On high holiday preparations

Tick tock, big roof bird:  Thanksgiving dinner

For a nonreligious family whose head cook is admittedly a bit food-mad, Thanksgiving remains THE holiday of the year.

We’re on track (again) for an all-local meal, with about 85-90% of all the ingredients grown and raised right here.  Cider and wine from 5 miles away, cranberries from 15, wheat from 80, dairy from 100.  I adore this holiday.  Admittedly, I am a bit of an overachiever and I allow nobody to help me in the kitchen…except for washing the dishes.

And admittedly, as far as food goes, there’s really not that much that’s taxing about your typical Thanksgiving spread except for the sheer quantity of food that gets made.  That’s always made me pause:  I used to do a spread with 15, 20 items, 5 courses, for three people and though it was wonderful it was REALLY over the top, all for comfort food that tastes the same!  So, every year, I have been chucking one dish to see where the “heart” of the meal truly lies.  This year, I can’t reduce further:  no stuffing?  no gravy?  gotta have the Brussels sprouts…so it’s going to be a grand total of 7 items (3 courses) plus dessert.

It’s still a lot of work, but…it’s The holiday, after all…

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19 responses to “On high holiday preparations

  1. We’ve been getting rid of things as well. I’d be happy with stuffing, meat, gravy, green beans, cranberries and pumpkin pie. But of course others want potatoes and some want corn and some want and some want rolls and others can’t live without sweet potatoes. Since we’re celebrating with 10 we end up with all those things, but it’s a potluck so not as much for work.

    Our meal is probably 90% local. I think the only non-local items are cranberries and the wheat for the rolls and stuffing bread.

  2. I so enjoy cooking with my sister that that’s become a huge part of Thanksgiving for me. I want to have homemade ravioli and a turkey, she wants scalloped potatoes, etc. etc.

    It’s so much fun.

  3. Hey, are those cranberries available to anyone else, or do you have a secret source? Mine come from Wisconsin, I think and I’d love a more local source.

  4. Ours is pretty scaled back this year as well. Most everything is local. I went to the farmers market on Sunday and got the cranberries, potatoes, sweet potatoes and fresh broccoli and carrots for crudite. The turkey is from a local turkey farm as usual. The only things not local are the flour, butter and pecans. Not too bad!

  5. Another food-mad soul here. We will be having a pretty local meal, too. Here is the crazy part: we have to travel to visit family this year, so the meal will be local to us, but not to where we are dining! Yes, we are flying with a turkey and most of our veggies. Maybe this is over the edge, but we’ll see!

  6. Bummer for the bird.

  7. Aww, what a bittersweet photo. I love it.

    We’re having guests that don’t particularly care for food (eat to live types, he) and I had to explain that we LIKE to cook a big meal, it’s not something we’re doing out of a sense of duty.

    So while it’s going to be mostly local by default, I’m not stressing about the percentages–we’re aiming more at incorporating into our daily lives. And I think the example we’re setting for the company will be a bit overwhelming as it is 😉

  8. Bless the birdie.
    I can’t believe how local you are able to manage this feast.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  9. Great picture! We’re heading to my husband’s sister’s house. Ever since she read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, whatever is brought has to be either homegrown, locally foraged or locally hunted. Since most of this last year was spent on the house and not the garden, the best I can do is salsa verde from my tomatillos (not exactly Thanksgiving fare) and a jar of tomato sauce. But my husband is bringing one of his homemade breads, and I’m bringing a big German napkin dumpling made from leftovers of his bread, which we’ll slice up and fry in butter to go under the gravy, and then I’m supposed to make my red cabbage with a bunch of Susie’s red cabbages. I think the turkey is going to be one of hers, although she has one tom that is several years old because she missed doing him in the first year and then got attached to him. I can’t wait, though. I love Thanksgiving!!

  10. I don’t know how many years ago I realized that Thanksgiving was the one holiday i could totally dig. Lovely sere November stick season. Ghosts, then and now. How long does it take us to realize that we live by other deaths?
    That photo could be the symbol of the year.

  11. I have to have my pork sausage stuffing and mashed Butternut Squash.This year I sent back two squash from a farm stand in Naples NY in my luggage.But I bought my bird at Trader Joe’s.I think for meat one has to travel a ways out of LA to find local though we have some nice farmers markets in Santa Monica and I’m still getting tomatoes from out back of our building.

  12. By the way that is a great pic with the Turkey right at dusk.Jupiter hanging up on the left next to a new moon and the bird on a roof makes it a really really nice pic.

