It’s time to celebrate “The Feast of Hallo-Thank-Mas,” the two-month long holiday, that foodies throughout the land await with great glee. I’m one of them. “Hallo-Thank-Mas” ranges from cheap, wrapped candy in October, to pumpkin pies in November, to boozy eggnog and fruitcake at Yuletide.
This being November, I’m laser focused on the upcoming turkey day.
Step 1. I reviewed my planning notebook for the annual feast. Its bulk and breadth resembles the battle plan for the D-Day invasion. Some of the recipes and store lists were dogeared and stained, so I freshened up the pages with a new printout. I’m feeling better already.
Traditionalists v. Everybody Else
My kids wonder why I worry so much about the annual gathering at the farm of some 35 to 40 people. I tell them somebody has to. “But the meal turns out fine every year,” one protested. “Now you know why,” I said.
Step 2. I inquired to see if there was any interest in revising the menu. For years it’s been pretty much the same Southern-style foods my mother served. One of my healthy-eating kids, suggested replacing the goopy, sour cream-laden casseroles with a tabbouleh or the potatoes with mashed cauliflower.
My eyes welled up, “Your grandmother would be horrified to hear you say that. Those fat, carby dishes have memories,” I said, “and, besides, this is the only time I eat green bean or yellow squash casseroles anymore.”
Another one of my kids said the menu was fine, traditional, and easily reproduced each year. “Don’t mess with success,” I was told. The third one I interviewed didn’t care one way or the other. “I just fill my plate with what I want and leave the rest.”
It’s a Keeper
So with that kind of unhelpful advice, I’m back to paging through recipes to see who might bring/cook various dishes—old or new. These days I make only the Cornbread-Sausage Turkey Stuffing. I use a recipe I got from my hairdresser decades ago. I wrote the ingredients on the back of my electric bill as she recited it from memory, all the while backcombing my hair into a glorious beehive. I’ve abandoned the hairdo, but kept the recipe.
Memories Are Made of These
From what I’ve found on the Internet, the old stuffing recipe is much like a Campbell’s soup dish from the 50s. After I assemble the ingredients, I stuff the turkey loosely with the mixture and put the rest into a casserole dish. I later add some turkey drippings to give more flavor to the casserole.
Step #3. Not there yet. This is as far as I’ve gotten. But I know there’ll be cheese grits, garlic mashed potatoes, carrots persillade, Debra’s grandmother’s turnip greens, and Russ’ roasted Brussels sprouts. There’s will be a bevy of pies, including a fresh cherry made with fruit from the tree of my friends Beth and Frank.
As to the turkey, I’ve cooked it everwhich way: in a paper bag, a plastic bag, foiled, brined and not brined, spatchcocked, deep-fried, and barded (with bacon). In recent years, we’ve settled on brined and barded, that instills lots of flavor while keeping the bird moist.
To make sure all my bases are covered, I’m looking for a good tabbouleh recipe. 🙂
Stay tuned for updates on “The Festival of Hallo-Thank-Mas.”