Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I Love Thanksgiving (and Shortcuts)

I love Thanksgiving because you don’t have to buy and wrap gifts and it’s non-denominational – any religion can play. Even vegetarians like our son can find plenty to eat at Thanksgiving.

I used to make vegetarian gravy to go with our traditional stuffing – just take Pepperidge Farms Cornbread stuffing , and prepare as directed with water and butter but first throw in sautéed mushrooms, a little sautéed celery – you get the idea. (Trader Joe’s even sells a Tofurky roast made from tofu with gravy , although we go the free-range fresh turkey route.) Put a cut-up orange and/or onion inside the turkey’s cavity. If you put the stuffing inside, the turkey takes forever to cook and the stuffing comes out soggy.

My doctored-up corn bread stuffing always wows the Greek relatives who have spent days making stuffing involving sausage, pine nuts, chestnuts, etc. My stuffing takes five minutes. Theirs takes three days and must have a thousand calories per spoonful. Don’t tell them that, and also don’t tell them that, after years of failing at gravy-making I just jazz up canned turkey gravy with some chopped cooked gizzards and a little of the maple/bourbon glaze that I brush on the turkey near the end of the cooking time to keep it moist and a nice color

When I was a newlywed in 1970 I made Duck a l’Orange for our first Thanksgiving. The next year there was a baby at the table – smaller than the turkey -- and then two and three, and for 38 years we’ve celebrated the full catastrophe, often inviting foreign college students who have no place to go.

We still do it the traditional way, from cranberry/orange relish and wild rice (which comes from my native state of Minnesota) to apple and pumpkin pie (which is wicked easy to make, but now I make a pumpkin roll — like a jelly roll with cream cheese in the middle. You can freeze it and serve it centuries later, just defrost and slice and sprinkle with powdered sugar.) Somehow Chocolate Kahlua Pie has also become a family “tradition.”

I used to keep the kids busy making place cards for the table… for instance turkeys out of popcorn balls wrapped in red cellophane with heads made of lady fingers or Greek kourlourakia. The turkeys stand on three toothpick legs stuck into some large flat cookie with a person’s name on it.

Over the years I developed more and more shortcuts because cooking is just not my thing. Decorating is. By now I’ve now got it so streamlined that I’m going to write a book next year about "Holiday Shortcuts". Trust me, you can do a Thanksgiving and Christmas worthy of Martha Stewart and be cheating every step of the way. That’s the thesis of my upcoming book, which has the working title "Acing the Holidays". Stay tuned.

This year I’m plugging my photo book “The Secret Life of Greek Cats”
which costs only $10 and is perfect for the cat people or going-to-Greece people on your list. I’ll sign it and wrap it in cat-themed paper for free if you order it off my web site: www.GreekCats.com .

I’m also going to be selling it at Border’s, 476 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury on the day after Thanksgiving and on Sunday, December 7 at “Start at the Station” – Worcester’s Union Station — from noon to five p.m. along with 80 other artists and craftspeople

Last night, youngest child Marina came back home from LA. On Wednesday night Eleni’s coming home from New York. As soon as Marina got here, her cousin Efro came over and the two girls sat at the kitchen table looking at photos on Marina’s computer of her new life full of beaches and sunsets and new housemates. The girls were laughing so loud you could hardly hear the phone ringing. “You see,” said the Big Eleni, who is Efro’s mother, “The minute children come home, the house is filled with joy.”

That’s what I love about Thanksgiving. Hope you have a great Turkey Day! The photo above is last year’s feast with Nick about to carve the turkey.

1 comment:

Robin Paulson said...

We'll be thinking of you on Turkey day. I'm making dinner the "longcut" way, but if you can fake it, make it! Gotta run and make my cornbread from scratch for my stuffing. Wonder if it really makes a difference?