My Favorite Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day I was traveling and didn’t arrive at my parents’ home in Houston until evening, so therefore (in my newfound enthusiasm for all things food) I offered to make a traditional Thanksgiving feast on Friday. On my own. As if that idea weren’t stupendous enough for someone who’s never made Thanksgiving dinner, I found out my mother  had also invited friends over for dinner. Suffice it to say that I was in the kitchen toiling for the entire day.

Turkey

Very predictably, the menu was almost entirely filled with recipes taken from the Food Network:

Oven-roasted turkey with sage butter, stuffed with caramelized onion and cornbread stuffing

Turkey gravy

Orange cranberry sauce

Brussels sprouts with bacon

Wolfgang Puck’s garlic mashed potatoes

Baked apples

Sweet potato balls with marshmallows and coconut

Warning to anyone who tries to make Thanksgiving dinner a day late: Stores will be out of many things, and items missing in stock are reflective of what America cooks on this holiday. One would have been hard-pressed to find sage, rosemary and ground nutmeg: Apparently, these are the most popular items. My family visited at least five stores before successfully finding ONE packet of sage. Unlike the Bay Area, fresh herbs in Houston aren’t even sold by the bunch, with the exception of cilantro and parsley. I managed to find brussels sprouts (some still on the stalk, amazingly) but noted that they came from Castroville, California: These brussels sprouts had traveled as far as I had for Thanksgiving.

brussels.jpg

Throughout the day, I chopped, grated and simmered, enjoying the soon-to-be fruits of my labor. That is, until our guests arrived.

With the turkey still in the oven and the gravy and the sweet potato balls not yet made, I became an adult Tazmanian Devil of sorts, my demeanor characterized by serious expressions of self-doubt and questions of worth rather than the fun spazziness that makes the cartoon counterpart so likable. My father even pulled me aside to give me a brief talking-to. “Your negative attitude is affecting the kitchen,” he told me. “It’s not necessary to keep talking about how dry your turkey is going to be.” Between his lectures and the sheer number of people running around in the kitchen, I was near panic mode. Thankfully our guests were mellow and gracious, and two of them helped me to get the dinner onto the table (one made the gravy, and the other put together the sweet potato balls). I’m not sure they really came to our house expecting to hone their Thanksgiving skills. Talk about springing into action!

Nevertheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the meal well enough. Dinner was followed by ice cream, coffee and lots of laughter. I walked away amazed that I didn’t undercook, burn or blow up anything. It was, in truth, well worth all the blood, sweat and anxiety that went into it. Spending it with family and friends who appreciated my cooking made it indeed my very favorite Thanksgiving so far.

cranberrysmall.jpg

The only caveat? “We’re expecting you to do all the Thanksgiving meals in the years to come,” my mom said.

I’ve included links to my favorite recipes, as those are the ones I will definitely make again — next year, of course, when I tackle another Thanksgiving.

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4 Responses to “My Favorite Thanksgiving”

  1. That was by far my best Thanksgiving as well! Everything was perfect! You’ve inspired our family! Now we’ve all vowed to experiment in the kitchen!! Thanks again!!

    Also…. I love your blog!

  2. Thanks!! LOL I had a picture of you guys up until Andy convinced me that other people didn’t want their pictures on the Internet (even though I didn’t identify you at all)… I am so glad you like it! Thanksgiving was a blast…can’t wait to see you all again.

  3. I was also up to my elbows in turkey on thanksgiving morning, cooking for ourselves and guests. There is something satisfying about making a turkey carcass become mouthwatering. Those sprouts look delicious! I may have to force some on my veggie girl.

  4. I don’t know if your veggie girl will eat the sprouts because she doesn’t like bacon, but the sprouts were the bestseller of the night. They are caramelized and sweet, with just a hint of lingering bitterness (but in a good way, like roasted coffee). The bacon adds flavor in a way that nothing else could.

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