Thursday, November 25, 2010

Perfectionism III: Thanksgiving Dinner

Oyster Stew
Rocket Salad with Pear, Pine Nuts and Beetroot
Cider-brined Roast Turkey with Sausage-Fennel-Crouton Stuffing
Wild Rice Risotto with Cranberry and Mushroom
Mashed Red Potatoes with Giblet Gravy
Sweet Potatoes Roasted with Figs, Shallots, and Pecans
Grilled Brussels Sprouts in Balsamic Vinaigrette
Sautéed Green Beans with Hazelnuts
Hot Red Cabbage and Apples
Maple-Glazed Carrots
Ambrosia Salad with Marshmallows and Mandarins
Cornbread and Butter
Cranberry Orange Chutney
Olive Tray
Assorted Pickled Vegetables
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Cobbler
Chef Kee’s Cheesecake with Sour Cream Sauce or Pomegranate Sauce
Cranberry Bread
Fresh, Candied or Salt and Pepper Nuts
Apples, Oranges, Pomegranates
Assorted Cheeses
Hard Cider
Sparkling Cider
Chateau St. Michelle Wines
Mineral Water

As a confirmed foodie, the annual food orgy in late November is my holiday. During my teen and college years, I lived close enough to my grandmother to celebrate Thanksgiving at her house.  Early in that decade-and-a-half, we feasted with grandparents, a great-grandmother, a great-aunt and uncle, and at least a half-dozen assorted cousins of my grandfather, along with the five of us in our family. My mother’s family history abounds in childless or single-child families so the gathering was heavy in WWII generation and I and my siblings the only children. 

My grandmother provided a meal whose tables truly groaned from the weight of the many dishes.  My father jokes that my grandma didn’t think a holiday was rightly celebrated “unless there were 93 sides dishes”. With so many celebrants, groaning tables were quickly demolished. As the older generation of relatives died off, Grandma continued to cook in the same variety and quantity for fewer of us.  We stepped up to the challenge and continued to consume prodigious amounts of food.  The holiday became for me a festival of bounty, manifest in gratuitous variation of edibles.

Because I love to eat, I learned to cook and Thanksgiving is a made-to-order opportunity to indulge.  My family of creation, however, is not nearly as passionate about food as I am.  Unless I insist, we eat boring, busy-suburban-family meals-on-the-run. When I did insist, I would pull out all the stops.  I made far too many dishes of kinds not much appreciated by my family but that I wanted to eat.  And, of course, in my perfectionism, I tried much too hard, took on far more than I could reasonably handle alone, so that always at least one dish was ruined and the meal never met my expectations.  I was grumpy and irritable long before sitting down to eat.

When I got sick, making even daily meals became too much for me and we spent over a year without celebrating any holidays at our own house.  Since summer of 2007, I’ve only made one holiday feast.  Last year, I finally agreed with my husband’s declaration that what it costs me to attempt a full-hoopla holiday is just not worth the effort.  We decided that I would pick one holiday a year to go all out with food and trimmings.  Naturally, I chose Thanksgiving since it is the only holiday strictly about the Eats. 

I found it a relief, oddly, to know that there would be once a year when our house was the destination feast.  We would invite guests (something else my family dislikes), make loads of food, and no one would complain because it was only once a year.  So, last year, that’s what we did and I loved it.  This year, however, I’ve been sicker than I was last fall and then I complicated the issue by going to a conference in Vancouver last weekend.  The conference was the first official, organized educational attempt I’ve made since the conference in 2007 when I first realized how sick I really was becoming. It took way more out of me than it seemed to deserve—just the travel left me huddled in bed, shaking and incapacitated, by six that night and required the whole next day to rest and recuperate while the family saw the sights.

Needless to say (although I was the last to admit it), any kind of effort at all was more than I could manage this Thanksgiving.  I left the entire day to the rest of the family to plan and execute.  The girls only wanted sandwiches made with deli-processed turkey on their icky sandwich bread and “stuffing from a box”. 

The other evening as I lay resting with my feet up (amazing how much difference that posture makes in handling chronic fatigue), I began writing a fantasy menu.  Of course, everyone in the family ridiculed it—when a foodie lives with non-foodies, it is given that no understands the power of simply thinking about good food.  One daughter asked if this list was all the food I wanted to eat that I hoped someone would make for me; she thought it was a joke but she hit the nail on the head. 

So I share it here in hopes that another misunderstood foodie enjoys the Thanksgiving wishes in every dish.  I am thankful today for my readers.  And for my husband who understands me enough not to serve me a kid’s sandwich and was willing to plan, shop, and prepare a real turkey breast, a spiral ham, chips, shrimp starters, some decent bread, and all the sandwich accessories.


  1. I was popping over here merely to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and tell you that you are loved, and I was rewarded with a post! And a good one, too. I loved reading your dream Thanksgiving menu. Mmmmmmmm.

    I have seen similar menus at fancy hotels advertising their Thanksgiving Day brunches. My husband and I just recently told the kids that we would totally absolve them of not coming home for Thanksgiving if and only if they sent us $50 to enjoy a Thanksgiving day brunch at a fancy hotel.

    Win-win, no? =D Maybe you can join us if that fateful day ever comes?

  2. *chuckle* We spent our dinner discussing whether today's low-key meal was the perfect Thanksgiving (yes, according to hubby and kids) and if this was the future empty-nest holiday meal for a lonely mom and dad (yes, according to hubby and kids). I warned the children that their father and I might divorce when they leave home if he still holds that opinion and if they don't come home for holidays. I declared how eagerly I anticipate when they are grown, married and can bring grandchildren over for a huge food fest.

    Hubby asked if they don't live near us, will we switch off years going to their houses (as a backwards take on the alternating in-laws thing that young marrieds do that we skipped)? I emphatically reiterated that everyone is expected at our house for Thanksgiving. Period.

    But your suggestion might be a viable alternative. Thanks. :) Oh, and I would certainly be amenable to joining you. Don't know if Mr. Grumpy will accompany me, though! Fortunately, there are still a good number of years left to work out the plan; my kids are younger than yours.

  3. I am in such awe of your cooking talent, and the ability to, over the years, "pull" everything together for a veritable feast. I truly respect you for that. I too am ill, and understand limitations of holidays. It sounds like you and your husband have a perfect solution for your family. After I started losing energy for the preparation of holiday meals, not something that comes naturally to me, my husband took over. He and the kids, well into adulthood, along with their friends who didn't live close to family, would work in the kitchen to produce probably what you would call a mediocre feast. Then, they'd clean it up. Two years ago my husband announced he was sick of being in the kitchen for at least two days, sick of cleaning up, and wanted to spend more family time just talking and catching up. So, we've taken the kids and their significant others, along with children, out for those two major holidays. It's been wonderful to come home to the same clean house we left. Although one wouldn't say the food is gormet', it's very tasty and we've had leftovers, and, have brought home extra pies for all. The dollar calculation is not all that different than spending to buy the turkey, ham, and everything else. p.s. I too came from a WW2 family, and only had one brother with which to share holidays.