Preparing for Thanksgiving: Thinking About the Eats

In just two weeks and a day is my favorite holiday of the year.  Thanksgiving, a wonderfully American holiday, that allows us to sit back and relax, enjoy some good food and beverages, socialize, and all and all just be grateful for being alive.  I love Thanksgiving in part because I never find it stressful.  For me there is no reason to stress out on this day, that defeats the purpose.  Some people do go all crazy trying to make sure they prepare the best meals and have the best decorations, I respond by saying “who cares, take it fucking easy dudes.”

That being said though, I still like to enjoy my fair share of good food eating for the Holiday.  In my favor of course is the fact that I don’t really find cooking all that stressful, in fact it is often one of my favorite ways to kick back and relax.  Food should be enjoyable, both in production and eating, putting stress into either part is like sacrilege.

But considering food, it is never too early to get thinking about what one wants to include.  There are some standards (which since I’ve lived in the South I’ve learned tend to have regional specifications) and then there are always opportunities for new things.  Considering Thanksgiving standards I would suggest taking a look at this article by Julia Moskin which makes some suggestions for alternatives or ways to spice up the traditional.

Before diving into some thoughts on the traditional foods of Thanksgiving I should mention that for the past two Thanksgivings and for this upcoming one, I have not celebrated with my family but instead took part with friends and sometimes their families (last year my brother did come and hang out though).  While I do miss my family on the holiday I’ve come to really enjoy the “Orphaned Thanksgiving” as it just adds to my “take it easy” approach to the day.  Also it supports one of the things I am most thankful for, which are my awesome friends.

Anyways, I’m here to talk food god damnit.  So let’s get fucking talking!

Turkey

 Alright, the big obvious here is the fucking Thanksgiving day bird.  While I am sure there are some who celebrate the holiday without turkey, I don’t think I could ever do it.  I mean in the very least go get some fucking cold cuts and make a damn turkey sandwich or something.  Turkey is essential.  It is also fucking delicious!  Growing up my family always prepared the traditional baked turkey, which if done right provides for some wonderful eating.  Likely if I had stayed in New England I’d have never thought about an alternative cooking form.  

Down here, in the South, I have consumed deep fried turkey for the last two years.  Deep fried turkey combines two amazing things into one great eat; turkey and deep-frying.  The first time I had deep fried turkey was not in fact for a southern celebration of Thanksgiving but instead at a Clemson versus Virginia Tech. football game.  Virgina Tech.’s mascot is the Hokie Bird, a turkey like creature, and so my Clemson fan friends thought it would be appropriate to consume turkey meat (Note: I originally misheard hokie as hogie and as such though that V.Tech had a mascot of a large sandwich.  This proved to be an absurd thought).

Fried Turkey is really really good.  Crisp on the outside, juicy and delightful within.  Furthermore, the cooking style is a kind of dangerous art, which I have only dared witness from afar.  Something about dipping a large dead bird in a giant pot of boiling oil is both horrifying and utterly enjoyable.  it is indeed fun to watch while drinking some beers.

This year there is a lot of talk about smoking a turkey (or at least parts of turkey).  Both Dan and Bear have smokers and those devices seem to beg to be used to prepare some sort of food stuff (whether for the holiday or not).  I have in fact previously ate smoked turkey legs made on Dan’s smoker and they were really good.  Eating the huge hunks of greasy tasty smoked flesh made me feel kind of like a barbarian, which was okay with me.  The only downside of smoking is that it takes some serious time and if not careful it might over dry-out the meat.  But the smokey flavor is worth the risk of potential pitfalls in my opinion.

Stuffing

The essential meat of Thanksgiving choice is the big food of the day, but following that, in my opinion, has to be stuffing.  I love stuffing.  Seriously, I could just go for making a big ol’ thing of stuffing and rocking out eating it by myself.  The thing about stuffing is that there are a wide range of alternate forms of prepping.

