sicily america

Thanksgiving Secrets and Surprises: Sicily and America

Sicilian Thanksgiving, of course, is a contradiction in terms. As you learned in grade school, the feast at Thanksgiving commemorated the good harvest the settlers supposedly had, but what are the REAL facts?

American Thanksgiving

How much is really factual about what we have learned. We have exactly one eye-witness report – a letter written by one of the 100 colonists, Mr. Edward Winslow.

Fun Facts:

In the letter back to England, Mr. Winslow reported the facts.

What we know for sure:

  • Approximately 50 colonists attended the first harvest celebration (men and children).
  • There were 90 native Wampanoag Indians headed by Massasoit.
  • They were mostly men because many of the women perished during the previous winter and did not survive the epidemic the first winter brought.
  • It was not a single day but a 4-day feast which consisted of venison, fish, mussels, lobster, bass and pumpkin.
  • Although turkeys were plentiful, no record of a big, roasted bird exists at the feast. The birds were probably ducks, geese and swans. (Swans????? so sad.)
  • Stuffing for the fowl  probably consisted of herbs, onions, and nuts…no bread…seriously.
  • Veggies on the table were probably onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas. Corn  would have been removed from the cob and turned into cornmeal…sweetened with molasses. Sounds good to me…nice and organic.

Here is a depiction of the first harvest festival celebrated in the New World.

First Thanksgiving

Sicily’s Thanksgiving

Did you know that Italians learn about our Thanksgiving history in school? They have, however, no idea about our food traditions.

What is a candied yam? The Italians don’t understand cranberry sauce either. The Sicilians refer to our Thanksgiving celebration as “La Festa del Tacchino” “The Turkey Party”. Oh ya, they don’t get it, but that is okay with me.

The Sicilians have quite a different day of thanks. Most of the Italian holidays are based on Saint’s days. Their greatest day of thanks comes on March 19th when they celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. Check out an example of a Saint Joseph’s day celebration table.

Saint Josephs Day

It looks quite a bit different from our Thanksgiving tables. You have to love the Italians. Look at the food, yum. As you know, Italians do things “en masse”. That means every relative is invited to the Saint Joseph’s Day celebration.  Since Joseph is Jesus’ father, Saint Joseph’s Day is celebrated as Father’s Day also. Fascinating, don’t you think?

Learn all about Saint Joseph’s Day. Read article.

Food Glorious Food

Some Americans cook an entire turkey with all the trimmings, but there are other innovative recipes that veer from the norm.

This recipe is for rolled turkey. The recipe is inspired by The Spruce Eats, but I have made some modifications to the recipe. You can find the technique here.

stuffed turkey breast

Rolled Turkey

This is a possible substitution for an entire turkey for your Thanksgiving feast.
5 from 1 vote
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 6
Calories 190 kcal


  • Cooking twine


  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 1 cup diced spinach
  • 2 tbsp. parsley chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp. basil chopped finely
  • 1 6 - 8 lb. turkey breast pounded thin
  • ½ lb. prosciutto sliced
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 splash dry white wine
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste


  • Dice 1 carrot and 1 stalk of celery.
  • In 2 tbsp. olive oil, sauté the carrot, celery, spinach, basil, and parsley on medium low for about 10 minutes (until veggies are soft). Remove from heat.
  • Spread the pounded turkey breast on a flat surface and cover it evenly with the sauted veggies, the slices of prosciutto and grated Parmigiano. Roll the turkey tightly around the filling and secure with kitchen twine.
  • Dice the remaining carrot and celery stalk as well as the onion.
  • Drizzle the remaining olive oil evenly over the bottom of a large, deep pan and scatter the vegetables evenly over the oil.
  • Place the turkey on top of the diced vegetables and place the pan over medium-high heat.
  • Brown the turkey roll evenly for about 5 minutes, turning with a wooden spoon to brown all sides.
  • Add a splash of white wine to the pan and deglaze for about 1 minute, until the smell of alcohol dissipates, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen and dissolve any browned juices.
  • Cover the pan with a lid and let simmer over low heat for about 1 hour, checking often and adding a bit of water or broth, if necessary.
  • Remove the lid, raise the heat to medium and cook for another 10minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Keyword rolled turkey, turkey

Final Thought

I love studying the food of the Sicilian culture. Sicily’s food culture revolves around long and leisurely meals. They share dishes and savor each bite. Generally there are many choices and many hours to devour the savory spread. By the way, there are no fast meals in Sicily. Everything closes up around noon every day, and 3 hours are dedicated to the mid-day meal. Gelato is the only food eaten on the go.

Personally from me, may every meal you eat be delightfully satisfying and most of the time healthy. (Everything in moderation.)

Buon appetito, enjoy.

This video is very amusing. Please enjoy.

One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Babe, this sounds amazing!!! I know we missed being together for Thanksgiving this year, let’s mark our calendars for next year, OK?

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