Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anna Sultana's Turkey Roasted with Bacon - A Maltese Thanksgiving by Margaret Ullrich

On Thursday we enjoyed the U.S. Thanksgiving experience.
The Macy Parade, followed by the dog show, followed by the Miracle on 34th Street movie, in black and white.
And, of course, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

We had a lovely time.
And the dinner was excellent.
If I do say so myself.
And I do.

During the parade, Macy announced that this was their 85th parade.
And that night they had a special to show a few highlights from past decades.
It was fun reliving Thanksgivings through the years.

One of my facebook friends lives in Malta.
He likes to post about Maltese recipes.
He recently posted that he had enjoyed a Maltese favorite: roasted pork with bacon.
He also included a picture.
Which reminded me of Thanksgiving, 1961.

Holidays are a funny thing.
It's almost like time traveling.
I mean, you know you're in the present, but your mind wanders to other holidays.

No, Ma didn't cook roasted pork with bacon for Thanksgiving, 1961.
She cooked a turkey dinner.
But it had a Maltese twist to it.

Turkey is not a regular holiday treat in Malta.
The first few turkeys Ma had cooked came out kind of dry and tasteless.
At least that was what Pop had said.
But Ma had been told we had to eat turkey for the holidays.
And Ma wanted to follow the rules.
We three were still filing Alien Registration cards every year.
If we didn't, we'd be booted back to Malta.

So, Ma went back to an old Maltese tradition to fix the new American tradition.
She placed a few slices of bacon on the turkey.
Pop said the turkey was just fine with the bacon. 
The turkey was more juicy and the meat had a familiar tang.

We enjoyed our bacon turkey holiday dinners for the next seven years.
Our holiday dinners were just fine until 1961.
That year Ma's brother Charlie got engaged to an American, Liz.

Ma wanted to make a good impression on her soon to be new sister-in-law.
She spared no expense, or bacon, to make our dinner a feast.
Instead of laying 4 slices of bacon over the top of the bird, she used a dozen.
They were layered like roofing tiles over the turkey.
As an extra touch, Ma gift wrapped the legs in extra bacon slices.

If Liz liked bacon, she was going to be able to eat all she wanted.
There was more than enough for everybody.

Well, Liz was an American. 
And she expected to see - and eat - an American turkey.
A non-baconed turkey.
Liz just stared at the gift-wrapped bird while we drooled.
Ma offered Liz her choice: breast, leg, thigh, wing?
Liz just stared.

Ma asked if Liz would like a bit of each.
Oh, and how much bacon would she like?
Liz gulped and asked for a slice of skinless breast.
No bacon.
She then explained how Americans cooked turkeys.
As an afterthought, Liz asked where the cranberry sauce was.

No bacon?
Cranberry sauce?

We ate that meal in silence.
Ma was wondering what else she was doing wrong.
She'd never heard of cranberry sauce.
She'd gotten her menu from a second-generation American in-law. 
Aunt Betty had been born in New York.
No Alien Registration cards for her.
Aunt Betty was secure enough to leave out the cranberry sauce.

Ma wasn't so secure.

That Christmas Ma cooked a baconless turkey.
She also opened a tin of cranberry sauce.

After Charlie and Liz had left, Pop said he was glad he'd planned ahead.
I'd been born in Malta.
He hadn't paid the extra $10 to have me made an American citizen.
I was still a British subject.
I was his ticket back to Malta.

Pop had always had a few doubts about New York.
He didn't want to be trapped there.

A roast without bacon?
What else did Americans expect him to give up?

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