Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My second favorite holiday

Not surprisingly, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Food, family, friends, more food... what's not to like?

My favorite Thanksgiving celebration ever was six years ago. At the time, I was living in the most beautiful house I will probably ever inhabit, up in a tiny mountain village in central Mexico. My boss, Jenny, and I were two of only about five Americans working with the crop research program, and we thought it only proper that we introduce our international circle of friends to a true American tradition. No, not the holiday celebrating imperialism, the subjugation of native people, and the spread of disease and violence -- that's Columbus Day. No, I mean the one about sharing good food and spreading goodwill among different cultures. You know, the holiday with the pilgrims and cranberry sauce?

Jenny and I manhandled a rather large frozen turkey for much of Thanksgiving morning and tried desperately to quickly defrost it in a bath of cold water, finally marinating it and cramming it into my rather small oven for about half a day. (It wasn't technically a holiday, but if my boss is in the kitchen with me, it's not really playing hooky, right?) Everyone else brought food from their country: Maru cooked up some Mexican tlacoyos (little masa canoes filled with cheese and beans and topped with sauteed cactus), Eric and Christelle supplied some French salt cake (by special request -- I am hooked on that stuff), Guy and Gianina arrived with a bevy of pecan pies (which are neither English nor Peruvian pastries, but they were delicious), Kaitlin brought a broccoli and cheese casserole (thus identifying herself as one of the other Americans in the crowd), Nick supplied the homebrew, Alessandra arrived with a pan of fresh focaccia, bottles of wine and tequila seemed to materialize out of thin air.... It was lovely. I have vague memories of sacking out sometime around 11pm, well before Nick ushered the remainder of guests out of the house. (Falling asleep at my own party? Who am I, my mother?) Well, I had been cooking all day.

The runner up for the Favorite Thanksgiving Award was in 2003, which I celebrated with my family and the Zeiglers at my Aunt Martha's home in Queens. That was the year of pumpkin homebrew, wild mushroom soup, and the first time I'd ever had a bacon-wrapped turkey. Looks like mom, dad, my brother, and I are trucking back up to Queens for the holiday this year. Bummer there's no pumpkin ale this year, but I'm looking forward to trying out a new recipe for roasted chestnut soup.

Anyhow, as we all gear up for the culinary extravaganza that is Thanksgiving, I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks. Thank you to friends and family and even the total strangers (now friends) who have helped me along this journey toward a life devoted to food. Thank you for the continuing hugs, advice, job leads, recipe ideas, fodder for my compost bins, and general encouragement. (Don't think this means I'm sharing my tamales, though....)

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