Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving's alternative history can finally be told

 BANNED IN PASADENA. These days you have to be soooo careful.

Not a lot of people know there is a secret society dedicated to promoting the eating of pizza at Thanksgiving. It is headed by a group of Italian-Americans ("Paisan-ers") who espouse an alternative American origin story. They believe it was Italians who built the first colonies and whose feast of Thanksgiving with the natives involved not cranberries but cannoli.

In exchange for the knowledge of growing corn, the Europeans taught the natives how to whip up some mean gnocchi. There was turkey, sure. Tetrazzini. And pie. Pizza, that is.

When the Italians began tossing rounds of pizza dough high in the air, the natives reportedly cowered in fear of this dark magic. The collision of two cultures is never pretty (witness hot dog-stuffed pizza crust.)

The aforementioned secret society, code named "PapaDomino," is like that clandestine group in that "Da Vinci Code" book, except more sauce-splattered. Every year its influence is in evidence in TV ads, which promote an effort-free "alternative" to the traditional feast. "Let us do the work for you," they say, as if slaving all day in the kitchen isn't the entire point of Thanks giving.


The natives, so the story goes, gave the Italians stone-ground corn, and in return got stone-fired pizza. Entire native villages began to be renamed things like "Antipasti" and "Insalata."

Pantaloons were the rage for a season among chiefs until it was realized they were scaring away all the game. For their part, the Italians hit new heights of culinary fusion, with venison carbonara and zuppa di grouse.

Even the lore admits there was sometimes friction, but pizza, then as now, acted as an effective social lubricant. Long before there was such a thing as "New York Style," there was "Wampanoag Style," which was not only thin crust, but was rolled tightly around an arrow and shot into a friend's open mouth. This was also known jokingly as a "Plymouth tonsillectomy."

It might not have happened.

Historians are only now unearthing artifacts at the sites of original colonies which may confirm the legends. A garlic press carved from antelope horn is a strong indicator, however. Not to mention the porcupine skeleton pasta maker.

So a new history is, perhaps, in the making, and a modern fusion born. If CPK could just perfect a turkey, yam and stuffing pie, I for one would certainly be thankful.