by Caren Crane
This is my favorite time of year. Autumn is in full swing, the leaves are off the trees, there is a chill in the air and my favorite holiday is just around the corner. No, not Christmas (though that is fast on our heels): Thanksgiving.
Many people don't understand why or how this could be. Thanksgiving, they ask, is that really your favorite? It is! Thanksgiving is the intersection of many of my favorite things in life: family, great food, thankful hearts and PIE. Oh yes, my friends, it is the holiday of pie.
My favorite is old-fashioned pumpkin pie (secret ingredient: molasses). Not store bought, which are always pale imitations of pumpkin pie. Not sweet potato pie, which you often see in North Carolina (the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the USA). Sweet potato pie is a whole other animal. I am often in charge of baking and bringing the pumpkin pie, which is my kids' favorite as well as mine. I have been given some serious, well-intentioned advice from my mother about how the pie should be. With all due respect, I take some of this advice and ignore other bits. The pie always gets gone so it must not be too bad.
Thanksgiving is more than pumpkin pie, though. You will recall my rave from last year about cranberry chutney, which entered the family lexicon of 'traditional Thanksgiving foods' about ten years ago. I make that each year and it is highly anticipated. I have also experimented with a number of cheesecakes, which are always well-received. But the foods I look forward to most are the ones other family members make.
My mother's cornbread dressing (heavy on the sage), angel biscuits, cinnamon apples, green bean casserole and orange product (ask the kids, it's a cream cheese/Jell-o thing). My older sister's turkey (brined in salt water and roasted herbs for days before baking) and marinated shrimp. My younger sister's roasted root vegetables, scalloped potatoes and corn casserole. My brother's barbecue (he smokes it himself and makes his own sauce). I was trying to think of my oldest sister's signature dish, but she's really more a follower of the nuts, cheese and wine school (always the best and most sinful of everything). My aunt and cousin usually turn up with their own gourmet additions just to round out the best meal of the year.
Before and after dinner are congenial times of conversation, games and more laughter than some folks experience in a year. Okay, sometimes the games get a little cut throat (especially Scrabble), but we don't talk about that. *ahem* The worst part is when it's over and we have to finally admit defeat and toddle off to bed. This year, Thanksgiving is late. It heightens the anticipation and gives me more time to get the ingredients bought and food prepped.
I am taking my last remaining day of vacation the Friday after the holiday, because Saturday is my beloved mother's birthday. I cannot imagine a more wonderful end to a marvelous holiday weekend than celebrating my mother's birth and life. If I have a spare minute, I will also get to rip into my TBR pile and Aunt Cindy's fabulous The Wild Sight. It may end up tainted with pie stains, Aunty!
So, does anyone else adore Thanksgiving as much as I do? What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? Any happy holiday food memories you would like to share?