Friday, November 21, 2008
On Thanksgiving dinner
ROBERTA: It's hard to concentrate on writing right now because Thanksgiving dinner will be at my place next week. We'll be eleven. And so as hard as I try to focus on my new novel's synopsis, my mind wanders off to the menu. My husband's siblings will all contribute (the sweet potato casserole, the mashed potatoes and turnips, the brussel sprouts), leaving me with the turkey, the gravy, the stuffing, and the pies. Pies are easy--I'll bake a delicious pumpkin-maple pie and a chocolate cream pie, which is nontraditional but universally adored. But I agonize over the stuffing. It has to be homemade--no Pepperidge Farm bread cubes for me. One year when I lived in the South, I produced an oyster stuffing, which was expensive and labor-intensive. And no one has ever requested a repeat. Last year I tried a cornbread and sausage affair that horrified the vegetarians. I'll be happy to take suggestions from the floor. And what's your Thanksgiving dinner routine? Does the earth shake if you don't stick to the traditional menu?
Ro: Every Thanksgiving is different for me...from what we eat, to where we eat, who is there, and what day it is. (For years we had Thanksgiving on the Friday after T'day.) With three stepsons, assorted partners, ex-wives, new husbands and children from previous alliances...I just go where I'm told or ask for a head count (if I'm cooking.) I love everything on Roberta's menu so she doesn't know it, but I will be showing up at her place on Thursday.
When I have some say in the matter - aside from the turkey - I always make a cranberry tart. It's an old Martha Stewart recipe from the book Entertaining, which my husband published 26 years ago. It's foolproof, looks gorgeous and I could eat it everyday. If I'm cooking I like to watch videos in the kitchen while I'm preparing...Love, Actually, Miracle on 34th Street, and um...sometimes...Gladiator. ;-)
HANK: Ro, I just burst out laughing. (I have that cookbook. I'm going to look up that recipe this instant.)
Anyway. My little brother Chip, who is an environmental attorney in Colorado, was the one who always needed to have Thanksgiving be just the same every year. Long long ago, like, 35 years ago? My mother would make a jello mold (yup) black cherry jello with black cherries suspended in it. Decades later, when Jello-anything was far from our consciousness but we still all had Thanksgiving together, Chip was bummed because there was no cherry jello. It just meant Thanksgiving to him.
In other Thanksgiving news---when we were growing up, we had huge Thanksgiving dinners. So big, Mom would make two turkeys. Each year, she carefully made oyster dressing AND plain dressing. That way, one turkey could be delicious and pristine for us kids, and the other, filled with yucky disgusting slimy oyster dressing, could be reserved for the adults.
Fast forward again. I'm maybe 25. And in the kitchen watching Mom make the two turkeys. Without hesitation, she put oysters in the bowl of stuffing. And then proceeded to put oyster stuffing in BOTH turkeys. Mom Mom, I cried. Wait! You're putting oyster stuffing in both turkeys!
She gave me that Mom look. Of course I am, she said. I've been doing it every year of your life. I just told you kids there was plain stuffing so you would eat it.
ROBERTA: So do you make the oyster stuffing these days Hank? And Ro, we'd love to have you. Dinner's at 3. Bring the hubby and the dog--and the tart! What about the rest of you, Thanksgiving specialties anyone?
(Photo credits: dinner by orphanjones, cranberry pecan tart by bucklave, oyster by adactio)