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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Holiday Meal Planning

That’s it, I’m postponing my doctor’s appointment. The holidays are upon us and there’s no point heading there, and to the scale, immediately after Thanksgiving.

Benedetto loves to talk about food. It’s an Italian thing. Doesn’t help me one bit at all. Just salivating adds weight.

“What kind of soup do you want this year?” he starts, planning ahead for the holiday.

“It’s the same every year, isn’t it? Squash?” I blink.

“Well, there are so many types of squash,” he ponders, savoring the very thought.

We were over at friends recently. They had taped “The Amazing Race” and we got to see anorexic, youthful, American overachievers planting potatoes with wheelbarrows full of manure while approving babushkas looked on in a village outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. The wife served us squash soup, her first time making it. She sent her husband out for butternut squash and he came home with zucchini.

They were not Italian, they did not eat, dream, and sleep food items–how was he to know? So she went out, bought the butternut squash and made the soup. It was really very good for a first attempt. She and I ate our small portions in teacups, and this started Benedetto along this line of thinking.

“We could use the pumpkin, and add a butternut to that,” he suggested, liking the sound of combined flavors. Someone had recently given us a pumpkin.

“You don’t want a pumpkin pie?” Now it was my turn to be surprised. “In any event, we need to plant half of the seeds to the side of the garden to see if they will grow next year, and use the other half to roast for the kids. They’ve been talking about those seeds non-stop.”  I could see that the topic of food was rubbing off on the next generation.

“Should we go the curry route with the soup, or more of a straightforward-nutmeg?” he wondered, ignoring my questions. “I’m not sure if the kids can handle a balsamic glaze on top.”

“Don’t forget that I wanted to make a design on top of the soup with a pastry bag,” I reminded him. “Didn’t you want a pumpkin pie?” I asked again.

“Apple, why not apple AND pumpkin?” he brightened. “Why does it have to be either-or?”

Why indeed.

He sucked me down this path of debauchery every holiday, initiating the culinary conversations a week or two in advance and stretching out the feasting for at least as long. Who said a holiday had to be a day?

Perish the thought.

Turkey was a certainty, the bigger the better. We were not partakers of the “other white meat”, so that was simple enough. Now Petya started in on his side of the dinner discussions.

“Mama, it has to be Papa and I, just Papa and I, when we get the turkey,” he whispered as he and I did our evening exercises.

“Okay, what–you don’t see me going with you,” I replied.

“It’s the others, they don’t understand. Papa and I: it’s “tradition”!

“Okay, Tevye, but times have changed. You might not know it, but turkey prices are up. They’re becoming expensive. I know you like to get some big bruiser that won’t fit into the refrigerator or oven and that’s going to cost a lot,” I explained. “So wherever you are, if Papa sees one for a good price, grab the turkey and fly the coop, capisce?”

“No problema, Mama, we can do that.”  He liked a challenge. Between he and his father, they frequented enough markets to make our home into a little Italy village of our own. And with Pasha’s birthday coming up, we needed to stock up on pelemeni, necessitating a trip to a Russian grocery, too. I was not about to be handmaking pelemeni, at the same time I’m stuffing some 100-pound bird. I might wrap a few golubtsi… maybe….

“Mama,” Pasha comes to me under cover of the night, “we need to discuss my cake.”

“What’s to discuss? I thought we’d skip it this year,” I tease him.

“Mama! I was thinking that maybe you could make me a turkey cake.”  He loved the fact that his birthday fell right next to Thanksgiving. We called him our big turkey.

“A turkey cake? You mean in the shape of a turkey?”

“Da, da,” he smiled and patted me on the shoulder, confident of my abilities.

“We’ll see what we can do,” I smiled, calculating how we were going to pull this one off.

There are still a couple of days left to talk and dream. I’m envisioning some arugula with pear salad, a few pomegranate seeds thrown in for good measure. Benedetto is rhapsodizing about pumpkin and leek tortellini, or ravioli, I can’t keep it straight. We’ll make our lists and check them twice, get out the Indian corn for the door, and start the fireplace crackling for the chilly days ahead.

As I see the sweet faces around the table and the hands joining together for prayer, I am thankful even if all we have is potatoes. It wouldn’t faze me one bit. We are together, God has brought the kids home, and love is on the list, first and foremost.

However, the huge crate of sweet potatoes I see Benedetto sneaking in the side door, is cause for concern….


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