For many of us foodies, Thanksgiving is the ultimate holiday. We have a socially acceptable excuse to spend far too much time planning, shopping and cooking for just one special meal.
In my case, this was to be the first Thanksgiving I hosted and cooked myself. I had shopped the farmer’s market, prowled two grocery stores, studied recipes, made lists, planned an elaborate three-day schedule of cooking. I had purchased large plastic bins for brining our 19-pound turkey and three pheasants. I had washed critters out of a veggie drawer full of farm-fresh romaine lettuce.
Then, I got the flu.
Monday morning I awoke to the reality that Thanksgiving would not be what I had imagined. After a couple days of being mostly unconscious, on Wednesday afternoon I started lying around trying to watch television. Food Network, my usual staple, was in full-foodie-Thanksgiving frenzy. It was too depressing. I switched to HGTV.
Last night, still weak but just needing to “get some cook out,” I made two pans of dressing with the six loaves of bread I had purchased for the purpose. (My sister-in-law, who had graciously taken over Thanksgiving festivities, had also purchased new food.) One pan was for the Heritage House, a public housing retirement facility where our church hosts Thanksgiving each year. The other was just for us, that night. The hubs breaded and fried some deer meat he had in the freezer, which our daughter, surprisingly, was gaga over.
I also tackled a rather complex recipe for a gingerbread cake with lemon glaze, just because. I managed to save it for the actual holiday festivities.
After making those two items, I started to feel much better about things.
Today, on what was supposed to be the ultimate foodie showcase at my house, we drove over to my niece’s house, not far away. There, my in-law family had prepared a wonderful spread. We talked, we ate, the kids played. We went back home and took huge naps. And it was just fine.
What I learned from the whole thing: While it’s OK to demonstrate your abilities and cook a sumptuous feast, it’s not what Thanksgiving is about. Yes, the original Pilgrim meal was probably complex and showy. But it was with deep intentions to show gratitude for the very ability to do so — for survival, for provision, for friends and family. Today, because I was still too weak to be caught up in cooking, I was able to receive the gift of a lovingly prepared meal and more time with family at the table.
I still plan to cook most of the meal I had planned, in a little over a week. We are having some friends over from church for our turn at a supper club. It was going to be a different menu, but what else am I going to do with a 19-pound turkey? And this time, I’ll remember to replace frenzy with friends and family. And of course, good food.
My would-be menu:
- Deep-Fried Turkey
- Roasted Pheasant with Bacon
- Gravy (No recipe, just roux + broth + herbs.)
- Apple, Cranberry, Sage Dressing
- Cranberry Relish
- Chef Shane’s Fall Salad
- Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic (No recipe, just farm-fresh potatoes + cream + oven roasted garlic.)
- Alton Brown’s Yogurt Pumpkin Pie (using fresh processed pumpkin from Hardin Farms)
- Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Glaze
I hope that each one of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you remembered to count your blessings, even if they weren’t the ones you expected.