I love Thanksgiving!
It’s absolutely my most favorite American holiday (not to be confused with Christmas, because well that’s not ‘American’).
Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, independent of your religion, creed, color, sexual orientation…
Growing up in an immigrant family, my parents fully embraced Thanksgiving (unlike Halloween that they basically believed to be the devil’s holiday).
There was always a massive amount of people coming and going on Thanksgiving Day, as well as the days leading up to and after the holiday. Relatives would fly up from Trinidad to see us and do their Black Friday shopping. Single friends, people with small families, our neighbors, that random exchange student that didn’t fly home, the former exchange student that would fly in every Thanksgiving after that because the holiday at my house was always that much fun.
You get it - just about everyone was welcome.
In fact, when “Friendsgiving” started popping up in the media like the best thing since sliced bread, I was bewildered. Like you’ve got to be kidding me, people—you haven’t been doing this all along?
This was much worse than the whole avocado toast revolution, which I understood that delay, because, well, not everybody has avocados growing in their backyards as we do in Miami…
Bringing Homemade Thanskgiving to Milan
So anyway, I love Thanksgiving.
You all get how as an American living abroad and a person that loves to cook, I had to celebrate the holiday one way or another?
I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 10-20 all by myself or with friends. A few years ago I even hosted a Thanksgiving feast for about 50 people with my friend Chef Vanusa directing the kitchen. We hosted it at a biodynamic farm outside of Milan, where a few bloggers and I personally harvested the veggies we used to make our meal.
Coming from an immigrant family with lots of food allergies, and being an avid foodie, I’ve found that most dishes which are perceived as traditional—you know—the green bean casseroles and the sweet potato pies—are merely food fads that come and go.
So my Thanksgiving menu has turkey, and basically, everything else is up for discussion. I always try to use fresh seasonal ingredients, and that’s about it.
Buying a Turkey
But finding a whole turkey in Milan is not exactly an easy feat. From years of experience, I know exactly where to go (and now you do too).
1. Mercato Comunale Wagner (or https://www.facebook.com/mercatowagner/) When I first started going here, I would have to order my turkey a few weeks in advance. Since they now get a steady stream of Americans and Italians looking for whole turkeys around the holidays so this probably your best bet for finding a turkey minute. There are two stalls that specailize in in poultry
La Polleria di Alberto - Tel: 02-48003269 - firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also try Polleria Pavia Katia - tel 02-4814656.
2. Pastured Raised Birds in Pavia. A few years ago, I decided I wanted a pastured - aka genuinely free-range - turkey. I scoured the internet and even went to the farm to meet the bird that would become my dinner and the farmer who ensured my turkey had a good life.
A lot of people order their turkey months in advance, and he raises them especially for them. You can also try your luck and see if he has a last-minute turkey available (plus his pasture-raised chickens, ducks, and eggs, are an explosion of flavor - you’ll never want to go back to eating the “industrial stuff” again. And yes, he delivers!
Call him a +39 333 380 2005
3. Giordano The Butcher. Giordano is my go-to butcher for cottoletta (yum!) and fresh sausages that rock. He has also specially ordered a turkey or two for a few of my girlfriends and me through the years. Via Andrea Solari 4020144 Milano (Mi)
Like I said, I’m not particularly attached to anything else. But if I feel like searching out something super American, two stores cater to just that in Milan:
1. Super Polo
Their website is currently down as a write this article, but their stores are still fully operational. They have 3 locations in Milan. There you’ll find Duncan Hines cake mix, Libby’s pumpkin pie filling, and a whole bunch of organic products. (I’m not sure how that happened, but that's what you’ll find).
American Crunch opened about a year ago. It’s a little storefront in Milan city center, with massive amounts of American junk food and all that ‘traditonal’ American stuff to make your homesick-self cry with joy. You’ll find Crisco and Cambell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and even marshmallows. You can also order online. They deliver throughout Italy.
I am a little emotionally attached to cranberry sauce. It’s almost always on my Thanksgiving table though I really never eat much of it. You can find that at the above-mentioned stores. Plus you’ll also find it at major chain supermarkets like Esselunga. Or you can simply rehydrate dried cranberries to make your sauce.
Other Trimmings and Substitutions
I make my pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkins. Experience has taught me, however, that not all pumpkins are created equally. Some have too much fiber, or are too watery, or aren’t sweet enough.
My favorite Italian pumpkin for making pie is “La delica mantovana.” It’s a ‘short’ pumpkin with a deep green crust (sometimes with a few white stripes) and bright orange pulp. If not, butternut squash will do, and that’s getting easier to find at organic supermarkets and things of that nature.
I try to stay away from hydrogenated fats, but I am perfectly okay with eating lard, which is what I use in its place. I’m pretty sure that’s what people used before Crisco was invented (I know some people will find that odd, but it makes perfect sense to me in my whole “real” food approach to the kitchen. In Italian lard is called ‘strutto’ and you can find it at most Italian supermarkets near the butter. That’s not to be confused with “lardo” which is a type of salami made from the fat from under the skin of the pig, which is aged with a unique variety of herbs and spices. (Yum).
Don’t Feel like Cooking?
No problem. There are a few great Thanksgiving Celebrations around the city.
2018 UPDATE (since this post was originally published in 2017): I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year in Milano!!! Dinner will cost 45$ - so about 40 euro. Click on the link for more info - http://www.doingitaly.com/thanksgiving-supper-club-2018/)
Erba Brusca: This American chef hosts a Thanksgiving Feast every year at her restaurant. It costs 40 euros per person excluding beverages. Reservations are highly recommended.
Easy Milano* in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce for Italy, hosts an annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
This year it costs 56 euro for adults and 28 euro for kids, inclusive of drinks (that means adult beverages too).
American Business Group hosts interesting English language business talks on an almost monthly basis. The next one will be on Thanksgiving day, so they are having a themed luncheon. The event costs 37 euro.
Vintage Bakery* is also hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner at a price of 35 euro per person. Dinner starts at with 7:30 pm or 21:30 pm.
What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving? Are you planning on going to any of the above-mentioned events? If you are, or after you’ve been, I’d love to hear all about it…
Go ahead, write those comments below.
Sending you lots of Thanksgiving love,
*I’ve never been to the Easy Milano Thanksgiving or the Vintage Bakery event, so I can’t speak to the quality of the food.
** Photos are mine, except of the pumpkin pie from Elements5 digital on pixels.com