It was my first major culture shock. I had been told by friends and family members that when I moved to Denmark I had to prepare myself for big cultural adjustments. I did exactly that, but this one….this one was just a bit too much for this 2nd generation Italian American. I am not really sure when I realized it but it was somewhere in early November, 2004. Being the hostess that I love being I had planned a HUGE Thanksgiving dinner for…well…basically anyone who wanted to come. We had 60 some, but that is beside the point. I intended on cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 60 people together with another American friend who was also known for her suave kitchen skills. But then it happened. And it hit my like a ton of bricks.
This first major culture shock came from another American, not a Dane…as I expected.
We were going over the menu that we wanted and the quantities we would have to purchase for 60 people. 40lbs of turkey (yeah, I know). Check! 6 bags of frozen corn. Check! 20lbs of potatoes. Check! 10 cans of cranberry sauce. Check! Tomatoes to make a 2.5 gallon pot of marinara sauce, 2 containers of ricotta cheese, and 8 packages of lasagna noodles. Check! “What? Why do we need the sauce, ricotta and noodles?” she asked, ever so sweetly, but also quite obviously confused. “For the lasagna.” I nonchalantly replied, wondering how it was even possible to forget those ingredients. I wanted to add in a “DUH!” but refrained because I also wanted to remain her friend.
And that when the culture shock happened.
She looked at me, laughed heartily (as if!) and exclaimed “Who has lasagna on Thanksgiving?!?!”
In that moment, my entire world crashed down. It was then that I realized that my family (or Italians in general) were the only ones who had lasagna on Thanksgiving. I immediately called my Dad and told him. He was also bewildered and experienced the same culture shock as me, but from thousands of miles away. I was flabbergasted. Panicked, really. I could not imagine a Thanksgiving…even in Denmark…without lasagna. It goes hand-in-hand with the turkey. It’s like Tom and Jerry. Peanut butter and Jelly. Jekyll and Hyde. Chinese food and breakfast (wait, did I just say that?). You can’t have one without the other!!
I was devastated. And she stood her ground like the North did at Gettysburg, claiming that we could not give up sweet potato casserole for lasagna and we did not have the budget for both.
Culture shock at its finest. And for the remaining 4 years that I would cook Thanksgiving dinner annually for anywhere between 60-100 Danish people, it was lasagna-less. Like Easter without Jesus. Christmas without Santa. Tom without Jerry.
This year I sat down to a Thanksgiving meal with my family, in America, for the first time in 7 years. We had our Antipasto, our biscuits, our sparkling grape juice and our mozzarella rolls. And then my dad got up to serve the next course. The course that we all look forward to each year. Not just any lasagna but Dad’s lasagna! He brought us each plates of piping hot, thickly layered, saucy, cheesy lasagna. And. It. Was. Heavenly.
The mozzarella melted in my moth, and a bit of sauce dripped onto my shirt. And friends, it was there and then that I vowed never to go another Thanksgiving without one of the most important courses. Contrary to popular opinion that Thanksgiving dinner is all about the Turkey, I beg to differ that is it all about the lasagna.
Until next Thanksgiving….