"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 136 Can you believe it? Take notice how many times this psalm proclaims the mercy of the Lord! Thanksgiving is a time of year that reminds us to do just that…give thanks and if you take inventory of the past year, or maybe even your entire lifetime; can you see His mercy? He has NEVER left or forsaken any of us! Did we deserve His blessings? His mercy endures forever! Our son Domenick Raymond has gone back to school for extended education and has written an essay on Thanksgiving in our home. If you’d permit me, I’d like to share it with you.
My Parent's Dining Room at Thanksgiving Each year Thanksgiving Day brings great joy as it arrives. It is tradition to wake up and watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Looking outside, all around, the colorful leaves on the trees fall to the ground. The crisp, cold wind blows announcing the arrival of winter just around the corner. Stores stocked with Christmas merchandise letting all know, the holiday season has arrived. Spending time with family is expected around the holidays. Italian families however emphasize not just family, but a smorgasbord of food that does not end the whole day through. In the Italian heritage, one cannot walk into another Italian home and leave with an empty belly. This is a sign of a warm welcome from the host. Each year, Thanksgiving is held at the DiBenedetto cabin. Immediate family and adopted family alike (which could be anyone) are warmly welcomed with open arms. The DiBenedetto cabin is a vision of luscious scenery direct from a magazine. It is set back one half mile in the woods. A forest green, shingled roof covers the cabin crafted out of solid, pine wood. There is a wrap around deck that circles the entire estate. Surrounding the cabin are green trees of varying shades as far as the eye can see. A chalet in the forest is the very essence of this home. A day of bountiful blessing is about to beginning. Upon entering the front door, to the right is the most beautiful, elegant dining room. This is where the magic happens each Thanksgiving. Holiday music is playing softly in the background. Fall colors and Thanksgiving decorations adorn the walls throughout. Framed photos and plaques of achievement collected over the years can be found in various rooms of the house. The walls and ceiling are made of a light brown, pine wood appealing to
the eye and smooth to the touch. Five wood paned windows span the length and width of the table. They are dressed with chestnut brown, velvet curtains that are pulled back to allow for plenty of sunlight. The floor of the dining room is made of shiny dark wood that connects to a beautiful, large kitchen floor made of porcelain with a brick texture. The walls are made of smooth, pine logs throughout the cabin. The twelve foot dining table, as well as the surrounding chairs are made of solid oak and adorned with a white laced, cross-stitched tablecloth. Covering the tablecloth is a thin layer of plastic to protect from any accidental spills. Only the finest of china is selected for this day. There are two plates for each person. The top plate is smaller and is used for the first course. The larger one on the bottom is for the main course. The family arrives one by one. The aroma of turkey and stuffing makes its way to the driveway greeting all who arrive. The specified arrival time is two o’clock in the afternoon. When entering the cabin, pepperoni bread is served as an appetizer. This has become a tradition and one of my specialties. Making a loaf or two does not suffice for a family of nineteen Italians whose passion is consumption of food. Four loaves are made and disappear by the end of the day. There is plenty of catching up to do as the adults talk amongst one another. Cousins are sharing stories of school progress. The laughter of children playing in the living room can be heard loud and clear. Clothing selection is on the formal side as photography will play a big role in today’s festivities. Two little white Maltese dogs are barking repetitively in the background. All of this occurs with a slice of pepperoni bread in each hand. The quiet that was once present is now gone, it is a time of celebration. This long awaited day of thanks and family reuniting has begun. The first course of the dining festivities begins. In the center of the wooden table is a circular, stainless steel, rotating plate known as the lazy susan which is accessible to the entire table. This is used to display the antipasto. Italian delicacies such as Genoa salami, prosciuttini, cappicola, soppressata and extra sharp provolone cheese, are a few of the items on the antipasto. Also displayed is Dad’s homemade mozzarella. Made the night before out of fresh curd cheese, he prepares a variety of shapes and sizes. Dad has been making fresh, homemade mozzarella since the age of nine when he worked for a delicatessen. To this day many request it on the menu and also seek to be instructed on how it is made. Next to the lazy susan, an oval wicker basket filled to overflowing with Italian bread from Brooklyn. A wood serving bowl is filled with gourmet Italian salad, garlic
