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Humor November 2017

Ernie's World

Happy Big Night Day

By Ernie Witham

Fifteen shrimp, a mound of risotto the size of a small animal, and several glasses of wine later, I stopped complaining.

As anyone who has been read about us over the years can attest, as a family, we don’t always take the traditional route for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. So when Patrick suggested we have a “Big Night” Thanksgiving, the rest of the family was enthusiastic.

“Italian food for Thanksgiving?”

“No mashed potatoes?”

“Are you kidding me?”

Actually, those comments were mine. But I came around when I figured we would at least be having a traditional dessert.


“No pumpkin pie?”

“What’re you thinking?”

Big Night is a funny, sometimes sad, a bit revengeful, movie about two brothers – Primo (Tony Shalhoub), the perfectionist chef, and Secondo (Stanley Tucci), the hapless businessman, who open a traditional Italian restaurant in 1950s New Jersey, when most Americans thought spaghetti with meatballs was exotic. After one of their only customers orders seafood risotto not understanding what the heck it was, Primo calls her a philistine. Secondo wants to take risotto off the menu because it costs so much to make and people weren’t ready for it. Primo sarcastically suggests maybe they should substitute “hota dogas. People seem to likea those.” About to go broke, they gamble on one last huge meal that Italian-American singer Louis Prima is supposed to attend, which would give them great press.

Fortunately, our tastes have evolved since the ‘50s. We have now moved on from pizza and spaghetti.“There’s no spaghetti and meatballs?”

“No pizza?”

“You call this Italian?”

In the movie the brothers started out with soup, risotto tricolore, whole fish, followed by timpano (a giant pasta drum), a whole roasted suckling pig, and flambé. By the end people are laying on the table and moaning from so much food. Louis Prima was never actually invited by their “friend” and fellow Italian restaurant owner, Pascal, who is hoping they fail so they will work for him.

Our festivities started at 2 p.m. with antipasto, which I thought was a protest against having pasta for Thanksgiving, but turned out to be salami, cheese and olives on a bed of lettuce. This was served with a huge salad and grilled veggie crudité, which we washed down with Prosecco (Italian champagne).

“Veggie crudité?”


I grumbled about traditional values, then had three helpings of everything. Patrick grilled shrimp and placed them on a bed of polenta. This was served with mushroom and asparagus risotto.

“No sweet potatoes?”

“What the heck?”

Fifteen shrimp, a mound of risotto the size of a small animal, and several glasses of wine later, I stopped complaining.

“Time for a walk,” it was announced. I wasn’t sure I could walk, but we went out to Campus Point and watched a traditional sunset. Then went back home for… “Turkey? With stuffing? Yay!” That’s when they served the turkey cutlets on tomato slices with Tuscan kale and white bean stuffing with couscous.” Again, I voiced my desire for the good old days – then I had two plates full.

Finally, the last course, timpano! Actually it was my wife’s lasagna, which usually lasts for several days when she makes it just for us. This time it didn’t last ten minutes.

For desert, Christy made crème brule and Leila made macaroons. The best part was Christy brought a small torch and everyone got to “brown” their own crème brule crust.

“Please don’t start anything on fire,” my wife asked. I quickly extinguished my napkin and told her not to worry. After devouring the crème brule, I had a few more glasses of wine, several homemade macaroons, a few bowls of gelato and six cups of espresso.

At this point in the movie they danced and played a game with a large piece of string and a ring. The person in the middle tried to guess who had the ring without looking.

“Time for the traditional football game on the back lawn?”

“How about Texas Hold’em instead?” Cards were dealt, a few more cookies went around and Jon opened a bottle of wine he’d been saving for a special occasion.

“You know, this turned out really well. How about we make this the new traditional Thanksgiving?” I suggested.

I looked around the table, I could see they were already formulating an alternative.


For more adventures please check out Where Are Pat and Ernie Now?

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