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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving in Coming!

Does this look like your family
at Thanksgiving?
It's true, my friends...  Just as you are getting down to the bottom of the Halloween candy sack (Milk Duds, those oddly shaped gummy things, non-Hershey's chocolate...  you know what I am talking about), it's time to start thinking of what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.

If you are like me, you love to look at all of the magazines with pictures of tempting, golden turkey's on the cover, or fabulous pies and cakes.  And, if you are like me again, you will end up serving exactly the same menu as you did last year.  It's not that I am uninterested in new foods and new ideas.  It always sounds fun to shake up the holidays.  In the real world, it's not all that fun after all.  While it's true that we prepare for hours upon hours for what amounts to a thirty minute feast followed by hours and hours of dishes, and we love to note this fact each year, most of us wouldn't have it any other way.

In the early years of our marriage, we were treated to a Thanksgiving out.  The idea was nice - no long day of preparation, no dishes...  But the reality was not.  "Dinner" time seemed to take hours to arrive.  The house was not filled with the smell of good food.  And, most upsetting, there were no leftovers.  I don't really care that much about the dinner itself.  By the time it arrives, I've been in the kitchen so long and have sampled so many things, I am not all that hungry.  I cook with an eye toward the real feast...  The one I get to have once everyone is gone.  Then, the gloves really come off.  No need to be polite, you can eat all the stuffing and Jell-O salad that you want!

The dreamy side of this proposition never really enjoys the holidays when I end up spending hours in the kitchen.  For some reason, she'd like to interact with me at some point in the day.  For me, the holidays really are about cooking - feeding the one's that you love.  It's also a time to visit foods that are saturated with nostalgia, and that aren't prepared at any other time of year.  For example, my great-grandmother's stuffing recipe is trotted out faithfully every year.  This almost always requires a call to my aunt.  Of course, I could write it down, but it's far more fun to have a reason to talk to her.  There's also the green bean casserole that's been served at every Thanksgiving that I can remember.  It's not the creamy, crunchy variety that everyone seems to know.  It's a sort of vinegary concoction topped with buttery bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  The recipe comes from a cookbook my mom has always relied on...  "How to Feed Your Family on $5 a Week"...  Obviously an old cookbook.

Perhaps my favorite holiday dish of all is a Jell-O "salad" that I can, and gladly would, eat by the tubful.  It might not fall in the category of dapper and dreamy food under normal circumstances... aw, who am I kidding...  this stuff is so good, I'd serve it to the Queen if she were coming to dinner.  The recipe actually comes from my dad's ex-wife's mother - a woman who knew how to cook and who threw some awfully fun holiday parties.  A woman who also, much to her credit, treated me as if I really were her very own grandson.  It's simple...  orange Jell-O, cook and serve vanilla pudding, mandarin oranges and whipped cream...  Heaven in a bowl. 

If there's any room for experimentation when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu, it generally has to be an addition, never a replacement.  You can add any number of side dishes and, even better, there really is no limit to the number of desserts one can have.  But, try to replace the whipped sweet potatoes with those bright orange yams?  Don't even try it, mister.

Even though I know exactly what I am going to make and precisely what I'll need to buy to make it, there's still a lot of fun in writing up the menu and lists, shopping and preparing the food, and listening to the sound of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by Miracle of 34th Street, in the background....  I love Thanksgiving!

The Gariepy Family Thanksgiving Menu

Surprise Cheese Puffs               Stuffed Mushrooms

Roast Turkey
Great-Grandma's Sausage Stuffing
Sage Stuffing with Pecans, Bacon and Mushrooms

Mashed Potatoes
Turkey Gravy
Whipped Maple Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
Spicy Green Bean Casserole
Creamed Corn

Yeast Rolls

Pumpkin Pie          Pecan Pie       Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie 

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