Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thanksgiving: A Week Too Soon

November 13

They sure are extending Thanksgiving these days. It used to last one day – and that one was spent waiting for lunch, which didn’t come until about 4 in the afternoon. I have been at stressful Thanksgivings, drunken Thanksgivings, pleasant Thanksgivings, but never one that lasted for two weeks.

It’s a nice meal because, for one thing, it’s a feast, and secondly because it’s so easy. Nobody wants you to veer too much from the traditional, especially from their favorites. It’s a menu that is prescribed by law, with the few variations being allowed for occasional modifications of the side dishes or the rather recent admission of wine to the table. As to the difficulty, and the extended preparation time we see taking place this year, let’s face it, somebody is making much ado where it’s not necessary. All that’s important is the smell of roasting poultry coming from the kitchen. Even as a young bride who had hardly seen the inside of a kitchen I was able to cook a turkey without a whole lot of agony. I was married on October 29 (1960) and prepared oyster dressing for the turkey. That’s the only thing I remember making, but it was a hit, and there was no flop.

I decided turkey was so easy I should cook it often, and I did, that year. But I don’t any more. I hardly make it for Thanksgiving if I can avoid it; I think duck is better and I don’t get any objections from my guests. I vary the side dishes from year to year, but love the homemade cranberry-orange relish that is made in the food processor (and not cooked). I discovered rutabagas about 10 years ago and love the look of them on the Thanksgiving plate. Pecan pie I mastered at a very young age (I was lying about not having seen the inside of a kitchen). I’ll never forget how, a few years ago, I tried to spring an exciting dessert on the assembled crowd – my own creation based on Maida Heatter’s Polka Dot Cheesecake. Ms. Heatter’s features huge, gorgeous chocolate polka dots within the cake; I made a pumpkin cheesecake mixture and piped it in in similar fashion, and my eaters looked as if I had brought a dead rat to the table. “Where’s the pecan pie?” was all that they said.

Once I was in on the planning of a Thanksgiving pot-luck party, and one of participants said cheerily, “I volunteer for the cole slaw!”

We all looked at her with a collective question in our eyes. (The question was, "Huh?")

“There’s always cole slaw on my Thanksgiving table,” she said defensively. Okay with us, but not one of the 30 or so ladies planning the meal had ever heard of that. It is an excellent accompaniment to turkey, I discovered, and I recommend it.

The kids at the Marietta Johnson School will celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday on the theme, “What if the pilgrims landed on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay instead of in Plymouth Rock?” They’ve written a play to illustrate the premise. The menu will be beans, fried fish, corn bread – and I volunteered a version of ambrosia featuring native satsumas and pecans.

We all know that Thanksgiving is still a week away. But by then we’ll all be bored with it, having stretched it out for weeks. One recommendation to get in the mood for Thanksgiving and the following holidays is to rent Home for the Holidays starring Holly Hunter, which is hilarious and romantic and leaves you looking forward to Christmas.

I may as well face it, the holidays are already here.

1 comment:

Bert Bananas said...

I remember the turmoil that my inclusion in my wife's extended family caused when I made my mom's yam, pineapple, marshmellow 'thing'.

All her relatives looked at it as if it might be toxic.

After all these years they still remark about that first Thanksgiving when I 'violated' tradition. But they eat it.