The holidays are not the time to diet
Loosen the belt, put away the Zumba fitness CD. It was not just the Pilgrims who sampled quite the feast put on by the native first settlers. Maine food dishes prepared with local ingredients taste so much better too after being outside in the fresh crisp air too. Whether working on a farm, tramping the woods while hunting looking for game or splitting, stacking firewood.
So Thanksgiving dinner, what to serve up for the gathering around your table? Traditions for Thanksgiving mean much of what you create in the kitchen or ask others to contribute is from memories of what you remember growing up. Everyone likes green bean casserole with the onions on top and the yummy sauce right? But what is the best recipe for green bean casserole? Do you want it crunchy, cheesy, jazzy?
On our farm table growing up Maine potatoes were a given. When you grow them, you are exposed to many ways to enjoy spuds. Whipped potatoes seemed to be the choice by my mom. The pearled onions, the squash, sweet potato all steaming in bowls escorted from the pantry to the formal dining room table used on special occasions. Cinnamon rolls like any breads take a special touch I have been told. And growing up, whenever my Mom asked what should she bring to a family or social dinner, it was hand’s down always her cinnamon rolls. They were to die for and akin to the nectar of the Gods.
Layered jello salads, watergate salads. Not only the sweet potatoes had marshmallow swimming in them. Never was a fan of the jello with the carrots and who knows what else mixed and chilled inside. But some likes them because they are a constant.The plate is only so large and what to fill it with in the eenie meenie miney moe of Thanksgiving food offerings.
Peas and yellow beans with cream could show up as a vegetable choice for some. Peas were a standard entry that you could bank on. Ambrosia salad with the cherries, mandarin oranges, orchard apples. pineapple, peaches, everything plucked from a fruit tree. The dinnerware not used but a handful of times a year added to the celebration remembrance. So did the decorations, the floral arrangements that were all natural, from the local seasonal surrroundings.
Turkey with the stuffing, gravy to lather the taters the standard, spiral ham could debut at Christmas. Deer meat venison. It’s what’s for Thanksgiving dinner for some.
But Delmonico steaks grilled on the charcoal outside the farmhouse porch entry could make their way to our Maine family feast. The meat not parked for days and price stickered. Not the kind clear wrapped and hoisted out of the cooler but something different. Hidden like a present in white paper, tied with string. A pencil marking the price, what was hiding inside. After a special request was made ringing the bell. to relay the order to the hunched over butcher with the red stained white frock. Who hand delivered it to you as you continued to fill the wire basket grocery cart with the one squeaky obstinate wheel.
Mince meat pie, pecan, coconut cream, lemon meringue or cherry were not the norm but were on the holiday menu besides your year round standards of strawberry, raspberry, apple, pumpkin or blueberry pies. Or hot about another mocca ball, a little fudge or mixed nuts for grazing before or after the feast? Squares come in so many flavors and the cookies were not the kind you buy wrapped in cellophane with elves painted on the store bought packages.
Seafood from Maine got invited to Christmas celebrations and Thanksgiving more the bounty harvested from the local farm fields. Oyster stew or crab cakes served up Christmas Eve. No reason why a Maine lobster or steamer clams or salmon could be provided table space to celebrate the guy in white fur and red velvet and roof top tap dancing reindeer’s visit right? Ho ho happy holidays.
Thanksgiving dining to give thanks, to count your blessings even it is pizza, bologna and cheese sandwiches. Being thankful to have any food, for the fellowship and a time of reflection on the past year.
Thanksgiving meant who sits where, who carves the bird. The guest list created new. To include first time diners to the table, to include the regulars still living and the lost ones in your bow your head, holding hands blessing prayers.
It’s your holiday to celebrate the best way possible. Pass the cranberry sauce, the bread and butter pickles, the many relishes please. There is no shortage of the extras like lady ashburnham or beet pickles as your eyes scanned the family table. That is like a culinary tetris game to find open table space for one more dish or platter. The buffet loaded up with the overflow, the cold drinks, coffee urns and what could not be parked on the dining room table. That would only straight jacket diners and only serve to interfere with available elbow room.
The Thanksgiving dinner spread seemed to be more harvest gold theme because we had just put the turnip, squashes, carrots, pumpkins in the root cellar. Fiddle heads to douse with vinegar could show up at Thanksgiving or Christmas or both. Picked from along brook and river side banks back in early spring and frozen for the special occasion family dining.
What’s for dinner this Thanksgiving at your home? Have you ever worked a free Thanksgiving dinner for the public members that have no family? Whether Veterans who served, shut ins house house bound and afraid of ice when using walkers. Or folks just missing any living or close by family members, Thanksgiving should not be spent alone. I think about the truck drivers, soldiers overseas who have to adopt new family to share the time of gratitude, the holiday called Thanksgiving.
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