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The Thanksgiving Opera

Posted in Caro Diario.(dear diary..), cucina, entertaining, Holidays, special occasions, and Uncategorized

mario-lanza.jpgpavarotti.jpgMaria CallasCaruso

copyright, 2008, Maria Liberati

 My grandmother (nonna) Maria loved the Italian opera..she loved to sing all the Italian classics and  to this day, when I hear an  opera cd -you can be sure that one of the songs will always bring back memories of her singing at the table after a long dinner…

My grandparents immigrated to the USA and settled in  South Philadelphia. My grandmother even sang with a young Mario Lanza in a local church produced opera there.

But being that nonna loved opera… when I look back on memories of things she did it seems that everything had acts and scenes just like an opera..dinners and making preserves and making her famous biscotti and just about everything.. From the drama of the preparation to the presentation..always almost the same thrill as witnessing an opera-from the overture to the final act..

But I think that one of her grandest ‘operas’ was Thanksgiving dinner. It had many acts..from the grand opening act of a table full of appetizers to the first course which was almost always her scrumptious lasagna made from freshly made pasta dough and freshly made tomato sauce..then the turkey arrived as the second course and everything else arrived seperately as its’ own course..the roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary, the spinach sauteed in garlic and olive oil, then the salad (salad is typically served last in Italian households and in Italy).Then the fresh cheeses and dried meats.  Plates of fresh fruits and nuts..then fresh fruit macedonia (A type of fruit cocktail-made with fresh fruits or fruits she had jarred from the summer)..then the desserts taking stage one after the other..Every course being so special and made with such care that you had to focus on one course at a time..just like at the act at a time… And nonna was always the ‘diva’ of the opera from it’s preparation to the presentation and the final act…

And I can’t forget about the audience of 35 or more-family and friends gathered around as many tables as one can fit in a kitchen..old and young and in between all ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the arrival of another course..just like the beginning of the acts of an opera… And upon the arrival of an act or course the audience became quiet… anxious to savor what was before them..  The tastes were as pleasing to the palate as the sounds of  a great tenor like Pavarotti and Caruso or Mario Lanza or soprano Maria don’t want to miss a minute of a memorable performance…

The Opera… and the Final Act

And after dinner and all the plates had been cleared away, the memorable final act was nonna serenading us with one of her opera classics..and nonno may chime in with one of the love songs he serenaded her with when they first met…Oh what a beautiful opera and unfortunately one that I can never see again.

So I am thankful this Thanksgiving not just for being able to have the food on the table but for having had all those special memories that I can look back on. The Thanksgiving Opera… 

If you also have some special Thanksgiving memories..please share…. Memories are special gifts to be shared….

For more memories and recipes get your copy of  bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati at or

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  1. Dear Maria: Many thanks for this wonderful piece! Please tell me, as a Mario Lanza fan of many years’ standing — and as a contributor to a recent biography on this tenor — I would love to know the *name* of the opera that your grandmother appeared in with Lanza! We’ve always known that he appeared in some local YMCA opera productions as a youth in South Philly, but the titles of those operas have usually eluded us.

    Any info at all that you can provide would be enormously appreciated.

    All my best
    Derek McGovern

    November 24, 2008

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