Thanksgiving 2012 has come and gone. And while I am sitting on the Davenport adjusting my pants to speed in the digestion of my breakfast pumpkin pie and absorbing Twin Peaks (thank you Netflix - always looking out for me you are!) I got to thinking and we all know that thinking leads to trouble.
When Thanksgiving comes around I am always in awe by the tales of tradition that get sparked when simply asked, "What are your Thanksgiving plans?". A truly food based holiday, Thanksgiving is an icon of one meal with variations on a food theme. Turkeys everywhere are cooked, brined, grilled, deep fried or served by some poor waiter who drew the short straw. Cranberries are boiled, sauteed, or shaken out of a can. Pumpkin pie is served watery, burned or out of the local bakery box. People go "home", refuse invitations, or make tacos alone at home (this happens, I heard a first hand account). And when the question is turned back on me I have a different answer every year.
I don't recall much of a traditional Thanksgiving. Christmas has always been celebrated with my mother's family. Thanksgiving was at times with my father's side. It was never at a grandparent's house (those were mysterious apartments in "The Big City"). It was once at a corn field adjacent split level ranch in a Minneapolis suburb. Once or twice in a McMansion on the other side of town where the back brace I was sportin' for my scoliosis knocked out my cousins loose tooth. A few times at my mother's home. And my non family Thanksgiving with my Vermont roommate and her first child, a sarcastic orange cat named Jeter who I am convinced reprogrammed the DVR while I was at work. But nothing that screams tradition like going to my mother's every Christmas for 30 some years.
So this year when asked, "What are your Thanksgiving plans?" I answered truthfully that I was hosting.
In a home that is not really mine, but graciously shared, and with old and new members of the family. It was a small gathering, only four strong. But I made a 22 pound bird. I needed to guarantee that myself and the roommate would be sick of turkey by the week's end. The food person in me wanted to scour magazines and websites for new and improved versions of classic Thanksgiving recipes. It was when I heard my boss say she was making store bought boxed stuffing because it would otherwise be missed I realized that my traditional Thanksgiving was in the food. And even though the venue had changed once again, and with it the guests, the one thing that could stay the same was the food.
I still scoured magazines and blogs, but looked for recipes that were simple and flavorful. Ones that I could write down on one note card and save again for later use. Or simply forget and fake it again next year.
So I’ve realized that my Thanksgiving tradition is change in venue. Every year it is someplace different with different people. But the food stays the same and I know I will eat it. That will never change.
Here are some Thanksgivings pasts:
2012 - Playing Buzzword with my sister, brother-in-law, and mother. If my mother thinks you know the phrase she will just repeat the phrase progressively louder. Kind of like how some people think you need to yell at blind people to get your point across.
2011 - Having my broken heart tended to by friends in the worlds tiniest kitchen in Midtown Manhattan. They popped my French Onion Soup cherry. I taught them how to properly zest a lemon. And the new friend at the table wove HBO like tales about growing up in Brooklyn.
2005 - My first Martha Stewart turkey. Served on T.V. trays in my first apartment with my then roommate and a couple that broke up because he was cheating on her with his college professor. Ahhh...the memories.
Sometime in college - trekking to The Minnesota Iron Range for a lakeside meal with my father's family.
Even earlier in life - My Uncle Tom shoving olives up his nose and making me laugh until it hurt.
1979 - My First Thanksgiving. I called my mother to get confirmation on this and her response was as follows..."oh my god you've got to be kidding me! It was at my mother's. I can tell you that it was a houseful. And there was no lack of food and smoke and drink."
I heard on the radio this week that Thanksgiving is a time of thinking "what if?". That we spend time thinking about last year and what would be different if a left had been taken instead of a right. I will never stop wondering about the turn not taken. But now I look forward to my Thanksgiving tradition of change. And wonder with who and where my 2013 Thanksgiving will take place. Please feel free to contact me with invitations. I do cook and warm weather options will move to the top of the list.
Now to keep true to my food blog. Here is what I served for Thanksgiving this year...
Brie with Onion Jam and Cranberry Compote
Cream Cheese with Jalapeno Jelly and Crackers
"Accidental Turkey" (recipe below - but pretty damn basic)
Parmesan Smashed Potatoes (just add fresh grated parm and use heavy cream and REAL butter for cripes sake. How often do you really make smashed potatoes to muck it up with skim milk and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter But Kills Me Slowly Because My Body Doesn't Know How To Process Fake Butter In A Yellow Tub? Use the real stuff.)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce and White Dinner Rolls Thanks to a meal exchange program with Work Wife. I scored with rolls and sauce and her kids are hopefully binging on my cookies.
Homemade Herbed Stuffing Just a mix of dried multigrain and white rolls I acquired over a period of a few weeks and dried. Mixed with some fresh herbs, olive oil, celery, onions and chicken stock. Topped with more grated parmesan.
Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie We had a gluten free guest drop out at the last minute. I wasn't in the mood to make a new pie crust so I just used the gluten free one I bought at Whole Foods. Here's a list of Gluten Free Bakehouse Products available at Whole Foods (click HERE not here)
Below are a few recipes that I "used". If I made changes I let you know after the recipe.
RECIPE FROM SHUTTERBEAN
Makes 1 1/2 Cups
Cranberry Ginger Vanilla Compote
RECIPE ADAPATED FROM INA GERTEN Food Network
Happy Thanksgiving. It's now time for Christmas cookies.
Keeping one more tradition alive...
To recap this Thanksgiving I am thankful for:
1. Just Joni, Sister and Sister's Husband for being cool enough to come to me for Thanksgiving.
2. SAGL for being cool enough to let me use his house once again for a social function.
3. Sassy Brooklynite Karen for being healthy!
4. My lack of cable keeping me from having to listen to Al Roker provide commentary on a parade that is happening nowhere near my present location.