Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

The Feast of Love and Hope and Gratitude

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

turkey-card-web

This month Americans are observing many anniversaries. Today is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I long for its eloquence and brevity every time I write—and every time I listen to a political speech.

The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in a few days is dominating our television screens now almost as much as it did at the time of that president’s death.

Mulling over it repeatedly, we explore our history, our feelings about our leaders, and the difficulty of ever knowing precisely what happened in the past. (The assassination is an event that has been seen by millions of people and studied by thousands—and yet no one can be 100-percent sure exactly what happened on that day in Dallas.)

The anniversary that interests me most, however, is another Lincoln-related one. In November 1863, a week after writing and reciting the Gettysburg Address, our 16th president led Americans in celebrating our first national day of Thanksgiving.

States and communities had celebrated their own days of Thanksgiving for a couple of centuries by then. It was Lincoln who nationalized the holiday and identified it as the last Thursday in November. (It eventually became the fourth Thursday rather than the last.)

Sarah Josepha Hale

Sarah Josepha Hale

Writer/editor Sarah Josepha Hale had campaigned unsuccessfully by letter for such a day with previous presidents beginning with Zachary Taylor. It took Lincoln’s genius to identify Thanksgiving as a quintessentially American holiday—one that was particularly appropriate to a nation at war.

It is when we are feeling the most stress that we have the greatest need to be grateful. Lincoln realized that a nation at war needed to stop, take stock of its blessings, and express gratitude—perhaps even more than a nation at peace. Indeed, his original proclamation reminded Americans to be particularly mindful of those whose families had been disrupted and/or destroyed by the war.

This spirit lives on in the efforts of a variety of organizations to serve Thanksgiving meals (and bring Thanksgiving cheer) to veterans and their families. It also continues whenever those of us hosting Thanksgiving dinner invite friends, relatives, or strangers to join us for this annual feast of love and hope and gratitude.

card1web

You may see Lincoln’s original Thanksgiving proclamation at the National Archives website. And the White House website offers what it calls the “definitive” history of the practice of pardoning a turkey for Thanksgiving. I love the weird American-ness of this tradition; we pardon one turkey a year so that we can feel less guilty about eating millions of its cousins!

I’m not actually posting a Thanksgiving recipe this year—although I refer you to several of them I have posted over the years. Try the hush-puppy pudding … or cranberry upside-down cake … or even simple roasted Brussels sprouts.

Instead I offer this simple seasonal quiche. It uses a vegetable I always overbuy at this time of year, the sweet potato. (I received several with my farm share last week so I was forced to get creative.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all … and to your families. Don’t forget to open your homes and your hearts to strangers at this time of year.

SP Tartweb

Sweet Potato Tart

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, cut into small pieces and peeled if you want to peel it
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
salt to taste
3 large or 4 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh, chopped parsley to taste
four eggs
1/2 cup cream
a dash of Creole seasoning
ounces (more or less) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 8-inch pie shell

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour a tablespoon of oil into a bowl. Stir in salt to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon). Toss in the pieces of sweet potato.

Place the sweet-potato pieces on a cookie sheet or baking pan, and roast until they are lightly brown around the edges, stirring occasionally. This took me about 1-1/4 hours, but my oven runs cool so it may take you less time.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, splash oil onto a non-stick frying pan. Place the pan over medium-low heat. Toss in the onion slices.

Cook them slowly, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until they are reduced and softly caramelized. This may take an hour or more. Add a pinch of salt after the first 1/2 hour—and add a little more oil if you need it as you cook. When the onions are finished, stir in the parsley.

Both the onions and the sweet potatoes may be cooked the day before you want to serve your quiche; refrigerate the cooked vegetables until they are needed.

When you are ready to assemble your quiche whisk together the eggs, cream, and Creole seasoning in a bowl.

Place the pie shell in a pie pan. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the onions and then the sweet potatoes; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and finish with the remaining cheese.

Place the tart (or quiche or whatever you want to call it!) on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden—but the sweet potatoes peeking out are not burning!

Serves 6.

assembling tartweb

The tart halfway through assembly

Simple Gifts

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

tinky-hat-web1

 

          Thursday is Thanksgiving—and one of the simple gifts for which I’m grateful is my new audio recorder. It isn’t very big or very good (and it wasn’t very expensive!), but I hope that it will be useful in documenting some of my culinary adventures for this blog. Just now I’m using it to sing “Simple Gifts.”