  13. We have 3 people too for the meal, so are also very low-key in terms of size. But it almost seems a bit harder to make the dishes “special”/distinct. Do you find that? How do you set Thanksgiving meals apart?

    • MC, that’s the big problem for me. I mean, all the food is great, but…it’s not really super-special, being bogged down as it is by tradition. You can only sex up mashed potatoes so much, even with the local neufchatel and our garlic…and the gravy pan, too, gets deglazed with some local sherry but it’s STILL just gravy. I think what’s special about the occasion is it’s always “I can’t eat another bite,” but then you pile your plate up AGAIN and you do.

  14. It’s lots of cooking and baking for the big meal but the left- overs mean easy meals for the next couple of days. Yummmm turkey sandwiches, turkey soup………..

  15. where do you get your cranberries from?

  16. Any turkey roasting tips for this newbie? We’ve ordered one (heritage breed and humanely raised and vaguely local) for Christmas and I’m already stressing about the dry breast not cooked enough thigh scenario? I’m more a fish/seafood/mango/cherrries Xmas gal (which works well for our hot summer holidays) but I thought I’d go for something more trad. this year.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving! It sounds like it will be great.

  17. Suzy, I hope your feast was enjoyable. (I am also really happy to learn someone else has tried to downsize the meal: I like affirmation that I am not crazy.) Wow, potluck! I should try that sometime, sounds like lots less work. Glad to hear yours was mostly local, too.

    Stef, I hope all was festive and fun with Sis and families. I had my mom help in the kitchen a bit this time: it was actually kind of nice to sub out some of the prep work, plus, we could gossip. Maybe that’s what it is mainly about: gossip and kinship. I could do ravioli on Thanksgiving, surely. Hope lots of your homegrown wonderful stuff ended up on your tables.

    Emily, hope you found some good cranberries. The UP also grows them, but this place does both bog and highbush cranberries. Maybe next year. And…you could put a word in with your co-op; I know they sell them at People’s Co-Op in Kzoo so why not AA too.

    Heather, glad to hear yours was scaled down and local, too. I wonder. It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg thing: does a meal become scaled-down because you have to source locally, or does sourcing locally lead to less dishes at the big feast? I don’t know; I will take the fresh local food any day though. Taay-steee!

    Ohmygosh Andrea, flying with a turkey! Yeah I suppose you could knock out the carbon footprint advantage of a local bird by packing it into your carry-on, but heck, I am sure it was delicious, right? Hah. And that’s the point: this kind of food tastes better than something with a plastic pop-up stick in it telling you it’s cooked.

    Pamela, indeed. We’re all so thankful, none moreso than me.

    Sara, you’re quite right: it’s one of the things I have the hardest time modeling for the parents at our daughter’s school: 1. food is important but 2. food is really immensely enjoyable, not some onerous task. And indeed you get an “attagirl” if you make something from scratch and goodness you’ll get a gold star if you source it from the farmer’s market, and let’s not even spook them by thinking they need to grow it too. Baby steps. But: it’s important to start somewhere. Let’s start with changing the idea that eating is a burden best done quickly with the fastest thing you can find.

    CC, hope yours was great! I am sure yours was: did you try cornbread stuffing?

    Paula! How wonderful: Your SIL sounds like a kindred spirit. And my gosh that dumpling sounds wonderfully decadent. Hope your red cabbage thing turned out as well…happy leftovers!

    Sharon, indeed. And therefore we SHOULD be really thankful. I love the light of November, when it actually shows up…you’re reminding me of the chill of VT at this time of year, brr, may as well turn on the stove, right? Happy holiday.

    John, thanks for identifying Jupiter! I knew it was a planet but had no idea which one. Cornbread sausage stuffing indeed sounds delightful. I heard one person say that people are divided into two camps: those who love the turkey, those who love everything else. I agree the turkey is special but is there anything more special than stuffing? I don’t think so!

    MC, hope your meal was quite lovely! I am sure it was.

    Sarah, there IS that, isn’t there. I don’t “have” to think about cooking for a few days now. But: I will probably cook nonetheless, I love it so.

    Selina, a place just north of us, called DeGrandchamp’s. See my comment above to Emily for the link.

    Nada! How fun that you’ve ordered a bird for your Christmas feast. The bird is best cooked on a rack of some kind to keep it out of the drippings. My tip, always works: I flip the bird 3 times during cooking (spacing the flippings equally during the cooking time, more or less). Start on its back, flip to the breast, end on its back; the breast meat doesn’t dry that way. You might need the help of someone to do this. I always take it out of the oven to turn it. Though it does sound funny to be sweating at Christmas, but then, I am showing my northern hemisphere bias!

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