Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

A Thankful Heart

Thanksgiving dinner (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Generally, at Thanksgiving, I’m too busy cooking to take any pictures. So I can’t show you the long table cobbled together from ramshackle surfaces and chairs that people brought themselves. Or the way the whole thing was wedged into the living room so tightly you could barely breathe. Nor can I show you the bird, with its deep brown skin, crackled in the oven or the way the moist white flesh slipped gently away beneath the knife.

I can only tell you about all the things we cooked – sweet potatoes roasted in bourbon-maple sauce, bright kale salad with parmesan, almonds, and dates, cranberry relish, sour cream mashed potatoes, a stuffing chock full of caramelized onions and kale, lemony grated carrots, green beans tossed in a dried cranberry and walnut vinaigrette, and pan gravy made from turkey drippings.

Preparing the turkey (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Roasted garlic for aioli (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

And I can only tell you about the things that other people brought – roasted beetroot, warm and spicy enchiladas slathered in cheese, tabbouleh and bulgur salad, olives and dips, onion focaccia and loaves of bread studded with cranberries and walnuts, tomato butter spread, spicy celery, pretzel and peanut butter mousse pie, pumpkin pie, and plenty of wine, certainly.

The kitchen, before it descended into chaos (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
The turkey, ready to roast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Bourbon and butter for the sweet potatoes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But what no picture could have managed to capture is a snapshot of my heart that night – full. Grateful for co-workers who have become friends, friends who have become family, and family that will come and fix the couch the next day after it breaks under the weight of too many guests squashed onto its brittle frame.

The turkey (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s so much sadness and anger in the world, too many things I can’t understand. So many bigoted and hateful opinions, so much violence.

When I read the news and feel my chest start to clench in helpless rage, I think of a story a yoga teacher told once after a class, long ago in a sweaty studio in St. » Continue reading this post…

A Thanksgiving Love Letter: Mrs. Burns’s Cranberry Relish

Cranberry and orange relish (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s nearly here! My very favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. For me, Thanksgiving is like Christmas without all the strings attached. You don’t have to wonder if the present you bought is heartfelt enough or of sufficient monetary value, there are no last minute stocking stuffers to stock up on, no crazy shopping sprees or crazily decked-out stores to suffer through. There are a lot of things I love about Christmas, and there seems to be a theme to the things I don’t.

If Christmas can sometimes feel like it’s about maximizing the value of what you can get out of it, Thanksgiving is about giving out of the plenty you already have.

A bowl of winter oranges (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Fresh cranberries and oranges (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Growing up, our Thanksgiving table welcomed others in. There was always enough food, always enough chairs for a few extra relatives, family friends, my parents’ international students with homes too far away. And every Thanksgiving, we’d crowd around the long dining room table set with the best dishes and laden with food like jewels: a crisp, brown bird in center stage, rich stuffing made from torn breadcrumbs and chestnuts, fresh cranberry relish and hot rolls, green beans spiked with toasted almonds, maple-glazed carrots, sweet potatoes dotted with flamed marshmallows, and creamy mashed potatoes and gravy made from turkey drippings. For dessert, there were pumpkin and apple pies, fresh from the oven and still warm to the touch.

Mrs. Burns's cranberry relish (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cranberry relish on orange paté (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What also made an appearance at our table every year were a few dried beans. Before we could dive into that indulgent spread, we had to throw our beans into a pot and say what we were thankful for. One thankful thing per bean. When you’re an angsty teenager, having to publicly admit to being thankful for anything is the worst. I dreaded that show of gushy emotion. Also, it always made me cry. » Continue reading this post…

The Turkey (a Thanksgiving Poem)

Turkey ready to roast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Slowly roasting in the oven
are the chestnuts for the stuffing
and the bread whose top is crusting,
while the pies that line the counter –
lemon, mince and plum and apple –
share a gleaming spot of sunlight
with a heaping of delightful
green beans, relish, candied yams;
stacked high ladles, pots, and pans
fill the sink to overflowing,
as the cooks keep stirring dishes
and dear uncle Albert minces
with the cold, hard slicing
of the knife, knife, knife.

