Having been a resident of the USA for such a short time hadn’t properly prepared me for the true tonnage of Thanksgiving. The traffic , the week long stakeout at Airports on the Weather Channel by some hyperthermic reporter exclaiming the busyness of it all and lamenting her lack of preparedness for the ensuing holiday….. I mean who knew that Thanksgiving comes on the fourth Thursday of November every year!
Being European my only exposure to this kind of Turkey Mania is at Christmas time and the sound bite of my Mum’s ” I still haven’t got everything done! ” on Christmas Eve has the same flavour as the American Senior Citizen’s in Ingle’s on Wednesday morning : ” Darlin’ I’m worried sick the jelly won’t be ready in time!” she complained into her monumentally proportioned cell phone.
So much stress about cooking a big chicken and potatoes, vegetables and gravy seems part of the tradition. Without the sacrifice of nerves, lower vertebrae, relationships and fossil fuel emissions how else could we truly convey how grateful we are in this world where everything is so available? The preparation of the meal is the main event….. the actual eating is a side show.
My analysis of the American Thanksgiving has revealed a meal that is as personal to as many as it is standard to others. The Standard ranges from ok-ish to good from what i can see consisting of a lot of processed foods unpackaged and served , unpackaged, mixed together and served or simply made meat and potato dinners with the addition of not unsubstantial amounts of sweetening; the personal ranges from bizar to outstanding. The creativity and insight I have seen the past couple of weeks on various facebook pages, food blogs and TV shows has had me hooked and I just want to be reeled in so I can see it close up! . A friend’s Duck glaze was a reduction of Lambrusco, pomegranate syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and plums and is worthy of a mention, as is the three bread stuffing with apricots, pecan and thyme I gorged myself on yesterday afternoon ….sharing my life with a freshly innovative cook broadens my horizons and opens my eyes and taste buds no end …. having two food nuts in one house is a welcome curse .
IMHO the side dishes are the stars of the extravaganza. I means let’s not kid ourselves that turkey is as interesting as…. well……. turkey ; its what you put on it , in it and next to it that elevates this neutral bird. The Thanksgiving parade of stuffings, compotes, “casseroles” loosely termed “soufflés” potatoes, purées, sugar drenched “salads” and caramelised and marshmallowed yams is but the tip of an iceberg floating in the gravy of american cultural history. When we step into the realms of Mac and Cheese and Jelly pudding on our plates my head spins at the “anything goes” attitude that is in no way cavalier.
After the free-for-all of the Main Course we arrive at the most restrained part of the Feast. Maybe it’s a throw back to the puritanical origins of the Holiday that two or maybe three types of pie are the norm. Pecan Pie is a nutty-rich version of Tarte Aux Sucre that I would be happy scoffing down 365 days a year. At our house the other pie was a 5 Apple, Bourbon spiced Death Star of a dessert… rising a good 6 inches into the atmosphere and fumigating the whole house with warm , homey spicy gorgeousness.Pumpkin pie is synonymous with Thanksgiving, a smooth, sweet-spicy custard in a crisp pastry shell that screams “olden days”…. i am eating an obscenely large piece as I type and i have to say there’s so nothing else like it in my experience. I’m already thinking about ways I could adapt the recipe; maybe with a Creme Brulée caramel crust, or the addition of sweet sticky roasted garlic….. Lemon grass and Ginger… hmmm… only 364 days to work it out !