Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Food is a language for passing on history that is too precious to travel merely in words."
~from Just Eating? Practicing Our Faith at the Table

Today I will go to town to buy the rest of the ingredients I need to create Thursday's Thanksgiving celebration meal, and then I will begin cooking and preparing in earnest. Holidays are special times of family, food, celebration, and faith, and each of these elements has power to affect us all. It matters very little how polished the celebration is, how much money goes into it, or how my table and food compares to my neighbor's. When families and friends come together on an appointed, traditional day to eat and celebrate, something meaningful and unexplainable happens.

In acknowledging the importance of a holiday, love and care and happy spirit is then put into even the smallest details and tasks of preparing for the holiday. Like shopping and chopping vegetables and setting the table and making special place cards (even for only eight people) and all that goes into a creating an atmosphere for celebration. And then joyfully welcoming each person into the home and to the table.

There is gratitude for the opportunity to show love to others and to celebrate together, for the money that purchased the food, for the great blessing of having food to prepare, for the ability to prepare it, for the home where the celebrating will take place, and for each person who sits at the table.

"The ultimate aim of civility and good manners is to please: to please one's guest or to please one's host. To this end one uses the rules laid down by tradition: of welcome, generosity, affability, cheerfulness, and consideration of others. People entertain warmly and joyously. To persuade a friend to stay for lunch is a triumph and a precious honor. To entertain many together is to honour them all mutually. It is equally an honor to be a guest." ~Claudia Roden in A Book of Middle Eastern Food

So, I am eager to get busy with the preparations! With holiday celebrations, food is central. Biblical feasts were amazing, long feats of the best foods and wine, dancing and conviviality. Food is a gift from God, and it can, and should, be enjoyed with gratitude and a spirit of rejoicing.

"Go, eat your bread with enjoyment and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do." ~Ecclesiastes 9:7

So, what's on your menu this week?

The main things on our menu don't change, but we do leave room to try a few new things, if we want, each year. We don't create long, elaborate menus, but we do make plenty of good food, and we enjoy each bite!

Let's talk dessert first!

We'll be having the Pumpkin-Chocolate Cheesecake pictured above. Melissa and I were in a store last month, and we both saw this magazine cover (Better Homes and Gardens) and said, "Yes! Let's try it!" So, I bought the magazine, and I think it's the only copy of Better Homes and Gardens I've ever purchased besides the 1950's and 1960's ones I bought recently at the antique warehouse. Anyway, this is a cheesecake crazy family. Vanilla cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake. Vanilla cheesecake with lemon-curd topping. We all love a good cheesecake. And this one looks very promising. But with a pie crust? We might do a more typical, pressed cheesecake crust, though the pie crust does look nice.

Michelle will also make a pumpkin pie because Monty loves pumpkin pie. So does Mike. With a large dollop of whipped cream made from the thick, yellowy cream that rises to the top of our fresh, raw milk.

And now for the other, more trivial, foods...

Maple-Glazed Turkey with Dijon Gravy. This is from the November 2001 issue of Bon Appetit. We've been having it every year since the magazine came out because, yum! The gravy is just delicious.

Yukon Gold potatoes mashed with butter and all-natural, whole milk yogurt. No recipe. It's just how we make mashed potatoes. We like the flavor.

Buttery Pan Rolls. I've been making these for Thanksgiving since the late 1980's. A friend brought dinner to our house once-- rolls and soup, and these were the rolls. I lost the recipe, then later found it again in a Sunset bread book. These are our Thanksgiving rolls. Our Christmas rolls are Grammy's overnight buns (we make half the batch into cinnamon rolls).

Cranberry Chutney. A spicy chutney from Padma Lakshmi's book. I always make cranberry sauce, which is a must for the turkey sandwiches (the sandwiches are always made with leftover buttery pan rolls, and sometimes in the day or two after Thanksgiving, I will make another batch of rolls so we can have more sandwiches). This chutney will be our cranberry sauce this year.

Green Bean Casserole (the enlightened kind).

Roasted Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette. We always have a green salad. Either this one or another nice one with apples and an autumn-spice vinaigrette

Deviled Eggs.

Earlier in the day, around lunchtime or whenever, we'll have sandwich stuff available and a fruit-cheese-cracker platter. There will be grapes and apple slices, crackers, sliced smoky cheeses, and a cranberry cheddar cheese ball (from Martha Stewart's current "Holidays" special issue magazine). Oh, and we'll put the deviled eggs out early, too.

Mike arrived home for the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday morning, and the little boys attached themselves to him, not leaving him alone for even a minute. Roman was insistent that he wanted Grandpa Mike to spend the night with him and was extremely heart-broken when it didn't happen.

Aaron and Melissa will be here on Wednesday. Aimee and Josiah will spend Thanksgiving Day with his family and family friends in the Portland area. And Michelle and Monty will come out with their boys. So, there will be only eight of us here this year, but we'll all gather around the table to enjoy each other's company and the foods we look forward to eating each year at Thanksgiving.

And now I need to finish making my list for today's errands and get ready to meet Michelle in town. We're doing one of our twice-weekly Goodwill stops today, and then we'll run all over town together to gather the food and supplies we'll need to make Thursday nice.

I'll be busy this week with family, food, and fun, so I don't know if I'll have time or inclination to think about blogging. We'll see. And I do hope that your Thanksgiving will be full of love, family, gratitude, celebration, and good eating! God is good, and we are blessed.