Thanksgiving of yesteryear, from my first Thanksgiving back in the 70’s when my parents were still married, to the massive spectacle it became by my late teens with 20 or so people.
I love the fact that this holiday is not about gifts but about togetherness and gratitude. In our home, we do not fall for the myth of the peaceful pilgrim and instead honor the millions of indigenous lives brutally lost over the centuries to disease and murder by those who claimed to ‘settle’ this continent. We do not believe in pioneers and do not use the term “homesteading” anymore as the original use of the term referenced the stealing of native land. Instead, we believe in ensuring that our actions tread softly on this earth and encourage conversations about peace, planet, truth and community. And we give thanks for our life together, not only where we’ve been, but where we are now and where we are headed.
And so, as we prepared for this year’s holiday, it was about continuing our unique traditions while not being rigid about anything, and focusing on good food, time together, and doing it all without stress and with mindfulness, savoring all that is good about this day and sharing our gratitude with each other.
For me, I found that the planning was the very best strategy to ensure this, so I thought I’d share what I did this year. My list not only identified what we’d be eating but what order I’d start prepping and what dish(es) would be required, as I’ve always ended up getting, um, creative, with serving dishes in the past.
This year, I also did a “dry run”, pulling out all the ingredients and placing the recipes and dishes next to them, rather than trust that I’d done the math. And sure enough, doing this helped so much! I realized that I had spaced on getting a couple of ingredients and that I only had one type of pan when I thought I had two.
What was our particular menu, you might ask?
- We started out with Pisco Sours to have a cocktail before dinner. No appetizers needed, they are soooo delish!
- For dinner we had:
- Pulled Pork, from the pig we butchered this fall, brined in molasses and salt then rubbed with herbs & spices and smoked for 12+ hours.
- My famous 6-cheese Macaroni & Cheese, made from all organic & local dairy (butter, cheese, half & half) and organic pasta. I’ve been making this for 15 years now and it’s an annual tradition!
- Collard Greens cooked all day long on the stove. The best ones I ever had were at the old Kingfish Cafe in Seattle around 20 or so years ago and so I’ve tried to honor them with these. Usually bacon goes in the bottom but this year we had a hock in the freezer from our pig butchery so I let that be the porky goodness. (note to my vegan friends: this can totally be omitted – everything else in the recipe is vegan!)
- Oh-so-scrumptious Candied Yams made in the slow cooker, which, while we love sweet potatoes & yams as it is, didn’t become a staple until our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. SO easy to make and definitely vegan – I gotta say, the vanilla vegan marshmallows we got were the only marshmallows I could literally snack on if allowed…
- Green Beans & Chanterelles were so good this year that we looked at each other and said, why are we not making these all the time?!!! I love that my husband’s co-op buys foraged mushrooms from the locals in our area 🙂 The secret, I gotta say, is after cooking the beans, toss them in a pan with the chanterelles and 2 tablespoons of sherry, letting that cook off, then eating. If you want to go crazy, add some bacon lardons.
- Sourdough Pull-Apart Bread was a first for us as we agreed that cornbread was not something we eat enough of (and honestly, my cornbread, no matter what recipe I try, has always been inconsistent if I’m being honest with myself). It was goooood.
- My “Second Generation Stuffing always is included on the menu, which is basically my own version of what my mother made every year when I was a kid, with a base of rice/apples/breadcrumbs/onions/sage and the rest more of a ‘bubble & squeak’ of what I have in the pantry each year. This year we’d received a free day-old loaf of French bread, I experimented with wild rice instead of brown, dried sour cherries instead of cranberries, as well as tossing in a small wedge of lovely local, aged stinky cheese instead of my usual gorgonzola. We also kept this version vegetarian.
- And for dessert, Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie. I’ve never been a big pumpkin pie gal as it’s too strong for me, so I decided to mash the two together a few years ago and, well, it’s awesome. Especially with a dollop of homemade vanilla whipping cream. Oh happy day.
- We drank organic Cabernet with our dinner, and then with pies I made Apple Cider Bourbon Toddies with lemon juice to warm the belly. Yeah, that’s right.
One of the other things that is vital? Go with the flow! Not everything will work out as the instructions say, and that’s okay! We realized late in the game that our pulled pork on the smoker was not going to be done by my target of 4pm, not even close, so rather than whine (or bring it inside to try finishing it in the oven), I told my worried husband, hey, we’ve got TONS of food – let’s just serve up everything else and have it for dessert! Because when you’re smoking a beautiful piece of pork that was part of the pig you butchered yourself? It’s worth the wait.
Other highlights of the day came because of the good planning, such as…
- The ability to bundle up in the freezing cold (but sunshiny!) day and watch our 4 chooks enjoy their second day free ranging in the garden along with the ducks, outside of their enclosed run. They don’t quite know what to do yet but they were loving it!
- Turning this holiday into an “All Record Day”, playing our old LPs and dancing around the living room to the likes of Etta James, Nat King Cole, Dinah Shore, Sarah Vaughan, and then, at dinner, enjoying our meal with Coltrane in the background. Happy sigh…
- And of course, cuddling up on the sofa watching a movie on Netflix with the husband and passing out an hour into it, while the dog passed out in front of the fire. That’s the way ya do it.
Oh, and as we all know, the best part was yet to come…LEFTOVERS!!!!
Hope y’all out there had a wonderful holiday, however you celebrated it. Here are some pictures from our six Thanksgivings together, from both our old house and new, with the varieties of things we’ve had over the years. It’s not about the size of the turkey, it’s about who you’re with!