The Feasting

[Before, November 2010.]

Home again, home again after a four-day weekend that whizzed by much too quickly. I know there was lots of cooking, lots of sleep (10 hours one night, even), many cups of tea, fires in the fireplace, reading (currently — and appropriately — “Mayflower,” about the Pilgrim emigration to the Americas and the ensuing settlements and native interactions), good coffee, a fairly grueling 7-mile run, not enough pumpkin pie … Now it is cold in San Francisco and the next set of holidays loom and this last one already feels a distant memory.

But wait! Before this little stretch of days slips away entirely, I must first note that in fact I do like a good cold snap; I have many cookie ideas percolating for next month; pear juice (next time perhaps also with a splash of ginger beer) tastes marvelous when paired with sparkling wine; and Thanksgiving might well be my favorite holiday.

Case in point: this year, Thanksgiving turned out to be one of those magical dinners wherein every single thing tastes delicious and everyone is jolly and in a good mood. I cooked and cooked on Tuesday night and Wednesday, and then Thursday woke up early for tea and toast and went to Kehoe Beach for a walk. The day was gorgeous — bright, still, and warm, not too many people about, the ocean a very deep, deep blue for miles out to sea. Birds of prey had perched themselves all over the cow fields and on fence posts; the sun tipped everything gold and sharp. This is the best time of year in California because the fields are green again and everything is growing because of the fall rain. I could have stayed and stayed outside, but the kitchen called. So I came home and threw the bird in the oven and had coffee on the lawn and played with the dog and and cooked a bit more (with help) and everything was somehow served steaming hot and delicious and right at 4 p.m.

[Pre-dinner snacks, Thanksgiving 2010.]

This was the menu

1. Assorted appetizers: Sweet potato-tahini dip; roasted nuts; phyllo-vegetable cups; smoked salmon + crackers; sparkling wine-pear drinks

2. Potage Jacqueline (sweet potato soup)
Potato rolls

3. Dry salt-brined turkey with lemon + rosemary
Maple syrup-infused roasted butternut squash puree
Mashed potatoes
Cornbread dressing w. pecans and dried apricots
Caramelized shallots, green beans, carrots
Roasted vegetable-phyllo ‘lasagna’
Cranberry sauce
Vegetarian gravy

4. Maple-syrup sweetened apple pie (olive oil crust)
Pumpkin pie
Upside-down cranberry cake

All was from scratch, all by me except the mashed potatoes (with deliciously decadent half-and-half! Please don’t tell my npr story; it will hang its head in shame.), phyllo/s, salad, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Most of it was made in San Francisco and transported; most of the vegetables (and smoked salmon) came from my farmers’ market. It made me feel very good to know that nearly all of the ingredients were sourced from within 100 miles or so of where I live and were grown by farmers I know and support mightily. And despite my wee nerves and a smoting of the moral conscience the turkey was perfect (and looked even better).

Now, a word about that turkey: I obsessed slightly about the size (being fairly inexperienced in these matters) and finally settled on about 13.5 pounds for five hungry people which turned out to be just right; there was even a little bit leftover. I remarked to various people that what with the roasted chicken and then the turkey, for a vegetarian my hands had been all over a lot of meat in a short period of time (A LOT) and WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??? I had decided to dry-brine the poor thing (I usually talk to my birds as I’m preparing them, apologizing and thanking in equal measure) and thus treated it to a soothing salty scrub two days prior to cooking.

This turkey and I became particularly well-acquainted considering I had my hands in and on various parts of her anatomy far, far too much — it was almost a shame we didn’t get to enjoy any live interaction; as it was, I patted her very carefully dry before massaging with olive oil, tucking rosemary under her wings (an onion inside, too, and slices of lemon), and then slipping her into the oven with a fare-thee-well (and ritual crossing-of-fingers). It eased my mind a bit that she was a ‘natural’ bird — surely, judging by the cost, she roamed freely during the day and tripped lightly to bed after sipping organic, heirloom chamomile tea, her head resting on fluffy pillows and listening to bedtime stories read aloud by the ranch’s happy children to tide her up to sweet dreams of fresh grasses and grains.


Still, ain’t she a beaut?

In short, Thanksgiving 2010 was a rousing success. I’d like to do it all over again, please — though maybe not ’til next year.

Now: What to make for the Christmas treats? First, I’m thinking maple toffee, and walnut brittle …

Join the Conversation

  1. Nice bird! Glad you had a wonderful holiday and your meal came off without a hitch.

    PS. If you make maple toffee, please post recipe!! :)

  2. Was it not such a great day? Sure seems like everyone I knew had successful turkeys and meals and an appropriate food-induced relaxing time.

  3. I bow down to these holiday-table decorations, and the incredible-sounding menu. Happy Thanksgiving! Yours sounds like it was one to be remembered. :)

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