Growing up I usually had pretty simple, standard stuffing.  You know: bread, spices, onions, celery, probably some other stuff I can’t remember; basic but good.  The traditional is the stuff I grew up on and what made me love it in the first place.

My first Thanksgiving down here in Greenville I got to try cornbread stuffing.  Which was really good.  Sadly I can’t remember the exact ingredients beyond cornbread, but I am sure that there are plenty of recipes out there on the interweb.

Last year I prepared a variation of the traditional stuffing but it was super amped up with apples, pecans, walnuts, cranberries, and ground sage sausage.  I made the whole thing from scratch based on a recipe Bear suggested to me online (I don’t remember where it is off-hand, but again, I’m sure the internet savvy of you can do a little digging and find something close).  This stuffing was really amazing, and proved to me that stuffing could justifiably be a meal in and of itself.

I don’t know yet what I will do stuffing-wise this year, but I look forward to it.  I am think about maybe trying to produce two different versions to offer different tastes.  Maybe a good spicy stuffing as well as a more savory one.  Who fucking knows? Whatever I make I will try to share it in its own post once it’s been produced.

Tubers

Thanksgiving should always include some variety or version of root vegetable.  Traditionally this can be satisfied with mashed potatoes, which if done right can be perfectly acceptable (though if done wrong can turn out horrid), but the wide variety of tubers beg the question of thinking outside the box.

Down here a popular root vegetable is the sweet potato.  A popular Thanksgiving dish is sweet potato casserole.  Dan makes a variation of this (he’s made it a couple times recently) topped with finely ground pecans and brown sugar and flavored with vanilla.  It is really great.

The wonder of tube vegetables is the sheer wide variety of different preparations that the provide themselves too.  Like stuffing there are multiple variations and alternatives to the tradition.  Personally I am thinking about trying to do something cool with turnips and/or beets along with the potatoes and sweet potatoes.  The potential is wide open.

Vegetables

Got to have your vegetables, even on Turkey Day.  Because Thanksgiving is essentially a harvest holiday there are a lot of great vegetables that can be prepared in any number of ways for the celebration.  Various squashes are always and ideal choice, but you can also easily go with brocoli, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, and so on and so forth.

We can also include fruits here (just for simplicity sake).  Apples and cranberries come to mind specifically in a wide number of forms (the sauces of both are good, but can always be supplemented by more creative preparations).

The sheer variety of fruits and vegetables, and the multiple ways of preparing them, allows for all sorts of delicious creativity to add more to the meal as a whole.

Dessert

Pies!  Damnit you can have all sorts of other stuff too, but you should definitely include at least one pie for dessert.  Pies are amazing any time, but they just fit in so well for Thanksgiving.  Whatever else you want works too.

Beverages

Pretty much anything that suits your fancy.  I personally like to enjoy some good beer and maybe a glass of whisky or bourbon.  Wines can work well too.  Also, fuck, why not a good ol’ glass of milk, just ’cause it’s good for you?  Keep hydrated, if you get a bit inebriated don’t drive, and, like everything else on the holiday just enjoy it.

What Else?

Whatever you want really.  The day is about having fun and eating well.  My first year in Greenville we deep fried a ham as well as the turkey.  That’s right, a fucking ham.  The holiday certainly begs a bit of exuberance.  Keep it real and enjoy, and remember you can always find enjoyment in the leftovers for some days to come.

Well all, that wraps this up.  Hope you all have a great up and coming Thanksgiving.  I’d love to hear suggestions for any other food stuff that goes well.  If you’ve got recipes send them along, I like to try new things out.

peace

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~ by Nathaniel on November 11, 2009.

One Response to “Preparing for Thanksgiving: Thinking About the Eats”

  1. I feel obliged to include a point of clarification, that what I refer to as “stuffing” should actually be described as “dressing.” I do not actually stuff turkeys for much the same reason as why Alton Brown is against it.

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