  The camp’s shed had at least 15 old rickety fishing rods.

4th of July 1976

This was my cousin’s Sal’s 15th birthday.  You’d think after 15 years of a total of 5 fish being caught, he’d not give up the 4th festivities to fish.  

The night before, he went out and collected a bunch of nightcrawlers….ewww

He was ready.  After the traditional pancake breakfast made by my Uncle Sal,  he went out to the rocks near the middle of the lake and sunk his hook between two of the boulders. 

Doesn’t sound like a good approach; does it?

He did not fish near the watermelon … just sayin.

Well on his 15th birthday, he caught 15 Sun Fish.   When he got number 8, he was thrilled and didn’t think he’d catch anymore.  By 3 in the afternoon, he had caught the 15th one.  He tried until the dusk; and didn’t catch any more.

Thank God we never threw out (or cleaned out) the camp’s shed.

Basil Behind Dad’s Ear

The final summer memory that hit me in the grocery store, was my dad keeping basil behind his ear when he gardened.

There wasn’t much gardening that took place at camp, but at our house, we had a true garden. 

In his garden, Dad raised tomatoes, dandelion lettuce, endive, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, eggplant, onions and pumpkins.  

And, along the back side of the house, he’d grow herbs … parsley, basil, oregano, chives and I’m sure several more too.

He loved his garden.  It was his sanctuary after work and on the weekends.  He weed a little everyday.  And, he’d frequently move the dirt around the plants.  Not sure why,  Maybe move the air around it after he watered?  No idea really.

But he wore a piece of sweet basil behind his ear and a cloth, rust, baby fedora on his head.

In Italian tradition, men would wear basil behind their ears as they courted women.  Before going to meet the object of their affection, they would take a deep inhale of the basil.  And, luck would be theirs.

The scent was supposed to be sweet and enticing.  

Maybe my dad was a romantic.  Or my mom wasn’t. lol

There are tons of other summer memories that I can share, but these are the ones the grocery store brought me today.

Your Memories

Tell me about your favorite summer memory.  Or, share your last trip to the grocery store.  I’m shocked how little you get for $112. lol

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Rocketman – Wish I Left Singing

Rocketman - Leave Singing

Rocketman – Wish I Left Singing

After the excitement while watching Bohemian Rhapsody, we were ready to see Rocketman, the Paramount-produced Elton John story.  We thought we would leave skipping and running to the car to listen to Elton’s (born Reginald Dwight) music.  That we would carry that enthusiasm, not just that day, but for days.  Elton John was a childhood favorite.  I know the words to almost every song.  Fun awaited.

Also, a childhood crush was Bernie Taupen; Elton John’s writing partner (I go for the sensitive, creative types.  Chip, the scientist, is now cringing).  Well, Rocketman was excellent, but it was a story with many tense moments and new learnings on Elton John.  In fact the first speaking part of the movie has John in a meeting within his addict safety circle.

Give My Regards to Broadway

Before I go too far into the movie’s yays, I need to do one nay.   The movie opens with a big chorus-type ensemble singing and dancing through a carnival.  Not sure why they were at a carnival.  To me, it was contrived and didn’t add value to the story or kickoff the main idea.  As soon as I saw it, I thought, this was written to go to Broadway eventually

This movie is kicking off a marketing, merchandising and licensing effort.  Once I got passed that, I was able to enjoy the show.  However, a few points in the movie, I said Well that costume will look good on stage.

Elton John Is a Musical Prodigy

Yes, Elton John is a rock genius, but he was a child prodigy; a true musical virtuoso.  Starting from 3 years old, he could play any music he heard.  No matter how complex the song was, he could play it in seconds.  

This amazing talent won him a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music when he was 11.  You’d have thought he’d have gone complex classical music, but nope.

At 11, I was playing badminton in my backyard with my brother’s friends.  My piano teacher was not impressed in my choices over practice time.

The young actor, Kit Connor, played the young Elton.  Not only was it great casting from a look-a-like perspective, but he had perfect pitch.  When he sang, you’d be in awe.  And, his voice is appropriately sweet.  You feel the youth and innocence as well as loneliness and longing.

The Royal Academy of Music

… is a UK college with Undergraduate and Graduate programs. 

The whole school only trains 700 students at a time.  Their student body is from 50 different countries. 

This is the best of the best internationally. 

Elton John was 7 years younger than their first level students.  No wonder he looked scared to death when he first arrived and was thrown immediately into his studies.

