Thanksgiving For The Bread On Our Table
I have been assured by my Aunt Theresa that it is not just family lore that her father (my grandfather) Tomaso Di Camillo arrived in Niagara Falls, New York on Thanksgiving Day in 1898. It was the end of his journey from the Italian Abruzzi hill town of Villamagana. It seems that dates, feast days, and omens had deep meaning to my grandfather who was, by all accounts, a deeply spiritual man and the founder of our family bakery. The concept of a meal of thanksgiving appealed to him. Its significance was confirmed for him by his arrival on this quintessential America holiday.
My father’s family embraced Thanksgiving Day as if they themselves had invented it. The bakery they ran became, on this day, their private kitchen. Our Scaletta “curly” Italian breads, and Biscotti Di Prato were baked early in the day and then put aside. The bakery ovens, still hot from baking our daily fare, were now in the service of the Di Camillo family’s personal Thanksgiving dinner.
The preparations eventually involved nearly every woman in the family. The men were put into service to load the ovens. What remains most vivid for those of us lucky enough to have been present at these wonderful feasts is the memory, not of the traditional Thanksgiving Day turkey, but a roasted piglet! As the years passed, capons, and then finally turkeys themselves did eventually join the Di Camillo family Thanksgiving menu. However, the main event was always a roasted piglet that our grandfather, grandmother, and their descendants lovingly prepared, and then conveniently roasted in our bakery ovens! Our parents, aunts, and uncles have regaled us with stories of our grandfather even brushing the teeth of the piglet!
This very Di Camillo interpretation of Thanksgiving Day did, in short order, incorporate one dish of the traditional American meal: bread-stuffing. Although it never actually “stuffed” the cavity of the piglet, it was always served separately as a baked, crusty, savory side-dish-- very nearly a bread pudding. Certainly the bakeries day-old Italian Scaletta bread played a part in our families embrace of bread-stuffing. Our Scaletta “curly” Italian Breads were always seen as something precious, and day-old bread was always recycled: either ground for bread crumbs or sliced and toasted and buttered for our Biscotti Di Camillo (“Italian crisp-bread”). Our grandparents were very practical-- yet extravagant—people, and bread-stuffing became an early and central component of their Thanksgiving Day meal.
And as children, we were more interested in this delicious, crusty, savory baked bread-stuffing than in the actual meat course it accompanied!
For years we have offered in our retail stores our twice-cut and twice-baked Scaletta “curly” Italian bread for this essential Thanksgiving course. We know of no better beginning for the preparation of bread-stuffing than our Scaletta “curly” Bread twice-cut and twice-baked.
Our crusty sesame-studded breads make a hearty base for any bread stuffing recipe, and we are happy to share our family bread stuffing recipe with you as well as offer you the opportunity to purchase our bread no matter where you are on Thanksgiving Day, or throughout the year.
- Michael DiCamillo