I haven’t quite figured out how to adjust the audio settings; I know the sound quality or lack thereof will appall my audiophile brother. But days like Thanksgiving make me want to sing. Listen by all means (just click on the link below), and please don’t be too critical. I promise I haven’t yet given up my day job!

Sing along if you like—the louder, the better. As my neighbor Alice Parker says, music should be something we make, not just something we consume. And that’s a simple gift for which we can all be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving……….

Simple Gifts

cutecardweb

Giving Thanks (Part II)

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

hats-web          The king and high priest of all the festivals was the autumn Thanksgiving. When the apples were all gathered and the cider was all made, and the yellow pumpkins were rolled in from many a hill in billows of gold, and the corn was husked, and the labors of the season were done, and the warm, late days of Indian Summer came in, dreamy, and calm, and still, with just enough frost to crisp the ground of a morning, but with warm traces of benignant, sunny hours at noon, there came over the community a sort of genial repose of spirit — a sense of something accomplished.

                                                 — Harriet Beecher Stowe

turkey-card-web          Here are two additional dishes for Thanksgiving (I’m leaving the turkey to you). The pie may look a little complicated because of its multiple layers. It’s quite simple, however, and can be made the day before. The second layer comes out a lovely pink. Enjoy…….

hushpuppywebHush Puppy Pudding

          In an earlier post I said that I would come up with a non-box-mix-dependent version of Marilyn Pryor’s corn pudding. Here it is. Marilyn originally used 1 cup of cornbread mix instead of half of the flour, the cornmeal, 2 tablespoons of the butter, and the baking powder. You’re certainly welcome to do that if you have cornbread or corn-muffin mix in the house.

          One note: although the pudding looks gorgeous in the flat dish that appears in the photo here, it’s even better in a deeper pan, which keeps the pudding moister.

Ingredients:

3/8 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup flour

3/4 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup sliced green onions (I used 1 bunch; it didn’t quite make a cup, but it worked)

2 cups plain yogurt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3/8 cup (3/4 stick) sweet butter, melted

2 10- or 11-ounce cans vacuum-packed corn

Instructions:

          Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2- to 3-quart casserole dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the onions, yogurt, eggs, and butter. Stir in the corn, and add this mixture to the cornbread combination, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon the resulting batter into the prepared pan, and bake until golden brown and set in the center (about 45 minutes). Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

pie-webCranberry Chiffon Pie

          I’m a sucker for cranberries at this time of year when we crave color and flavor. This pie is a little messy when you slice it, but I hate to add gelatin and make it stiff. If you want to make sure it will slice beautifully, use a graham-cracker crust; that way you can freeze the pie until half an hour before you serve it and keep it solid. My family likes goopy delicious things so we use a standard pastry crust.

Ingredients:

For the first layer:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

3 cups (1 12-ounce bag) cranberries

1 pinch salt

1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell

For the second layer:

3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup of the mixture from the first layer

1 cup COLD heavy cream

For the third layer:

sweetened whipped cream to taste

Instructions:

          In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add the cranberries and salt, and simmer until the cranberries pop (about 10 to 15 minutes). Basically, you’re making cranberry sauce so if you have a recipe you prefer feel free to substitute it here. Let the sauce cool to room temperature; then set aside 1/2 cup for the second layer and pour the rest into the pie shell. 

          Next, create the second layer. With an electric beater, whip together the cream cheese, sugar, and reserved cranberry sauce until they are smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the cream, and beat the mixture at low speed until it is blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn the mixture to high, and beat it until the cream forms pink peaks (1 to 2 minutes). Spread this layer into the pie shell as well.

          At this point, you must refrigerate the pie, gently covered, for at least 3 hours. You may leave it for up to a day, however, if you want to make it in advance. Just before serving, decorate the pie with whipped cream (or serve the whipped cream on the side.) Serves 6 to 8.

I love to whip cream!

I love to whip cream!

 

 

Giving Thanks (Part I)

Friday, November 21st, 2008

turkey-card-again-web

 

          Like most of American history, our national Thanksgiving holiday is rich but complicated.

          The myth of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 has undergone challenges in recent years, thanks to new scholarship and to the inclusion of more diverse voices in the telling of the American story.

