So much of the sentimental chatter around Thanksgiving in the US has to do with being with FAMILY, and SHARING.... We have this Norman Rockwell or Currier-and-Ives vision of an extended family clustered around the dining-room table, oohing and ahhing when the huge turkey is brought in on a platter the size of a bistro table, looking more like a plastic prop than something actually edible -- and the last observation tends to be depressingly true, because to make a roast turkey look like that, the breast-meat WILL be horribly overcooked and dry.
Then there's the oh-so-traditional occupation of watching fucking FOOTBALL after the feast. GRRRRR.... So some stupid twentieth-century display of barbarism became the arbiter of WHEN the feast-of-thanksgiving should begin and end? To hell with the convenience of the people doing the actual WORK of the day, so that the couch-potatoes and do-nothing guests can enjoy their vicarious-conquest emotion-and-sloth-fest in all its ingloriousness? ...I don't think i really NEED to turn myself loose in describing my contempt....
From my critique, above, you might think that i'm shockingly un-thankful and anti-traditional, but you'll be missing the nuance of my discussion: i AM thankful indeed, and i appreciate tradition, even if my view of it is slightly ... uh ... untraditional. ;-)
I have a great deal to be grateful for, despite or even perhaps because of a frustrated life. I'm very fortunate in the comfort i'm enjoying in my "old age," and in the support of my husband and daughter. And anyone who has read my blog for awhile has learned that i'm very keen on history, both "recent" (including about the last three thousand years, but concentrating on the last couple of hundred) and truly ancient history (back to hunter-gatherer times).
So my Thanksgiving Day yesterday was informal and not very traditional, but nevertheless heartfelt.
First, NO TURKEY. ;-) I like turkey, though J was never was very fond of it. In my birth-family, we always had turkey not only for Thanksgiving but for Christmas dinner ... but we never had it at any other time, save in restaurants. It was therefore an Annual Treat. After replicating this pattern for over a decade after my marriage, i started thinking that this was not very fair to "the founder of the feast" and our kids -- why make something that everybody didn't really LOVE, just because we usually did it? In casting about for a worthy replacement, Christmas Dinner became all about a TRUE delicacy, a roast prime rib of BEEEEEEF!
When we started having much smaller Thanksgiving Day assemblies, turkey went out the window too. We played with goose and various other less-usual meats, and are settling on duck when it's just the two of us. The recipe for Unsightly But Delicious Duck in Dana Carpender's books is the preparation of choice. Yesterday's cooked unusually quickly, and totally fell apart before the last stint in the oven, but that did not damage our enjoyment of it one particle!
In beginning the preparation yesterday morning, my general plans started falling apart almost immediately. I couldn't find the can of pumpkin that i just KNEW was in the pantry! (In fact, i believed that i had not one but two.) Okay! Some of J's outstanding mincemeat filling (with honest-to-god real minced MEAT) was in the freezer from last year; we got it out to thaw. Besides, who needs pumpkin when you've got some gorgeous baby Japanese sweet potatoes to bake ... except i didn't ... in choosing the nicest-looking baby sweet potatoes i accidentally picked up garnets instead. [sigh] Oh well, i'll bake those tiny little sugar-bombs, taking care not to get them overdone, which is rather disgusting....
Ooh, then i meant to make a loaf of flax-bread, but while sitting down after making a bite of brekkie i noticed what a beautiful day it was, cool and sunny, and i sat down in the new sunroom with a window cracked and the fireplace going, and watched our "traditional" annual viewing of "Miracle on 34th Street" while drinking mimosas.... :-) The afternoon drifted pleasantly on, and we watched the two Despicable Me films after Mo34S. I managed to get the duck in the oven at about 3:00, the hour at which we tend to feed the dog.
During the poking around i did, trying to find the canned pumpkin, i came across a leaking can in the pantry (BOO), but also a small can of jellied cranberry sauce, and a carton of cottage cheese in the fridge, which needed using. When God closes a door He opens a window, right? ;-) I added my altered version of pineapple-orange-cottage cheese salad to the menu. Spent a whole quarter-hour chopping canned mushrooms and cobbling together a whole-food version of green-bean casserole, chilling the cranberries, making the salad, and preparing the sweet potatoes for the oven. Decided we had enough food and didn't need a composed dessert on top of everything else.
Dinnertime rolled around and we ate side-by-side on trays in the sunroom, watching Shrek. Thanks to the addition of therapeutic quantities of magnesium in my supplement line-up, i was not stressed by the multiple changes-of-plan in our dinner, but actually enjoyed making changes on the fly! I had some leftover poultry gravy in the fridge, to which i added the minced cooked liver from the duck and a little more of the collected juices (i nibbled the heart and gizzard away during the course of the afternoon), and it provided the perfect sauce to the already tender and juicy meat. As predicted, we were quite full after one plate-ful of the dishes i provided, and didn't miss having a formal dessert at all. I didn't even top off the meal with coffee or port!
Altogether, we enjoyed our untraditional Thanksgiving Day feast, not least because it was NOT the collection of bickering relatives, NOT one group grousing that they worked hours making a meal which people hurried through in 15 minutes so they could be in time to watch the kick-off, NOT bearing with brainless nattering about politics and religion and sentimental BS thanking Jesus for something he had no hand in (Jesus and a few of his followers made some contributions to civilization, but he sure as hell didn't provide the dinner).
No, J and i had an unusual feast of things we don't treat ourselves to very often. We have leftovers that we actually WANT to eat, not a vista of meal after meal of gradually-degrading junk. We had a pleasant and cheerful day of comedy and humor and a sense of indulgence even if it wasn't "wicked" by objective standards. We had a Thanksgiving Day for which we can honestly give thanks.