Entry #1…Hello there!
|My best Julia Child impersonation - though I forgot the pearl necklace|
I thought a good way to introduce this virtual journal to you would be to start with Thanksgiving – a day that is synonymous with both lovely American family and food traditions, and good ole’-fashioned delusions of a peaceful past between the indigenous citizens of this land and its foreign, European invaders. I’m not going to get into all the background politics and injustices associated with this all-American holiday because that would take me four pages and a near anxiety attack to express. Instead, I’m going to show you my version of how friends and community can come together for at least one day a year to celebrate all the nice stuff we are lucky enough to have in our hectic lives. Though cultural customs and rituals fascinate me, I also am equally as rebellious against stereotypes of how a uniquely American tradition “has” to be commemorated. I myself believe “family” is not solely about DNA connections (though I desperately love my biological family) with relatives who often live far away, but are also those people with whom you share social bonds – ties that are chosen and so can be more appealing or even preferred. This kind of family is usually more diverse in ethnicity, ancestry, gender, and sexual orientation as well, which is always more desirable. Thanksgiving should be about appreciating the little things and those people whose importance usually goes unnoticed amidst the trappings of everyday, modern life. That is why food – the sustenance of life – is the superstar of Thanksgiving. What better way to be grateful then to pour love into preparing a nourishing meal for loved ones, both familiar and new! So here’s to what I’d prefer to call “Being Thankful Day”… because that is exactly what I am!
And to show that I embrace new interpretations of this holiday's food centerpiece, I give you the Turducken (or Tur-Duc-Hen as it's called here)!
Our version of this Louisiana-born creation had a jambalaya stuffing of shrimp, crawfish (also called crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs, or yabbies), rice, tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, and the best part - NO BONES. Out of the box it had to thaw completely, then took five hours to cook, but was worth the wait! If you are interested in fixing one yourself, I suggest talking to your local butcher like we did to see if one can be ordered for you there. If not, here is a great link to the Cajun Grocer, a supplier of many Turducken variations (I really want to try the Qua-Duc-Ant, which is a quail, duck, and pheasant combination), among other regional products:
Cajun Grocer Authentic Cajun Products
Cajun Grocer Authentic Cajun Products
First though for our evening were the appetizers of sausage/Parmesan/radicchio crostini, a Cheeseboard cheese plate, toasted and spiced pumpkin seeds, black olives, herbed hummus, fresh dates, and (below) smoked salmon with crème fraiche, capers, and dill. This was followed by green bean casserole, pumpkin/bèchamel lasagna, Brussels sprouts with bacon, stuffing with wild rice, walnuts, dried cranberries, and bacon, a parsnip/yam dish, blue corn cornbread, and a cranberry/hazelnut sauce mold.
Then there were the desserts! The one pictured to the right and bottom right is a fig tart, and below are pieces of sweet potato/pumpkin pie with ginger (left), pear/apple tart (center right), and a Southern pecan pie (represented by the few, stray pecans on the plate)...all topped with hand-made whipped cream of cardamom, vanilla, and anise-liquor!
In addition to all the gorgeous food we had anise-flavored aguardiente from Guatemala and Maria Izabel artisanal cachaça from Brazil, red and white wines (dry and dessert), and espresso served in treasured porcelain cups from my roommate Nick's Italian grandmother. All in all it was a wonderful gathering of people and appetites. Until next year - Saude! Salud! Salute! Skål! Prost! Na zdraví! Sláinte! Cheers!