Have you ever noticed the texture of most traditional Thanksgiving recipes?
SOFT; they’re all so soft. Comforting, I suppose, but way too mushy for my tastes. My lament about the lack of crunchiness has become a running joke at our house.
A couple of years ago my daughter Johanna was compelled to write a little essay about it and I asked her permission to share it with you. She agreed, saying, “Anything that might help to put a little more bite into Thanksgiving is OK with me.”
Here it is; enjoy!
Growing up I always had a nagging feeling that my mother loathed the holidays. Not in an anti-holiday sort of way; more of an, “I hate cooking for hours and days on end and then having it devoured in ten minutes,” kind of way.
Another protagonist – casseroles. While they were moist and delicious, alas, so soft and pliable they could easily be gummed to death and swallowed without a single tooth being engaged. Yes, my mother had decided that holiday feasts were prepared with the toothless crowd in mind.
“You could gum this entire meal,” she’d vent under her breath as we scurried in and out of the kitchen looking for nibbles and asking, “is it ready yet?”…..”I’m starving.”…..”What’s taking so long?!”
Poor mom, ever in search of a crunchy holiday recipe. Cooking her heart out while my brother and sister and I watched the parade on the TV and harassed her as our bellies groaned from the smell of her toothless delicacies wafting in from the kitchen.
The table finally set (do the forks go on the right or the left, mom?) my father blesses the meal and we all dig in. Praising the turkey, he beams from the head of the table. He’d slaved away all day on the succulent bird, or at least the smoker had. He had prepared the feast, the focal point of every holiday meal.
“Great turkey, Dad,” “delicious,” murmurs all around the table from mouths stuffed with his juicy bird and famous giblet gravy.
Fuming on his left sits mom, who actually arose at 6 am to prep the turkey, make breakfast for us and the strays that holidays always brought. All her hard work being gummed to death and all the praise being given to my father.
One turkey, ten side dishes, everyone’s favorites; mustn’t leave anyone out. Mama Lou’s squash casserole for me, pineapple rings with sweet potato and marshmallow for my brother, green beans for sis, potato puff casserole, mac ‘and cheese, stuffing…you name it, we ate it, in ten minutes flat. Gummed down and slopped with gravy. Delicious. Done.
Mom, harping on us kids to do the dishes. Dad carefully picking the carcass bare, a holiday skeleton reminiscent of Halloween. “Is the game on yet?” “No-ooo Thanksgiving,” is a phrase oft repeated at our house.
Now that we’re all grown up and have flown the coop it’s rare for such a feast to be had by all. We have a standing rule that only one holiday meal may be gummed to death. Your pick; mine usually. Mom, ever the foodie and gourmet junkie, has us sit down to a served three or four course meal.
A beautiful salad with moldy blue cheese, tart pears and toasted walnuts. Braised scallops served delicately in their shells. Dad’s famous turkey and gravy, then mashed potatoes, creamed spinach casserole, crunchy carrots tossed with lemon and dill. My mother beaming from her seat on dad’s left. At least an hour of eating with all your teeth engaged. Bliss.
We take turns saying what we’re thankful for (mom’s amazing cooking talent ) or seeing how many words we can create from the word “Thanksgiving.”
I’ll always cherish my holiday memories. Cooking in the warmth of the kitchen with my mom. The occasional blast of cold air snaking in from the cracked window for our hot flash moments. Side by side with mom, or gossiping from my perch on the old butcher’s block table, forever in search of a crunchy holiday feast.
THE LAST COURSE:
I’ve finally softened my stance on the softness of Thanksgiving food; people like what they like; who am I to judge? I’m fine as long as I don’t accidentally overcook my crunchy carrots. Check back tomorrow for a free downloadable “cookbooklet” of Thanksgiving recipes, soft and crunchy and easy on the cook.