Extreme the First? Over the top Thanksgiving feasts.
Two or three entreés, eight sides, bread, two kinds of dressing, , salads, appetizers, four kinds of pie and several wines.
That sort of foray into what is more typically hotel buffet realm is fine if that is your style, but in this time of economic downturn it might strike some as a bit tone deaf unless you are actually needing to feed a small army.
Extreme the Second. Low calorie feasting. Oxymoron anybody? Crustless pies, fatless gravy (not technically gravy by the way), substitutions galore. The cook works just as hard but I suspect everybody enjoys it less. The spirit is not right on that end of the spectrum, either.
I am not suggesting you hang up your apron and eat Ramen. Nothing like that.
While we are certainly not Ramen haters, I think there is a middle ground. And as these things go, my kids helped me remember that this year.
Yesterday, when it came time to actually cook ahead for our feast today, there were two lessons I took to heart that reminded me: Feasting is not something to take for granted. Your heart needs to be in the right place as the very first ingredient.
First - and this was something both kids said to me in one way or another over the past couple of weeks - there are times when you do not mess around with people's comfort foods.There are lots of extremely fancy Thanksgiving feasts being pulled off around the country today but the meal our family, at least those of us in town, will share, won't rate as one of them.
We are having what we usually have, with just a couple of nods to the idea of cooking using local products, organic whenever possible, and sustainably raised.That means natural organic turkey, organic green beans - but in our otherwise regularly featured kicked up green bean casserole- organic yams but with the same sauce as we used to put on the canned ones, etc. etc..
The second lesson is that sometimes, even the most well intentioned Feast Thrower can get it wrong. In my case, this came in the form of a little reminder that while I can put together the requisite family feast for this day, there are still times when I need to be a Mommy First and a Feast Thrower second.
Your Mom is supposed to be the one who remembers who likes what in the family. Especially around a big deal meal such as Thanksgiving. It is Mommy who knows who likes light meat or dark, who can't stand beans even under layers of onion rings, and who likes which pie with or without whipped cream.
While under the influence of the Less is More Feasters I had decided to make only one pie this year. I went for pumpkin thinking you can't have Thanksgiving without it. Also, I know my LawStudentGirl really likes pecan pie and I figured I would make it for Christmas when she is home again.
However, I was reminded by my daughter that it is ChefSon, the (grown) child who will actually be present today at the table and grateful to have a meal cooked for him rather than the other way around, who truly love love loves pecan pie. He can't imagine a holiday without both pumpkin and pecan pie and if I was a halfway attentive Mommy I would have remembered that without having to be reminded.
Before anybody gets ready to have a tag with my name/address on it pinned to my clothing, I managed to get a pecan pie made anyway.I pulled out the Karo corn syrup (sorry there Michael Pollan - please avert your sensibilities!) and decided to combine two recipes. The first is the fairly reliable Bessie's Pecan Pie recipe from an November 1994 issue of Texas Monthly. Back then they featured recipes on their back pages. The other, supposedly a regular award winner at county fairs, is from a Texas pecan grower's website.
The recipes are nearly identical so I simply combined them and we will hope for the best. If this turns out to be an amazing amalgam of the two you will be the 5th, 6th and so on to know.I rested well last evening knowing I have a pecan pie ready and reasonable facsimiles of our family's version of Thanksgiving Comfort Foods on hand for today. The pecan pie looks good. It set up well, which is always the potential problem with pecan pie. Nothing more disappointing than a pecan pie-slide after the first cut, although they typically still taste delicious.
I will be back to report on the pie and share the final recipe with you after the holiday food stupor lifts. Meanwhile, I hope you will have a delightful feast with family and friends. If you are traveling, I hope you will do so safely and return back home without incident when the time comes for that.
And please, before you get to eating one or two or even three kinds of pie, do remember the reason for the feast and offer thanks in your own way. We all have something to be grateful for if we will tune our hearts to sing that song. That grateful heart is the best thing anybody can prepare for a feast no matter what your mindset is for the rest of the meal.