About, Food

Thanksgiving Reflections

To help put you in the mood for Thanksgiving, I thought I would share some stories about Thanksgivings of yore. If you need an excuse to not feel bad for something failing, use this as a way to give yourself permission. Things do not need to go perfect as Tsh Oxenrider often says, tragedy plus time equals comedy.

I will start with the first time I cooked Thanksgiving. Let’s go back, way way back, about ten years ago. I was seventeen and feeling that teenage angst. My mother was working at the hospital and I had gotten into some minor argument with my dad, which I probably blew way out of proportion considering I have no recollection why. Rather than going to my dad’s for Thanksgiving, I decided Thanksgiving morning that I was going to cook the entire meal for myself. I went to the grocery store and bought all the supplies and proceeded to bake the whole meal: homemade rolls, turkey covered in bacon, breadless stuffing, chipotle sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pecan pie and apple pie. Keep in mind, no one was coming to Thanksgiving. I was home with the dog. I remember feeling flustered towards the end of the full day of cooking the flour had spilled on the floor and I was just fed up. I had texted my now husband, then friend, who was visiting with family. When he returned from his family’s he came to see me and told me to hold onto the dog while he cleaned up the flour. With him there I finished the rest of the meal. When I was done all I wanted were the rolls, I was not interested in any of the other foods. We sat down on the couch and watched a family classic Home for the Holidays (affiliate link). If you have not seen it you should give it a shot, it always makes me laugh and brings humor to the situation of Thanksgiving. During that Thanksgiving my husband and I started dating again for the final time, and this year we will have been together for ten years total. So out of the ashes of an exhausting self created mess something wonderful was created.

Moving on, there were a number of Thanksgivings, but none of which I tried to cook. Fast forward to two years ago, my husband and I had just moved to Iowa and we went on a cruise for Thanksgiving. (Read more about our trip to get to the cruise here). We came home from that trip and on the actual day of Thanksgiving we were road tripping back to Iowa. We spent our Thanksgiving meal at Popeye’s. We felt like that was not a real Thanksgiving, so I came home and made an abbreviated version. I did not cook a whole turkey, but instead made a split breast and some drumsticks.

Drumsticks - 1

As you can see in the photo, I clearly had never done it before and the recipe I used was odd, my drumsticks ended up looking like tiny aliens. Partly though I was not concerned because I personally prefer white meat.

Belated Thanksgiving - 1

This partial Thanksgiving made me realize that it is not nearly as scary as I thought. I realized even if something turns out absurd, life goes on. My bigger concern is how it tastes as opposed to how it looks. Also it was not impossible, it took some time, but I could cook Thanksgiving. This year I tried to do it all in one day, which I found still exhausting. I enjoyed the fact though that by making it myself I get to make the dishes that feel like Thanksgiving to us and do not have to come home from Thanksgiving to cook extra stuffing because the house we visited did not make any. This does not seem like a real thing, but it happened to us two years in a row, and it just seemed easier to do the whole thing and have leftovers.

This led to the impetus for us to determine that last year we wanted to cook Thanksgiving. We wanted to be the Thanksgiving house, ensuring that we made everything we wanted. We invited family members and my mother ended up being the only one who could make it. It made the entire Thanksgiving meal feel much less stressful.

Cookbooks - 1 (1)

Also one of my cookbooks is a Thanksgiving Entertaining cookbook from William Sonoma (the orange one on the bottom shelf)  so I felt prepared. Instead of trying to do it all in one day I started two days before. I made roasted walnuts and a cranberry relish two days ahead.

One day before I blanched the green beans, made pies, and bread. (Not pictured is the pumpkin pie I baked. In the picture you will see the apple pie on the left, rosemary bread on the top right and pecan pie below).

The day of Thanksgiving, all I had to do was make potatoes, stuffing, turkey, gravy, baked brie and finish the green beans. I am aware that typing this out it sounds like a lot and it was a bit of food for only three people. I have to say though, I cook well for myself and I cook just as well for others. I would have made the same dishes were it only my husband and I. The way I plotted it out felt like a breeze. I have one other comment you should know, the pictures are deceiving and I will tell you why.

Half Cooked Turkey - 1.jpg

The turkey first of all took a few extra HOURS to cook and I mean that HOURS, which is why I was glad we planned for baked brie to tide us over until the turkey was actually ready. Also the turkey was not evenly cooked, and I mean that by a long shot. This turkey looks perfect, ideal, and the left half was. It was cooked perfectly, but a bit dry. The right half on the other hand, not even a little, it was not fully cooked. We had to stick it back into the oven for a long time to finish cooking. The funny part is that the left half of the turkey was at the front of the oven, so how did that even happen, well my oven cooks very unevenly. Also the gravy was lumpy and greasy at the same time. We just threw the extra out afterwards.

Plate Thanksgiving - 1

I realized though that as much as Thanksgiving is about the food, it is more about enjoying spending time with each other and taking a moment to realize the many ways we are blessed. I actually enjoy cooking for Thanksgiving, and I love to be able to cook for my people. I have spent years as a nomad going to other people’s Thanksgiving and I want to welcome others into my home the way I was welcomed into theirs.

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. I know I will.

 

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