We’re pretty much at the homestretch here – Thanksgiving is days (DAYS!) away and tensions are running high. Every year, I freak out that my turkey will be too dry, and every year, just like magic, it comes out perfect, so much so that there are barely any leftovers. And I, personally, love my turkey leftovers. I think I’m just anxious to get into the kitchen and get the actual dinner started. All in good time, I suppose. Until then, I am left to bite my knuckles in nervous anticipation.
Anxiety aside, I love hosting this holiday and cannot imagine not doing it. When we arrived to the US, it was the first real holiday I got to learn about, and I embraced it with a readiness and ardor only a freshly minted immigrant could procure. I wanted to learn everything that was quintessentially American, down to the most minute detail, and nothing screamed America to me more than a table displaying turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, pumpkin and apple pie. If my mother even so much as breathed a suggestion of serving a Russian salad alongside the traditional American dishes, I would shoot her a dirty look. I felt like she was sullying a holiday that was my instant passageway into assimilation and subsequent acceptance. When you’re a teenager and everything about you is awkward, being a foreigner with broken English and an accent is the last nail in the coffin of social suicide. I felt it keenly and perhaps was a bit overly concerned about it, but as we all remember when you’re 13, your issues feel like the weight of the world upon your shoulders. If I only knew then what I know now.
In my fervor and push to assimilate and prove my American-ness to everyone, but mostly, really, myself, I hijacked hosting it from the first year. Every year, I made my parents sit through a turkey dinner, tying this holiday upon their necks much a like a boulder-laden bib. Patiently, graciously, they complied with me. But somewhere along the way, we, somehow, grew into this holiday. It stopped being an exercise in trying to belong as the holiday finally grew to belong to us. And one year, and I’m not sure which year it was, the holiday was ours. Really, truly, wonderfully ours. And then we couldn’t remember what it felt like otherwise.
And perhaps, this is what I love the most about Thanksgiving – the part of belonging. No matter what religion or cultural background you are, Thanksgiving is for you. Unconcerned with gifts, it’s a holiday to gather with the people you love to celebrate the one thing we should perhaps do consciously every day – practice the act of gratitude. In a country full of immigrants and stories of wandering and arrival, this is a holiday to unite us all. Together, around a table, we partake in meal, share some laughs and hopefully give thanks for our lives. And there are so many things go be grateful for. Each one of us has his own list.
This year, as pretty much every other year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving again (in other words, I am continuing hijacking the hosting duties, just try and pry it out of my hands!) and this time it’s for a party of 11 people (and my doorman!). For the first time since I moved to New York, nearly 9 years ago, my parents will be visiting me for the holiday, thus marking it our first Thanksgiving together in many years! Add to that, my practically next-door neighbor Sharon and her three cousins visiting New York, and my lovely friend Brita and her family and their dog, Oliver. And last, but not least Anna over at Very Small Anna needed someone to babysit her tortoise, Bowser, while she was out of town, and guess who volunteered? Full house, indeed! The heritage turkey’s been ordered months ago, and I can’t wait to pick it up on Wednesday.
But, anxiety and dreams of assimilation aside, and many years that have passed, I wanted to share with you this year’s Thanksgiving menu because I’m very excited about it. Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas if you’re still searching for what to make. And if nothing on the menu calls to you, there are a few other suggestions below, which will, hopefully, strike a chord.
And if nothing strikes a chord, then I want to thank you, my dear readers, for coming here and being my sounding board, my audience, my friends. I love this little space I’ve carved out and in the last 15 months or so it has grown even more dear to me than ever before. I am grateful for all of you and wish you all a lovely, warm, wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
2009 THANKSGIVING MENU
Porcini Mushroom Soup
Alton Brown’s (influenced) Turkey
Stuffing from Gourmet, Unbound (but will be vegetarian)
Olive Oil Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Bread Pudding Souffle
Escarole Salad with Pickled Onions (recipe coming soon!)
Cranberry Sauce (recipe coming soon!)
Julia Moskin’s Corn (as seen on The Wednesday Chef)
Roasted Acorn Squash with Cilantro Dressing
Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Cumin-Roasted Parsnips (recipe coming soon!)
Apple-Cranberry Pie with Honey-Bourbon Caramel
Pine Nut Tart with Rosemary (from Claudia Fleming – recipe coming soon!)
Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Eggplant
Cream Braised Cabbage with Leeks
Glazed Pearl Onions in Port
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Lemon Zest
Roasted Acorn Squash with a Wine Reduction Sauce
Spiced Glazed Carrots
Mushroom Farro Pie (at Gourmet, Unbound)
Sweet Potato Gnocchi