Kevin and Jed and I were…

Kevin and Jed and I were talking yesterday about starchy excess. How the traditional Thanksgiving meal is composed of a remarkable number of starches, compared to other dishes. Kev was claiming that people took the original traditional sides for the turkey, of which you would pick one or two, and at some point started just making them all. I'm not sure I buy that reasoning, exactly. (To be fair, I'm not sure that's exactly what he said. Something like that. I'd had a cider by that point. :-)

I think part of the accretion of dishes is that you grow to love certain food -- so, for example, we'll have two kinds of stuffing today -- cornbread-sausage-chipotle and a classic herb-mushroom. I didn't want to give either one up, because I love them both, and Jed likes mushrooms better, and Kevin doesn't like mushrooms at all, so two stuffings. Which, y'know, is kind of silly with only six adults and four kids. Especially when you add in sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (another starch), lots of nuts, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin bread. Oh, there's a few vegetables in there -- one green salad, green beans, and brussel sprouts. And the turkey for protein. But still.

I think some of it must be that these gatherings were traditionally huge -- if you had 6-12 kids, and then aunts and uncles and the like, then it made a lot more sense to have a full dozen dishes. And, of course, that would be expensive, so filling out the meal with lots of inexpensive starches makes sense. Stuffing seems like it's essentially evolved out of leftovers -- take all the leftover edges and crusts of bread that you've been saving for the past week, and mix that in with whatever other leftover stuff you have in the root cellar that's not going to make it through the winter. :-)

Now, though, I can look at our Thanksgiving meal plan and say this is totally ridiculous. You could cut the number of dishes in half and still have more than you'd need for a normal dinner party. But oh well -- it's not about normal, is it? It's about memory through food, and about a rare celebration of excess (perhaps especially valued in difficult economic times), and perhaps most of all, labors of love. And if there's too much food by far at the table tonight -- well, that means two or three days of leftovers, which sounds pretty good to me. I plan to spend tomorrow sleeping.

Now I'm off to scrub the greasy hood of my stove, because a sparkling clean house on a special day -- that's a sign of love too. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

4 thoughts on “Kevin and Jed and I were…”

  1. I wonder too if there’s something romantic or community-building about everyone eating the same thing on the same day across the country. We are having almost the identical food as yours although I didn’t hear about the mashed potatoes or rolls in your post. And, like feeding both the palates of Jed and Kevin, you want to make everyone happy. So my vegetarian family, of which there are 2 out of the 8 eating with us tonight, will rely on starches.
    The most egregious overabundance? A twenty-pound turkey.
    Are you eating already? We won’t eat ’til four. And –although I love all the cooking, I wish I was as close to done as your pictures seem to show.
    Have a great Thanksgiving Mary Anne.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    That’s a great thought about the communal aspect of a joint nationwide meal — I hadn’t considered that, and I think it’s totally true.

    Simone’s bringing the mashed potatoes and the green beans. 🙂 We’re not having rolls — it was just one starch more than I could take. But I’ll have crescent rolls for Christmas dinner. And I forgot to note that we have both cranberry sauce and cranberry jelly (out of a can). Again, because we like both, and want everyone to be happy. Not sure the kids could handle the port wine / balsamic sauce. 🙂

    We’re doing appetizers at 4, dinner at 5. I’m doing pretty well time-wise, though the turkey isn’t started yet; we’re not cooking it whole this time, and it’s only a 10-lb. turkey, so Kev thinks there’s plenty of time. We’ll see! He’s still sleeping.

    It’s helped a lot with the cooking that Jed’s been here and that neither of us had to work yesterday — we got a lot done with him washing dishes and putting them away and getting ingredients out and putting them away and even occasionally chopping things. I’m having a hard time stopping the cooking prep, but I’m running out of things I can pre-do. Most of my dishes are three-quarters cooked, and are waiting ’til 2 to 3 or so for the final combining step (followed by the really final reheating at 4:30 :-).

    Which I suppose means I have to stop cooking and go clean some more. Or take a nap, if I can get one of the boys to wake up and watch the kids!

    I’ve actually been thinking of you and your cooking off and on for the last few days. Wish we could sample each others’ dishes!!

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