I have noticed several friends on Facebook taking part in a “Gratitude Project”. Where every day in the month of November you express at least one thing you are thankful for. I must admit I was invited to participate, but there is something about it that scared me a bit…Could I come up with that many different things without repeating myself? I am sure that I could, but I let the opportunity slip me by. But over the last two week I really gave it some thought. Is there only one thing I could name in being the single thing that I am so grateful for over everything else? Then the other day a friend of mine posted some pictures of her family when they first came to the United States. That is when it hit me: the one thing I am most grateful for my life is captured in this picture below. It is the day my maiden Grandmother left Italy to come to America.
My grandmother Tina was only sixteen when this picture was taken. On her arm is her older brother Enrico (Uncle “Riggy” as we called him), escorting her to the plane. This was in 1947 after World War II ended. During the war she met my grandfather Frank. He was a soldier for the American Army stationed in Italy. After the war was over and he was back in the states he wrote her and her family. My grandfather asked if she would like to come the United States, and if she pleased they could be married. But you need to remember that my grandmother was only sixteen; my grandfather was twenty-six. My grandmother’s family felt there was not much opportunity for her in Italy given the circumstances they were facing because the village where they lived was bombed and partially destroyed from the war. Her family paid a local doctor to falsify her birth certificate making her 18 and legal to come to the U.S.
My grandmother came here with nothing. She had barely any money, belongings, and did not know the language. It sounds surreal, doesn’t it? Coming to a foreign country to be married, barely knowing anything or anyone at such a young age. (Even more surreal is how the families arranged for my Uncle Riggy to marry my grandfather’s sister a couple of years later, but that is a whole other story.) Although, if all of this wasn’t the case I would not have my mom and my uncles. And without that, you would not have me or my sister. My grandmother’s courage to take this chance with her life is the single one thing I have the most gratitude for.
With my gratitude, and a Thanksgiving menu to plan, I need to get to work. I was thinking this year that I should reflect on my Italian heritage a bit more then I usually do for this meal. This year I was thinking of making a White Bean and Artichoke Spread to be served with bread and an assortment of raw veggies as a starter. My grandmother really liked artichokes, I think to her it was something that she ate and reminded her of Italy and her home. I only wish she was here to try this dish. But I know she is here in spirit as she always is. Thank you Grandma, my love for you never fades…it grows stronger in my cooking. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
White Bean and Artichoke Spread (makes 2 cups)
1 - 14oz can of artichokes, drained
1 – 15oz can of white beans (cannellini), drained
1 clove of garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp of olive oil, plus extra for garnish
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Assorted crudité and sliced bread to serve
First; in the bowl of a food processor fitted with its blade attachment place you artichoke hearts, white beans, and garlic clove. Pulse your motor until you break down your ingredients into a fine chop.
Next; add in your lemon zest and juice, along with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Begin to let the motor run and slowly drizzle in your olive oil. Keep it pureeing until it is all a smooth paste and emulsified. Taste it to adjust your seasoning.
Finally, scoop up your puree into a bowl you would like to serve it in. Sprinkle the top with your chopped parsley and a bit of olive oil. Serve it with your assorted crudité and bread.
Note: Spread can be made ahead of time wrapped and stored in an air tight container. Keep no more than one week.