Our marketing team asked me to write a blog about a memorable Thanksgiving. I thought back on the many meals at our very large (40+ brothers, sisters, their husbands, wives and children) Thanksgiving gatherings and how special each and every one of them was, but my mind brought me back to my single days.

I was 25 and had just moved from Carmel, IN to Tampa, FL for a new job in data and telecom. I relocated in August and didn’t have much time between work and learning about my new home to make a bunch of new friends. However, I made one friend/drinking buddy, Greg, who was interesting to say the least but eccentric to say the best.

Greg and I lived in an apartment complex that was U-shaped. In the center of the U was a large crop of mangroves that spilled out into Tampa Bay. I lived at the bottom of the U, and Greg lived on the right-hand side of the U with roughly 1,000 feet of open terrain between our apartments. Greg lived on the third floor of his unit and I on the first of mine, but we had a direct line of sight between our apartments. We had met one day at the pool—he was a newly minted attorney and also enjoying his first assignment in Tampa.

I quickly learned that Greg had a disdain for new technology, which at that time were cell phones. His preferred way of asking to see if I wanted to do something with him was standing on his balcony with an electric bull horn. “You there, Joe the Italian, come out of your apartment and speak with me!” he would yell. It was a near daily occurrence, him bull-horning questions and me answering as loud as I could shout. One crisp 60 degree November day, the familiar bull horn call arrived. “Joe the Italian, we are having a Thanksgiving Day feast, bring your best Italian dish and arrive at my apartment at noon on Thanksgiving ready to watch football and feast!” How could I refuse?

I decided right there that my contribution would be Caponata, an Italian eggplant dish that would show up at family gatherings from time to time. Excited to be somewhere for Thanksgiving, I did my best to make something that represented my heritage and family and reminded me of home.

When I arrived at Greg’s apartment, I was greeted by no less than 25 men and women my age. My Caponata dish was placed upon the kitchen counter with plates of other family favorites from most of the guests. Being in Tampa, many of the dishes were of Cuban or Spanish origins and seafood was the standard. Mussels in sauce, scallops, salted fishes, roe and grouper decorated the spread (that’s right, not a single Turkey to be found!)

We enjoyed each other’s company and shared stories of our families while sharing a prayer of thanks, eating great food, drinking a few beers and enjoying the football games on TV. I met many friends that day, enough to occupy my time for two years in Florida. I still keep up with some today, 33 years later.

After I went home that night and I laid in bed, I was grateful for the new friends I made and new things I learned about their traditions and their family foods. In 1988, we called it a “Thanksgiving Party.”  Nowadays I hear the term, “Friendsgiving,” which feels more appropriate. Either way, it was a special day to be thankful for the good things God has put in my life. I would have never dreamed back then that I would be running a butcher shop and fish market!

With the same thanks I had back then, my family and I are grateful for you, our customers and friends.  Your business has blessed us with a successful shop, wonderful employees and a unique place in our community. We are happy to be a small part of your Thanksgiving meal and holiday celebrations.

From the bottom of my family’s heart to yours, THANK YOU!