Ah, Thanksgiving, a day devoted to a great meal shared with family and friends. It is by far my favorite holiday, with the gorgeous color leaves outside, crisp autumn air, parades and football, a wonderful meal shared with people I love and the anticipation of the holiday season ahead. Well, that is what it is now.
But, years ago Thanksgiving was the source of much anxiety, as my then new husband and I struggled to come to agreement on the menu that would appease both my family and his. Is there anyone out there that has not had The Great Stuffing Debate? What kind of stuffing (or dressing) white bread or cornbread, mushrooms or oysters, celery or leeks, or some other dilemma? Can we have broccoli instead of green beans? Then there are the Cranberry Wars – jellied versus whole fruit. Be prepared to deal with the angst if you mess with dessert, although we often did.
My family from the South used cornbread, and his mother born in New Jersey used white bread. Personally, I don’t like the cornbread version, so that was an easy compromise for me. I also hate celery, and my mother-in-law just had to get used to that, but we made it work. I found the perfect stuffing everyone could agree on in a 1995 Bon Appetit magazine – Sourdough Stuffing with Bacon, Mushrooms and Leeks – and have served it for years now. Here’s a link to the recipe – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bread-Stuffing-with-Mushrooms-and-Bacon-880
My mother and I loved to cook together, and often used the pages of a food magazine to inspire us to create other side dishes and desserts. She and I laughed every year about an article we read where the author was whining about having to cook this huge holiday meal on four burners and one oven! Whaaaatt, you mean like the rest of us?!! There have been some memorable stories of holiday disasters, like the year my mother put all the potato peelings down the disposal at once and stopped up the sink in the middle of dinner preparation. A frantic call, and a big plumber’s bill were our entertainment for the day. We made different vegetable dishes and frequently did something different for dessert. One year it was Pumpkin Crème Brulee, another was Pumpkin Roll Cake with Carmel Sauce and a Toffee Filling out of Bon Appetit magazine – yum!! Here’s a link for the Pumpkin Roll Cake recipe – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pumpkin-Roll-Cake-with-Toffee-Cream-Filling-and-Caramel-Sauce-911
There was another Thanksgiving many years ago at my mother’s house where she couldn’t get everyone to the table because dinner was ready too early. It was still second quarter of the game and it was before anyone had a VCR. She got madder and the turkey got colder while the rest of us were yelling at the TV. The issue was solved with some aluminum foil, a 200-degree oven, and opening the wine.
Then there was the holiday where I had done the shopping about a week before. I had a comprehensive list and got everything but the required jellied cranberry sauce because the shelf was empty. It just isn’t Thanksgiving unless that lump of jellied sauce is on my grandmother’s Depression glass cranberry dish with the indentations from the can showing. I forgot about it until that morning and became frantic!! The stores were closing in less than half an hour when I realized I didn’t have it. My husband barely made it in time and luckily there were cans on the shelf. Whew!! Crisis averted.
I also enjoy reading other people’s stories on the holiday. One particularly memorable story I read years ago concerned another young wife wanting to impress her in-laws with her gravy. She wanted it absolutely lump free, but was having trouble getting it that way. In a moment of inspiration, she grabbed the strainer to strain out the lumps. You can see this coming, can’t you? Yep, she put the strainer in the sink, and poured the gravy through it and down the drain.
Now, to the foodie book on Thanksgiving. This book is a small, paperback volume that is packed full of stories and tips on this most American (and Canadian!) holiday. There are lots of choices on how to cook a turkey, suggestions on stuffings and dressings, inventive side dishes, soups, appetizers, breads and desserts. You will find basic directions on a perfect pumpkin pie as well as a recipe for the aforementioned Pumpkin Crème Brulee, or to really mix it up, Cranberry Cheesecake. There is something here for both the beginner cook and experienced foodie. Get your copy with my Amazon link.
Want to try something a little different for the holiday? How about Turkey Breast Roulade with Wild Mushroom Stuffing and Marsala Sauce? Here’s a link to the recipe from the Thanksgiving 101 book – http://rickrodgers.com/rick_rodgers/rr/recipes/main-courses/turkey-breast-roulade-with-wild-mushroom-stuffing-and-marsala-sauce.html
Here’s hoping your holiday is stress free, full of love and laughter, shared with family and friends.