Our Rocketman Was Admittedly Gay From The Get Go

Because, he was married; I thought he realized his orientation during his marriage. Another thing I was wrong about is … I thought he was married to Kiki Dee.   He was actually married to record producer, Renate Blauel.  Throughout the movie, she is the only person who was shown in a single dimension.  A kind person, who gave only love and support to John.  

As soon as he began playing backup music around England, he was expressing his sexuality openly.  Maybe not publicly, but openly.  

I have seen many movies and shows with gay, likable characters. 

In this movie, was the first time I ever saw a gay love scene equivalent to what you may see in the HBO versions of Sex in the City. 

It was tasteful, meaningful and a needed part of the story to show the true intimacy of his relationship with Jack Reid. 

It may have been done before, but I have never seen something like it.  It was a breakthrough moment in film.   

As my relatives in Italy say, “Love is just love.” 

His Search for Love

Other than his grandmother, John’s family was disengaged and unemotional.   The whole family lived practically on top of each other in a compressed two-story home.  His mom flaunted her infidelity.  John’s dad disappeared from time to time.  When he was home he was cold, strict and stoic to the point that I wondered if he was sadistic.  His dad remarried after his parents divorced.  He had two sons and treated them with love and support.  A shock and hard for John to accept.

All little Reg wanted was a hug from his dad and some non-gratuitous attention from his mom.

However, if John wrote a song, his grandmother thought it was fantastic and encouraged for him to play it when they were in pubs or other random places where there was a piano.  John was frequently reluctant and sometimes ridiculed.  More often than not, people came around.

Bernie Taupen – A Good Guy

A record talent scout and producer put an adv out looking for song writers.  After some mixing and matching, the producer paired Taupen and John.  They met for a bit in a coffee shop.  During that long, exhilarating chat, they decided to write music together via mail.  Bernie would send lyrics and John would immediately put them to music.

However, they did struggle some making their way.  Someone suggested all the great writing pairs lived together.  So they found a flat and immersed themselves in friendship and music.

Once their work got some traction, it became wild fire.  They created a brotherhood.  One of unconditional trust.  This carried through their lives, rise to success, John’s overcoming addiction; and reuniting to write together to this day.  

Watch the movie, you’ll probably agree, Taupen was the only normal person in his life.  

Why Do Many Famous People Get Used

During the movie, John gives his trust to a man named John Reid.  They were lovers for 5 years; then, client and manager.  Reid became incredibly controlling of John.  Almost to the point of isolation.

I wish I could remember how many stories exist like this.  Someone gets famous and someone close to them isolates them and exploits them.   Then, boom, the star sees the light and kicks the manager out in an abrupt action.

The theory I have is that gaining that level of fame is overwhelming.  The star needs a buffer; space to breathe.  This person creates a false safety.


Elton John was about every kind of addict you can be … alcoholic, drug, sex, eating,  but not gambling.

Addiction was the anchor of the movie.  All the stories bounce off his confessions in his addiction meetings.

The tongue-in-cheek part of the movie was how he would confess in a meeting something like …. Bernie and I never fought.  Then they would show scenes of them disagreeing.

The songs also bounced off these stories; in many instances, it seems as if Taupen was writing his observations of what was happening in John’s life.  Almost a passive way of giving him advice.

Although the songs are high-energy and his stage presence so elaborate, behind the glitz was a very different man with many struggles. 


As the movie works it’s way through John’s young life to the present, you see this sadness and not a celebration of his success.

The Magic Ending

Because there was so much darkness in the Rocketman story, I couldn’t decide if I really liked Rocketman or not.  It was a good story and I learned a lot about different lifestyles; music and loves.

However, all of a sudden you see a moment building and it happens.  I won’t tell you what it was, but the whole story comes together in this one moment and event.

Then, I loved the movie; was touched by the story, felt sad that any human had to go through his challenges.

Usually, I have no problem telling the key moment of a movie, but this one is an experience.   You have to see and feel it yourself.  

Time to Sing

Rocketman is a surprise.  But I don’t think it’s “going to be a long long time” until it goes to Broadway.


Oh … One Last Thing

When I was in junior high, I got the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album for my birthday.  My brother took it and gave it to a girl he liked.  I ran into her a few years ago; she still has it and offered it to me.  I said thank you but she should keep it.   That’s also been a long. long time.

If you like this post, please share it.  Or, tell us what your favorite Elton John song is.