Creativity Cooks

Collage ~ Cooking ~ Creativity … inspired by three generations of women

Nothing Says November Like Thanksgiving!


Wow… how time flies. It’s already November. Once school starts for my grand kids summer feels long gone and it’s a fast, downhill slide into the Christmas holidays. No sooner did I put the Halloween witches and pumpkins away then I start to notice all the Christmas commercials for the holiday programs, and worse, holiday shopping. UGH! I cannot possibly think about that now! I refuse to watch anything related to Christmas until I see Santa in his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I will boycott all holiday hints or notions until I have had that infamous leftover hot turkey sandwich with cold cranberry sauce falling out as I take my first bite!

November first is when I start gearing up for my favorite food holiday, next to St. Paddy’s Day – I cannot tell a lie, I love corned beef and cabbage! I have waited to open up my Martha Stewart Living, November issue, until today. I make it a practice not to look ahead. My pen in hand, white sheets of paper next to the magazine, I anticipate jotting down my alterations of her holiday recipes as I thumb one page to the next. I am rarely disappointed, and this issue is giving me some great ideas. After about three pages of notes on possible stuffing choices, deciding to do pumpkin mousse this year (though I bet I will be thoroughly harassed into also making pumpkin pie again) and jotting down changes to the turkey brine recipe, I start to feel my pulse rate increase. My mind starts to swim trying to remember how many vegetable side dishes I got up to last year…was it eleven or thirteen? I had a personal contest going to see how many side dishes I could make, adding one per year for the last seven or so years. Oh, no… I have lost track. A hot flash starts to take over my whole body as I rack my brain counting. It’s no use. Fifteen side dishes is ridiculous. And they never eat my homemade cranberry relish.

Thanksgiving seems to get more and more ignored by the media as a holiday, let alone a time to give thanks, the older I get. Perhaps it’s because of commercialism, but I refuse to let my family be shopping sucker punched into shrinking this fantastic food holiday. Not only is this the holiday of harvest foods – providing a virtual cornucopia of veggies to choose from, which is terrific if you happen to be a vegetarian, but all the fall colors are represented on the table. This is the most, in my opinion, visually beautiful holiday, if we are talking tabletop aesthetics! And then the aesthetics of the meal itself. Think of those brightly colored yams topped with golden brown marshmallows, or those freshly steamed green beans flecked with toasted almonds. How about that snowy mound of mashed potatoes? Let’s not forget the bright yellow corn with bits of red and green peppers and red onion!
If I look to pictures of this holiday from my childhood, I see that I took an interest in what was on the table at a young age. Considering the almost 30 years I spent working as a cook in restaurants, I was not really surprised to find a picture of myself at age one and a half, and again the following year, perched at the Thanksgiving table looking very excited at what was about to happen. Here is a glimpse of little me, almost two decades before my entry into restaurant…how telling!

Me, age 1 1/2

Me, age 2 1/2

I found a nice photo of my mother, from 1952 at age 13, at the Thanksgiving table with family. I thought I would include it as I seem to have a penchant for shots of tables full of holiday food. Funny, my parents wanted me to be a graphic artist, but they should have known I would end up in the food industry by the look on my face. In the two shots above, I clearly know a nicely done table with a good size turkey on it to be the way to go!

Thanksgiving, 1952

Fast forward to present day… or at least last Thanksgiving. Photographs are, of course, in color and taken by a digital camera, not the old Polaroid. Last year, we didn’t want to crowd the table with the turkey platter, side dishes and the like, keeping all that stuff on the serving bar. My daughter’s table is nicely set, wine glasses and tablecloth, all of us sitting around our well-appointed plates. Here is a shot of our family at table, and of course, a picture of my grandson tearing into his turkey leg.

Thanksgiving, 2010

So here I sit, typing my thoughts and memories into this blog post, when I could be fine tuning my menu for a holiday that certainly deserves our attention! Over the next week I will hone the menu, getting the last okay’s from the family members so as not to forget anyone’s favorites. The week before I begin to shop for the non perishables and the turkey, which is frozen solid. By the 19th I will begin to let it thaw in the refrigerator, preparing the brine on the 21st. Bathing in that brine for two days while I prep all the other components for cooking on the 24th will make sure a fantastic feast by 5pm on the big day. I will be sure to give myself time to catch the parade while I dart back and forth to the kitchen. Phew! Only eighteen days to go until we sit down to give thanks, for the food but more importantly, for each other.



Kitchy Casseroles

Most folks from my generation (born in the 1950’s to the early 1960’s) remember some of the foods of our childhood being particularly interesting, sometimes delicious and sometimes inedible or at least, unappetizing. I remember my Nana making recipes she would find in the pamphlets given her at her local supermarket or found in the middle of magazines she subscribed to. Her cookbook is full of clips from these pamphlet booklets as well as a few of the booklets themselves, still intact after more than seventy years of collecting and writing down recipes.

As a child I delighted in spending time with her, helping her with her meal planning, as she prepared three meals each day, along with her daily schedule of homemaking activities. She had a weekly schedule that went something like this: Monday – laundry, Tuesday – ironing, Wednesday – heavy cleaning (refrigerator, oven, windows, outdoors, etc.), Thursday – shopping, Friday – dusting/vacuuming/bathroom and kitchen cleaning for the weekend, Saturday – travel day or leisure day, Sunday – church and a big dinner with family. Whew! To think that in between all of this was meal preparation, baking… and let’s not forget raising children!

Somehow my mother and grandmother still found some pleasure in creating new dishes to enjoy for dinner. I may use the term ‘enjoy’ loosely… I never enjoyed my mother’s Polynesian Chicken Supper, a casserole of white rice, pineapple and cut up chicken breast bits. It was not only visually pale and unappealing to look at, but I seem to remember actually gagging while trying to swallow the warm, mushy pineapple and rice. Not a pleasant memory at all. My nana had a Salmon Loaf that I actually loved. Made in typical meatloaf fashion, but with canned and carefully boned salmon, it had a nice flavor and she made a dilled cream sauce to go with it. The pink salmon color, the cream sauce flecked with fresh, chopped dill, sided with green beans or broccoli, looked inviting. It was one of my favorite dinners, my Pop Pop loved it too.

One of the recipe booklets I found recently as I combed my Nana’s cookbook for pictures of meals I remember was put together by Bird’s Eye, the frozen vegetable company. Each recipe used one of their products – this was a common practice among convenience food purveyors to increase product sales – providing these booklets near their wares in the supermarket. This booklet, entitled ‘Super Bird’s Eye Suppers’ had two recipes for suppers I remember clearly. I have posted a picture of the page below. The Beef Bavarian with Vegetables was more to my liking than the Hawaiian Beef dish was, it seems the addition of pickle relish to give the dish its exotic flavor was off-putting. At least there was no pineapple in it. Feel free to try the recipes!

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