Aunt Belinda in the kitchen
is in charge of all the mixing,
the potatoes and the gravy,
the green salad, peas, and pastry.
What’s leftover goes to Mother
with her pantry prowess bared.
She’s been up since seven thirty
basting thick the frozen turkey
while her darling husband relishes
the TV’s golden glow
and the giant bird is soaking
in the juices all its own.
Aunt Belinda shouting orders
fills the kitchen with her roar
while involuntary winces
lurk in mother’s charming smile.
Still dear Uncle Albert minces
with the cold, hard slicing
of the knife, knife, knife. » Continue reading this post…

Holiday Hangover – A Photo Journal Ode to Leftovers

Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Turkey sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When the guests have gone, and all that’s left is a looming pile of dirty dishes and a turkey carcass, that’s when the fun really starts. The leftovers are packed into containers, and each one lovingly, religiously hauled out of the refrigerator for the next few days for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sandwiches, soups, pot pies… The feast is re-formed. It has a new lease on life.  » Continue reading this post…

Explaining Holidays or How to Plan a Dinner Party without Furniture

Thanksgiving spread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We argued about Squanto for a while, some of us positing that he had been integral to the first Thanksgiving, others that he wasn’t a real figure to begin with, sounding too much like a bad and somewhat culturally insensitive joke. Squanto, however, as the internet verified a few glasses of wine later, was real. He had been kidnapped as a child and taken to England and taught English. After a journey of intrigue and backstabbing, he traveled back to his native America on John Smith’s ship to discover that most of the new England tribes had been wiped out. It’s a heartwarming story, but not part of the Thanksgiving myth. The debate continued.

There were thirteen countries, twelve of which don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, represented at Thanksgiving this year, so there wasn’t much corroborating the North Americans could do on each other’s version of history. It seems we each had slightly varying versions of the First Thanksgiving. We considered performing dramatic retellings to the assembled guests and letting them vote for the most entertaining, and hence, definitive story. That seems to be how history works, anyway. » Continue reading this post…

Love is Wherever You Find It

Thanksgiving dinner (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Warm murmur, glasses clinking, candlelight, the smell of herbs and browned butter, a room full of people crammed around a long, improvised table, a whole roasted turkey. Thanksgiving in Berlin, beautiful.

Jamie and I have spent all morning cooking. Turkey with herbs and butter and apple cider gravy, bratwurst, apple and cranberry stuffing, celeriac and potato mash, carrots glazed in sherry, green beans in toasted walnut vinaigrette, cranberry nut rolls, roasted sweet potatoes with sage, kale and Brussels sprouts salad, apple pie, pumpkin pie… All of the good things Thanksgiving means. Elisabeth comes home around one after a long day at school and a quick shopping trip for some last minute menu items, and begins to set up the living room. At three, a quick pick-me-up (vodka/muddled orange, mint, brown sugar/goji berry smoothie), and back to work. We sneak finger-fuls of gravy base at regular intervals, dance around the kitchen to tacky party pop with whisks, improvise baking dishes from cake pans, toast with cans of champagne.

Our guests arrive between six and seven, I slip into my party dress, purchased at a vintage store last weekend in Paris, wipe flour from my face. We work through until eight – the last minute touches to a big dinner party – adding the olive oil to a dressing of Dijon, shallots, garlic, and sherry vinegar whose flavors have been melding all day, pouring pan juices into gravy base, shrieking at how good the gravy is, grating parmesan. » Continue reading this post…

Come Together (Right Now, Over Me, Ba-da-da-da-dum)

Thanksgiving (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Americans love Thanksgiving. There’s feasting and family, paper turkeys, historically elusive pilgrims, ticker tape, brisk winds, tryptophan, and faintly ringing jingle bells making promises of an even bigger and better shabang to come. Maybe it’s an inborn gluttony or a cultural draw to symbol and spectacle. But maybe, through a delicious twist, a singularly American holiday is one in which pride, that cornerstone component of the (quotation marks necessary) “American Dream,” is replaced, at least hypothetically, by thankfulness.

Thanksgiving traditions are fierce and hard to kill. More than Christmas dinner, the Thanksgiving meal is scripted. There may be variations on a theme, but the melody is always turkey, stuffing, green beans, potatoes (both plain and sweet), bread, cranberry, and gravy. Last year, when I proposed to make an ancho-chile rubbed turkey from a recipe I found in Gourmet, my youngest brother said, “You’re going to ruin Thanksgiving.” Motivated by that vote of confidence, I made the turkey anyway, and was surprised when he announced over dinner that it was the best turkey we’d ever had. Of course, after seeing the “I-told-you-so” look on my face, he quickly recanted the statement.

Thanksgiving in my family doesn’t follow a specific formula, per se, but there’s always a menu-related tug of war between tradition and innovation that starts about a month before the event. Green beans bathed in butter, garlic, and roast almonds or ascetically blanched and served with salt and freshly ground pepper, Southern-style cheddar biscuits or jalapeno-studded cornbread or Pillsbury rolls from one of those popping cans, cranberry relish or cranberry jelly or cranberry salad, stuffing with chestnuts or croutons, mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, and the piece de resistance – where to begin on the duel-inducing differences. Brined, baked, slow-roasted, deep fried, basted, barbequed, stuffing in, stuffing out, salt-rubbed, herb-stuffed – if the turkey makes it to the table without a death in family, there’s more than enough reason to be thankful. » Continue reading this post…

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