and fresh basil are main ingredients. Small etched glass serving bowls are used for additional specialties as eggplant appetizer, sun-dried tomatoes, homemade roasted peppers and kalamata olives. Satisfaction and happiness is displayed on each face as the first course is a success. There is much to consume and a whole day to accomplish it. It is three thirty in the afternoon. Having barely finished the first course, stomachs already filled to contentment, the larger plates are collected. They are filled with two or more of Dad’s specialty, homemade manicotti stuffed with ricotta cheese. Dad makes the crêpes from scratch using a recipe received from Grandma who passed away years ago. The tradition is still alive and will be carried on for generations! Poured on the top is homemade gravy, also known as red spaghetti sauce. In the DiBenedetto household, sauce is not the correct term, it is gravy. Alongside the steaming manicotti is a white, square, glass serving bowl filled with homemade Italian meatballs and sausage. Pecorino Romano cheese is passed around to compliment the gravy. With each bite, the moaning grows more intense. It is evident, the manicotti is a success! Stories are shared of years gone by, memories of Grandma and times of great joy. Each one looking forward to many more years spent with one another as a family. Course number two is finished and the yawning begins. There is a debate as to when the turkey will be served. Many are stuffed at this point and would rather wait to enjoy the turkey later in the day. This is a perfect time for espresso and dessert. It is five o’clock in the evening. There is a vast array of desserts brought to the table. Mom and the ladies of the house straighten the kitchen from the first two courses. Aunt Dee brings homemade rice pudding (a tradition for over 20 years). Mom makes her homemade pumpkin and sweet potato pies. Dad makes the ice box cake. Aunt Arlene and Uncle Joey bring a variety of Italian pastries that include, but are not limited to, Cannolis, Sphiadels and Éclairs. Mini cheesecakes topped with lemon, cherry, blueberry and strawberry are my specialty and have been requested for years. Sipping espresso from a demitasse cup and selecting a variety of desserts to start with; the holiday appears to be complete, but not just yet. The men of the family make their way to the living room to watch the game. Others continue to eat as stuffed artichokes make their way to the table. It is six thirty in the evening. Relaxation
is a big part of enjoying Thanksgiving. Many remain at the table and continue to pick at the food and dessert until the day is over. There is plenty of conversation and games being played in the living room and dining room. The Thanksgiving edition of “The Star Ledger ” is passed around to scan for “Black Friday ” bargains. The debate of turkey once again begins. Should the turkey be served now? Maybe it should be served in an hour? The questions persist until a decision is finally made. It is eight thirty in the evening and the carving knife comes out. The turkey is cooked earlier in the day as the Macy’s parade is on. It is cooked in a large, stainless steel turkey fryer in the backyard. The outside of the turkey becomes crisp and dark. Upon completion, Dad slices it and separates the dark meat from the light. The taste throughout is moist and flavorful. Homemade stuffing is passed around the table as well as brown turkey gravy. Each person comments as to how succulent it is. The menu for the day is a success. All are content and happy! Welcome to an Italian home where love truly does abound. Many people visit the DiBenedetto cabin and are in awe of how Italians can keep track of what is being said. Each person talks at the same time as the other. Italians also speak with their hands. Imagine a family of nineteen packed around the dining table waving their hands and talking over one another. This is the way of the Italian culture and all who attend feel the abounding love and embrace it. “The BEST part of Thanksgiving is BEING TOGETHER! Although the food is wonderful, there is NOTHING like having EVERYONE HOME!” Home with family full of love is how each Thanksgiving Day is anticipated and celebrated.
"His" mercy endures forever! It was nice to share a bit of our family traditions with you…I pray that God would continue to bless you and your family. It’s not always easy and no family is ever perfect but let’s just remember that “His mercy endures forever”! I want to thank you for keeping the DiBenedetto Family in your prayers as we lean on the Lord every day of our lives and trust Him for everything. Your prayers are needed and felt. It’s been trying on everyone in this economically rocky time so as you pray would it be for a full calendar and God knows the rest; because we know that …”His mercy endures forever”! God bless you on this Holiday Season,
The DiBenedetto Family