I can’t really think about design this week, as I am too busy thinking about food. We are hosting our first Thanksgiving, now that our renovation is over, and I have been worrying over the menu for weeks.
We are going to have:
Turkey (made by my husband)
Gravy (made by my husband)
Stuffing (made by my mother-in-law)
Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Bake (no marshmallows!)
Southern Corn Pudding
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Figs (thank you, Mark Bittman)
Pomegranate and Fennel Salad
Pumpkin and Pecan Pies (made by my sister-in-law)
Whipped Cream (made, I hope, by my aunt, since I can never get foamy peaks)
To me this sounds delicious, the fruit tempering the salt of stuffing and gravy, the vegetables tempering the weight of potatoes and corn. But it also looks like a minefield. Each dish has a different relative’s approval or disapproval buried in the ingredients.
The turkey, for example, we are planning to make in a Reynolds Oven Bag: my aunt does it, and it saves you the hourly anointing with butter. But every time we have mentioned the use of the oven bag to my mother-in-law she gets a deeply disturbed expression. If we tell her she might be afraid she’ll be poisoned. But if we don’t use the bag, my husband will be stuck by the oven all day basting, and I will be 100% in charge of the child.
The stuffing is unknown, and will be baked outside the bird. I am agnostic on stuffing. The only kind I ever really loved, and this was probably more about the person than the product, was my uncle Steve’s oyster stuffing. He made a small batch each Thanksgiving and in my memory only he and I ate it. It felt special and sophisticated. He died just before Thanksgiving six years ago. His birthday would have been this Thanksgiving. I can’t think about oyster stuffing without crying.
Sweet potatoes. My cousin Elli likes mashed white potatoes so much she makes them herself when her mother won’t. Sorry, Elli.
Corn pudding. Mmmmmmm. From a southern cookbook. No objections.
Brussels sprouts. My aunt doesn’t like them. My mother-in-law doesn’t like them. The kids probably won’t eat them. But I like them, and this recipe, published two weeks ago in the Times, sounds so yummy. I think every Thanksgiving cook gets to make one thing to please him or herself. At my aunt’s house it is red cabbage, cooked down with vinegar. It does look pretty on the plate (she says it every year) but only she and my husband eat it. And I will have to look at the leftovers in the fridge for a week.
Salad. Ditto on the aunt and mother-in-law. But I like a palate cleanser, or roughage, or something lemony with my meat and potatoes. And the pomegranate seeds fulfill the pretty on the plate requirement.
The beauty of hosting your first Thanksgiving is that everyone is happy they aren’t cooking, and if I don’t like anything, I can jettison it. No memories yet. Talk to me Friday.
P.S. I can’t believe I forgot this! A must in my opinion, but you must be very careful to preserve the can lines when you decant it onto the plate.