          We now know that the celebration wasn’t actually a religious Thanksgiving (which was more likely to involve fasting than eating) but more of a harvest festival. It wasn’t necessarily the first Thanksgiving in America; earlier challengers to this title have been identified in Texas, Florida, Maine, and Virginia. The settlers and Indians were as much keeping a wary eye on each other as offering friendship. Moreover, that event in Plymouth by no means started a regular tradition. The Thanksgiving that we celebrate (including most of its menu) is more or less a 19th-century invention.

          Many American Indians justifiably resent the idea of a holiday that celebrates the survival of the English on these shores–and the help given to them by the Wampanoag tribe. Each year on Thanksgiving the United American Indians of New England organize a National Day of Mourning in Plymouth to remember the slaughter, intentional and unintentional, of Native Americans by European Americans.

          I don’t want to downplay the importance of any of these challenges to the traditional story of Europeans and Indians giving thanks while sharing the fruits of the harvest in Plymouth.  I believe that history is most meaningful when it is most complete.

          Nevertheless, I do believe that what the capable curators at Plimoth Plantation carefully call “the harvest celebration in 1621” is an important story for all Americans, both as a real historical event and as a symbol.

          As a real historical event it commemorates at least limited cooperation between Europeans and Native Americans.  Both before and after that date, the two groups (particularly the Europeans) were indeed trying to wipe each other out. During the early days of the settlers at Plymouth and particularly during the three days of the harvest festival in 1621, however, they shared food, shared an acknowledgement of the bounty of nature, and tried to some degree to communicate with each other. Like personal moments, historical moments may be great without being perfect. This was one such moment.

          The Thanksgiving story (not just the real event, but the myth) also shows us what a great people Americans can be together if we try to find commonality and share what we have.

Abraham Lincoln declared the first official national Thanksgiving in 1863, during the Civil War. In his proclamation he urged his countrymen not just to give thanks on the fourth Thursday in November but also to use the day to ask God to “heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.” Thanksgiving is ideally about coming to terms with the good and the bad in our nation—and moving on together.

          On a more local level, Thanksgiving brings families and communities together. Like the nation and the world, family members don’t always get along. On Thanksgiving Day, however, we try to share goodwill along with the turkey and cranberry sauce.  And we do our best to remember neighbors who don’t always have enough to eat by sharing with them as well, just as the Wampanoag and Puritans did.

          As composer Alice Parker wrote simply in a benediction response she created for my own Charlemont Federated Church, “We give thanks. We count our blessings. We share them with all the world.”

          Amen.

kids-card-web          In this post and the next I’ll share a few of the dishes that will grace my family’s table this Thanksgiving. None of them is terribly demanding to make. I hope they help spread the Thanksgiving spirit.

sprouts-draining-webChef Randy’s Dynamite Brussels Sprouts

This simple, seasonal recipe comes from The Artisan Gourmet by Randy Tomasacci, a book I mentioned in my last post.  Randy is the demo chef for Bittersweet Herb Farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts, and his new book blends recipes using BHF’s products with humorous stories from his life and cooking career. This vegetable dish is a real winner and looks gorgeous to boot.

In case you’ve never prepared Brussels sprouts before, here are prepping instructions adapted from The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook: Cut off the ends of the stems. Trim off any withered or discolored leaves. With the stem facing up, cut a small incision in the stem of each sprout; this will help the vegetables cook more evenly. Soak the prepared Brussels sprouts in cold water until you are ready to cook them.

         NOTE: If you can’t find the Bittersweet products in time for Thanksgiving and want to make this dish on your own, you may play with ingredients. The oil is a mixture of canola oil and olive oil with lemon oil (you could use zest!), bay leaves, peppercorns, and mustard seeds. You could probably get away with just the oil and lemon. The finishing sauce is soy based with a little water, canola oil, and lemon juice plus a trace of balsamic vinegar and herbs and spices to taste. Again, you could probably cheat with just soy sauce, water, and lemon juice. The overall effect is Teriyaki-like:  yum!

Ingredients:
1 pound Brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons Bittersweet Herb Farm Lemon Pepper Oil

3 tablespoons Bittersweet Herb Farm Lemon Garlic Finishing Sauce

Instructions:

Blanch the Brussels sprouts for 3 minutes. Drain them and slice them in half. In a frying pan, heat the Lemon Pepper Oil, and add the sprouts to the hot pan. Sauté the sprouts until they are brown, reduce the heat to low, and add the Finishing Sauce. When the sauce is heated, remove the sprouts in their sauce to a serving dish. Serves 4.

sprouts-with-sauce-web