This week, how could I write about anything else, really?
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, the Mother of all Food Holidays. Yes, there are other holidays with food associated with them, but few others are so focused on the Feast.
It really is my favorite holiday. I love cooking for other people. I love the turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy (“Gravy, gravy uber alles”…everybody sing!) and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and, yes, even the cranberry sauce.
There are other things, too, that can be part of the feast. My mom always put out a relish tray.
What, you say, is a relish tray?
At our house, it consisted of a tray (or two) of pickles (Dad’s dills, Mom’s 14-day sweets, sometimes bread and butter pickles or pickled beets or dilled green beans, all homemade, of course) and olives. As kids, we used to put the black olives on our fingers (like you didn’t…come on, admit it). I wouldn’t touch a green olive…hated them and their suspicious-looking red centers. I have since changed my tune and will eat almost anything that can be called an olive, especially when stuffed with things like pimiento or garlic.
Other families munch on things like smoked oysters and smoked clams. That’s great for them. I won’t deprive them of their joy.
And speaking of seafood, some really awesome sisters make shrimp ball, some of which is sitting in my fridge right now because I am too full to eat any. Shrimp, cream cheese, onions…oooooh…so tasty!!!
There are so many variations on the theme. Turkey wrapped in bacon. Chicken wrapped in duck wrapped in turkey. Turkey stuffed with herbs and aromatics. Turkey stuffed with stuffing (don’t listen to Alton Brown. Stuffing is not evil if you are careful. The best stuffing in the world is the stuffing that comes from the turkey.).
Then there’s the stuffing. Cornbread stuffing (my mom’s favorite), oyster stuffing, sausage stuffing, apple stuffing, plain old bread stuffing. Start with butter, onions and celery and go hog wild if you want. My favorite is plain old bread stuffing, but made with some good artisan bread, plus lots of fresh sage and extra turkey or chicken stock to get it nice and moist. I love getting Grand Central Bakery’s bags of stuffing bread. It’s their bread, already cubed and dried and ready. Oh, so good! And it supports a local business!
Some families have varieties of fermented fruit to drink with the meal (and before and after, too). One friend loves to have cranberry wine (and why not?). Some would say that one must serve white wine because it’s poultry, but a light red like a pinot noir is wonderful with turkey (as evidenced by last night’s bottle with dinner, Pinot Evil.). There are lots of fruit wines (in my basement) that would go well with Thanksgiving dinner. Or to go with dessert after dinner.
Oh, dessert. I nearly forgot.
Traditionalists would say pumpkin pie only. Truthfully, that would be enough for me. I would be very happy with a big slice of pumpkin pie with a mountain of whipped cream on top (no Cool Whip, please).
But there are other wonders of the pie form that would be equally appropriate and delicious. Apple pie, for example. Apple is a fall fruit and is wonderful in a pie, particularly the crumb-topped variety (like the one my niece made for yesterday’s dinner. The one we had to fight my brother-in-law to get a piece of. We just claimed it was for the 2 year old and got away with it.)
There are other forms of pumpkin dessert that can grace the table, too. One friend does not like piecrust, so she makes a pumpkin custard in ramekins and serves it like that. Or there is pumpkin cheesecake, like the one made by my other niece for yesterday’s dinner. With a little chocolate swirled in to make it sexy. :o) The 2-year-old like that one, too.
But for all the various forms the meal itself can take, one thing remains constant. The gathering of family, however you choose to define the word, to feast and give thanks.
It can make the absence of lost loved ones ache in your chest and your throat. But ultimately it creates joy and reminds us all what is truly important in life. Good food and the company of good friends and family to share it with.
I have said it before and will say it many, many times more. The most satisfying, humanizing, communal thing we can do is sit down and break bread with one another. It is nourishment not only for the body, but for the soul as well. And today, both body and soul are full up to here!
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
Thanks for stopping by!
PS – And a Happy Birthday to my son, who is 2 years old today!