Prior to moving to the South, I thought it would be so wonderful to have Thanksgiving dinner outside. I envisioned a large, rustic beautiful table set with colors of yellow, orange and gold. There would be a smokey fire blazing nearby and music in the air. Then we actually moved here, and although I still dream of this setting, reality takes hold.
I think an outdoor Thanksgiving is still possible, but other likes come into play. For instance, how often do we use our nice china and crystal goblets? Why do we even have such nice things if they just lend themselves to occupying space? I also have an amazing dining room, which we do use, not because we dine formally but because our near 80 year old house was designed differently than a more contemporary homes, so our “breakfast” nook is in our dining room.
This summer, my husband and I traveled in Italy. We were fortunate enough to stay in a few culturally diverse places. One such place was on the outer edges of Tuscany. It was at Borgo di Vagli where we experienced one of the most amazing meals we ever had because we ate outdoors under a canopy of vines and the setting sun. It was a perfect Alfresco evening and one that I dream of capturing or recreating, if at all possible.
So here we are, Thanksgiving Day and a partial wish is coming to fruition. I decided to set up our first course outdoors in our backyard-courtyard. My side of the family typically is not one to prepare appetizers. We had to hold our appetites until the main course. On Thanksgiving Day you may catch someone lifting the foil of the turkey and have a little nibble, but for the most part, regardless of the meal or holiday, we didn’t do appetizers well. However, my in-law family members are excellent preparers of appetizers and you will often find us splurging on stuffed mushrooms and shrimp. I fall somewhere in the middle. Appetizers are not my strength, but I do enjoy the time we ease into the main course.
Thanksgiving dinner is a huge meal. I have prepared all the typical sides, so there will be plenty of food to consume. What I decided to do was bring in some elements of Tuscany into our first course at our first Thanksgiving in North Carolina. I’m striving for a slow start to our meal. My version of an Alfresco Thanksgiving will consist of a slow-burning fire in the chiminea. The smoke from the chiminea will provide the heat source and flavor for clams harvested from the Virginia waters. I have delicious, warmed, herb topped bread from Phillips Orchard and Farm in Michigan, given to me by my neighbor whose son is a curator of the farm. The bread will be dipped in olive oil that we brought back from Italy that was grown and pressed in Puglia. We stayed at another fabulous masseria-Il Frantoio. I have been waiting for the right time to enjoy this delicacy.
Although this it isn’t a full blown meal under the Tuscan sun, it is my version of a Thanksgiving first course in the South. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and the warmth of our sun will set the stage as we consume treasures we collected during our travels to Italy. Maybe this will be a new tradition that takes root for future holidays.
I’m wishing you all a wonderful day however you celebrate. Whether you’re a small group, a large gathering or just you, I hope you find time to count your blessings one by one.
We all need hearrts of gratitude.