November 28, 2006 I hope your Thanksgiving Holiday was fulfilling, and that the full filling feeling is long gone, along with any extra poundage. For dinner here in Sarnano, there were two Canadians by way of Boerne (long story) and five Americans. We managed the full turkey day feast, complete with pumpkin pie.
My butcher didn’t even blink this year when I ordered a whole turkey (tacchino intero). Turkeys are different over here. As opposed to the Butterball types, this one appeared capable of flight during its short lifetime. It also came with an extra that is usually not included in the states–the head. I had my butcher remove that item, thank you very much. One also gets the giblets here too, but they are not in a handy little plastic bag. Instead, they are left right where the bird last made use of them. (Insert hand, pull out whatever you can. Repeat process until finished. Thoroughly wash cavity. And hand.)
The pumpkin pie was an adventure, sort of Joy of Cooking Meets Bell’Italia. Lacking a can of Libby’s handy-dandy mashed pumpkin, I used a local squash, zucca, which is at least a first cousin of the pumpkin. The only zucca I could find was so darn big I couldn’t get all of it into the oven at one time, so I baked it in shifts. One half was enough and since the other half wasn’t quite done, I threw it into the dumpster. Several other times along the way, I came very close to throwing the rest of this project into the dumpster too.
I had all of the spices for the filling so that wasn’t a problem. The recipe instructed me to use cream or evaporated milk. As far as I can tell, evaporated milk doesn’t exist in Italy and cream over here is as thick as sour cream in the states. I figured that cutting the cream with a tablespoon of milk would get it to the right consistency. With the exception of a few lumps of cream that refused to cooperate, the filling looked right. I then turned my attention to the crust. Flour in Italy is incredibly fine–it could probably substitute for talcum powder. I measured the butter and cut it into the flour. I wasn’t pleased with the results and added a bit more butter. Then the recipe called for 3 tablespoons of cold water, with a 4th tablespoon “if needed.” “Form a ball,” the recipe said. Not a chance. I added more water. Still no cohesion. More water, as in at least double the liquid called for in the recipe. Well, now I could sort of convince the dough to stick together. Refrigerate for a while, said the recipe. I’m thinking, maybe that will help. Later, I take the ball out and start to roll it out with a rolling pin. The ball shatters into crumbs. Resisting dumpster urges yet again, I add some more water, form a ball again and start rolling. The result was not pretty. The dough ended up having more patches than a tractor tire in mesquite country. I poured in the filling and put the pie in the oven to bake. The recipe said to check for doneness with a knife blade in 45 minutes. Not even close. I check after another 15 minutes. The knife blade didn’t come out remotely clean. This goes on until finally I decide that’s long enough and take the pie out. Now here’s the surprise part. When I served it up the next day, it received rave reviews! Not a crumb was left. Okay, so maybe I set the bar a little low. When I presented it, I said in all sincerity, “I hope this is edible.”
The weather for this Thanksgiving was incredible. The year before, we had snow on this side of the Apennines and the Tiber came within four inches of flooding Rome. This year one barely needed a jacket. (back)