Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

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Things are still quiet here.  Yesterday Marianne and I went to Sean's apartment, where he treated us to a Thanksgiving dinner "that couldn't be beat," as Arlo Guthrie used to put it.  Only in retrospect did the above photo strike me as distinctly Goth.

And this morning, Marianne and I had a small adventure.  We got up hours before our usual time, went to Micro Center with a short but pricey list of loss leaders in hand and stood in line for an hour before the store opened, went in, and bought them all.  Because this is her first year of retirement, Marianne had never done this before.

I did, however, point out to her that the ungodly hour we had to rise in order to get the bargains was exactly the same time as she woke up for her commute to work a year ago.


What does Thanksgiving dinner have to have in order to be Thanksgiving dinner?

Over the years, we've asked this question of dozens of people.  Our answer:

Turkey
stuffing (the proper kind; none of your experimental foodie recipes allowed)
gravy
cranberry sauce (jelly, not whole berry)
mashed potatoes
celery
radishes
sweet potatoes
midget sweet gherkin pickles
creamed onions
rolls (though personally I don't eat any during the meal; I save 'em for leftovers)
pie

The smallest number required is zero, and a surprising number of folks adhere to that.  We've known people who had sushi for Thanksgiving and thought it a perfectly satisfactory holiday meal.  But the upper limit so far belongs to our friend Gail, who's of old New England stock (she's the sixth generation of her family to live in the house she now owns) and had to have something like twenty items, including three forms of cranberry sauce and four types of pie -- and the squash pie had to be cooked in a square pan!

It was only when she was an adult and had to cook the meal herself that Gail realized that the reason the squash pie was cooked in a square pan was that by that point all the round ones had been taken.

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6 comments:

Gail said...

Not to mention the year my grandmother decided we'd try an old-fashioned recipe called "water whelp" (sp?). Like grits, but with less flavor. We never tried that again!

Michael Swanwick said...

Yes, that's the dark side of Thanksgiving -- our elders feel free to impose their theories of what ought to be eaten upon us, knowing that we'll endure almost anything for the core foods.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Sweet potatoes, yes. But what do you do with them?

I'm still reeling in shock from an article on BoingBoing which described the perfect way to cook sweet potato.

As an Australian, thus separated from you by a common language, and that's just for starters, I tell myself that a preference for utilising the sweetness of pumpkin or sweet potato in deserts instead of savoury dishes is culturally determined, and no more intrinsically wrong than monkey brain sushi.

But... this article mentioned marshmallows. And that's wrong.

mcp said...

My mother would dump the sweet potatoes out of the can, cover them with orange marmalade (I think that was the only use for orange marmalade in our house) cover them with marshmallows (left over from last winter's hot chocolate)and bake them. Served as a side dish to the savories, not as a dessert.I don't believe I ever actually ate them, although I quite like a sweet potato baked and seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper.

Lars said...

We don't celebrate the same Thanksgiving here - it carries a somewhat different emotional freight - but I would think that the minimum that you would need for a proper Thanksgiving Dinner is at least one other person.
I'm not trying to suggest that cannibalism is acceptable here.

Michael Swanwick said...

Good Lord, I should say not! Certainly not in the better sort of household, at least.