The past two years, Siobhan and I have split time between two Thanksgiving feasts. We travel to Bridgewater to her aunt and uncle’s house for lunch and then shoot down 95 to my parent’s house in Wellesley for dinner. The two meals are spaced out just enough, and we have learned to pace ourselves so that we can manage to enjoy both without gaining 500lbs. The two gatherings are so incredibly different, yet similar in so many ways. Siobhan’s family is huge…so huge that this was the first year that I actually remembered everyone’s name.
We walk into the house and we’re greeted by parents, aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins, grandparents, dogs, you name it… everyone’s there. All running around, eating, drinking, dancing and laughing. It’s like one big house filled with love and controlled chaos. The long, rectangular dining room table is always the center of attention (when the cousins aren’t singing) because of the hours and hours that Siobhan’s aunt puts into decorating it.
Every year it is breathtaking. This year, the colorful china was set with miniature pumpkin name tags, and above our heads dangled hundreds or burnt orange leaves. The leaves were hand picked from her backyard and hung from the ceiling with invisible string, all floating in mid air at all different heights. Illuminated by the chandelier, the autumn leaves made it feel as though we were eating in the middle of the forest, or in a scene from a Harry Potter movie. When the food is ready, all twenty-five of us rush into the dining room and cram into our seats. Siobhan’s grandfather says grace, and everyone goes around the table reading a passage about giving thanks while the smells of roasted turkey, and sweet potato pie fill the air.
When it’s “go time”, a whirlwind of serving bowls fly through the air, spoonfuls of stuffing are being tossed across the table, the wine is flowing, and for the first two bites of food, everything is quiet. All the hustle and bustle of passing, serving, and pouring comes to a halt to take that first chomp into the turkey. Then it all goes back to normal, and by normal I mean chaotic in a fun way.
Everyone is talking to everyone, and in order for them to hear one another, they talk louder. It was quite intimidating my first year but now I’ve accepted that I have to just yell to be heard. My favorite part of the meal is when the three different stuffings come out. They always serve a traditional oyster stuffing, an Italian stuffing, and a Portuguesse stuffing. All three are delicious and have something unique and special about them. I also always try to fulfill my dark meat craving in Bridgewater because I know that my mom has a turkey breast roulade in the oven and there won’t be any dark meat in sight.
I grab one of the legs and start to slice the succulent meat off the bone with my silverware before I give in and just pick it up with my hand as if I was at the Medieval Manor. The loud conversations at the table are pleasantly interrupted by clinking wine glasses and heartwarming speeches by certain family members. After everyone is stuffed, the men get up and watch football in the den while the women clear the table and do the dishes; after all it is a very traditional Italian family. I don’t complain.
Right before I start to doze off into a Tryptophan coma, we say our goodbyes and head to the car. I typically make it Braintree before I have to unbuckle my belt because I’m stuffed from the stuffing sampler.
The main difference between Siobhan’s Thanksgiving and the one at my house is numbers. This year we only had five at our table in Wellesley. Don’t be fooled though because it is equally as loud and chaotic, between my brother telling jokes, and me and my mom running around the kitchen.
This year, my mom tried out a new recipe where she butterflied, and deboned a massive turkey breast, and stuffed it with Italian sausage, pine nuts, dates, figs, and herbs. Siobhan and her rolled it up tight and tied it off with butchers twine, leaving the skin on the outside to get crispy. The result was by far the best turkey that she has ever made to date. As soon as the first slice fell onto the cutting board it was apparent how moist and juicy this bird was going to be.
We carved it into thick slices and surrounded it with her famous mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and silky gravy. The combination of the crackling skin and the juicy turkey in every bite was amazing.
The roasted brussel sprouts are Siobhan and I’s favorite vegetable so we gobbled those up quickly. I was shocked to see that even my dad has some color on his plate, but later realized that the single green bean was being used as a divider to make sure that his potatoes didn’t touch his turkey.
We opened a bunch of different wines, but the highlight of the night was the 2005 Neely’s Picnic Block Pinot Noir from Santa Cruz, California. It was the ultimate Thanksgiving wine. Perfectly balanced fruit and earth, with a touch of oak in the background. It was pure velvet on my tongue. The singing and dancing still echoed in my ears from before, but at this table the only noises were “mmmmmssss”, and the clinks of serving spoons diving in for seconds. For dessert, we struggled to force down some pie and these bite-size fudgie pepperment patty bars that Siobhan made.
By the time I couldn’t physically eat anymore, I changed into sweatpants and we set off for our home in South Boston. We are so thankful to have such great families that take such different approaches to the holiday. In Bridgewater, it’s a party and a celebration, and in Wellesley it is a time of relaxation. We are so lucky to have the best of both worlds and that the main component in each home is love and thanks.