I give thanks for many things during this blessed season of many holidays.
Most of my dear friends and readers kicked off the season with a Thanksgiving feast.
For our Canadian friends, that was last month? Or in August? I’m American so, assume I’m confused.
Nonetheless, I know we all love a holiday that centers around family and food.
I have grown from the happy recipient of food at my Gram’s kid’s table with my sole contribution being not spilling my milk (sometimes) and helping wash dishes (always).
Today I am the adult in charge of the meal. My lovely mother is a woman who is famous for saying, “I made a pie…once.”
She brings her famous deviled eggs appetizer. The rest of the meal? That is all me.
I learned to cook from my Grandmother and her mother, my Great Grandmother.
Thus, no matter how healthy we may try to be the rest of the year, at the holidays, it is basically 1947 and salted butter is a staple. Heck, it’s practically a beverage.
Dinner is served
For the big day, we enjoy traditional roast turkey wrestled from the kitchen sink into a gleaming white roaster in the wee hours just like grandma used to make. We do not deep fry turkey here.
It is served steamy hot from hours of basting and butter just like Grandma made. Mashed Potatoes are made with whole milk and real butter.
Girlwonder delights in reciting her opinion that margarine (and yes she air quotes the word) is one molecule away from plastic. Trust me she is not eating any faux butter interloper.
She has also dated the son of a dairy farmer for a few years now. She treats almost any faux dairy product as an act of treason.
I simmered up homestyle gravy glistening with fat and salt the way the Gravy Gods intended.
Sweet potatoes with a butter, brown sugar, and crushed nut topping in lieu of marshmallows (because I was raised by hippies).
There must always be green bean casserole. The children would mutiny if this mid-century delight of green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, and french fried onions didn’t grace the table.
I know it’s basically shorthand for trash food among foodies but I’m equally sure we don’t care.
The main meal will also offer a gelatin salad consisting of a light whipped apricot gelatin mixed with cream cheese, whipped topping, crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges.
This dish basically embodies the better living through chemistry belief of the mid-20th century.
I’m sure whoever originally invented this recipe was just deeply disappointed not to have somehow managed to work Tang into the mix.
Finally, we will have home baked apple, cherry and pumpkin pies but not mincemeat, because no one actually likes that right?
Additionally, the table will be graced with jellied cranberry because my lovely mother likes the lines in the can (true story). Woe befall you if you break it up before it gets to the table.
For the record no one really eats this. It will usually have one small bite to be polite scoop taken out of it before being returned to the refrigerator with the rest of the leftovers.
Over the coming days I will usually mix it with apples and make a cranberry-apple cobbler. I highly recommend this. For all we know aging the cranberry slightly over a period of days is part of the process.
All this to say that I don’t begrudge the hours of preparation and planning that goes into a holiday feast.
I don’t even hold animosity for the hours on my feet on the day before Thanksgiving spent baking pies and simmering sauces and painstakingly drying out breadcrumbs and slicing impossibly thin slivers of celery and onion or crushing nuts.
No, I regret the fact that I managed to hunt and gather all the parts and pieces of a massive meal that will be inhaled in 30 minutes or less.
I hear of places where dinner courses are served slowly and with great reverence for the dishes. I can scarcely imagine it. Doesn’t everyone attack their plate like it’s feeding time at the zoo?
I wonder if we are just trying to tackle the peaks of food before Mount Gravy erupts over the carefully scooped out mashed potato crater and takes out a stuffing dam?
Of course, it’s a blessing to have such first world problems as too much food and people to eat it — albeit quickly.
Nonetheless, I am implementing a new rule. Holiday dinners should last at least a tenth as long as meal prep does. I don’t care if you have to chew each bite one hundred times.
Nobody leaves the table until at least an hour has passed — minimum. Sip your water and talk among yourselves.