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Bill Spohn

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Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Thu Sep 16, 2021 10:45 am

Canada and the US have different ways and times to celebrate what is in fact a harvest festival.

In Canada we celebrate on the second Monday in October as opposed to the US that celebrates on the fourth Thursday of November.

The backstory is very different as well. Though it is often thought (mostly by Americans) that we copied your practice, we first celebrated in 1578 vs. your 1621. And while the American story almost always features turkey as if none of them had ever heard of a turkey before, the birds were in fact well known in England as they had been imported by the Spanish from Mexico in the 16th C. and had been bred and eaten in England since Tudro times (Henry VIII was supposedly the first to eat one, which makes sense as in the early days of importation they were rare and expensive.

OTOH, the date of the American Thanksgiving gives the excuse for the start of the 'buying season' with Black Friday, a phenomenon that was originally exclusive to the US, however Canadian merchants have (sadly) started copying it to try and keep Canadians from shopping across the border.

Which is all a long winded way of starting a food discussion on the holiday. Some friends and I are headed up to wine country for Canadian Thanksgiving, which I much prefer as I can buy wine rather than wait in long lines for a deal on a TV pr feezer, although the wine will be at regular prices.

We will be sharing a Thanksgiving dinner in wine country and it will be a bit of a potluck. One couple will repeat their favourite dish, a roast turkey heavily swathed in bacon, while the other two couples (me and someone else very familiar to this site) are to come up with side dishes.

I was going to tell them that I was all set to go and had a line on canned green beans, a can of Campbell's mushroom soup, but was having trouble finding a can of Durkee French Fried Onions to dump on top, but was afraid that I might steal Jenise's surprise dish.....

I thought it might be fun to post here to get ideas for what sides people here favour as Thanksgiving sides. I have already selected mine and will keep it secret for now (an no, Jenise, it doesn't feature lime Jello, pineapple rings and a ring mould....)
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jenise » Thu Sep 16, 2021 3:03 pm

My grandmother is rolling in her grave at the thought that you would turn down her lime jello "salad" which wasn't made in a ring mold but a flat 9x13 glass dish because my Grammy didn't buy things like ring molds. Just putting canned pineapple in her salad was 'fancy' enough!!!!

It showed up every year. She also made canned yams baked with brown sugar and topped with a layer of marshmallows, pumpkin (yay!) and mince meat (no!) pies, and purchased the can of cranberry sauce, as if everyone couldn't do that, that would be ceremoniously pushed through the open ends of the can and sliced on a small plate. I wouldn't eat it, but I was fascinated.

My mother made turkey, mashed potatoes and a most excellent dressing, and a huge quantity of very dilute gravy even larger than the bowl of mashed potatoes which flummoxed poor little Jenise who couldn't STAND gravy. I didn't learn to like gravy until later on in restaurants where it was primed with rich stock instead of water and actually tasted like something more than greasy flour water. Plain buttered peas were the usual vegetable because green's pretty and, I now realize, they irritated my father who literally liked everything on the planet except fresh peas (canned were okay) and cilantro. For all the crap he put us kids through about our own food issues, it was a very just choice on mom's part.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Thu Sep 16, 2021 3:17 pm

I also had a relative that used to bring jellied salads to all the family dinners. No one ever touched them, and for all I know there was only one immortal salad that was brought out for repeat performances. I am told that I was chastened once for turning the lights out to see if it would glow in the dark (remember, this was the beginning of the atomic age so that sort of thing was in the news).

I'll make a deal with you - I won't bring green bean and mushroom soup casserole (we always took the topping from Durkee as a sign of sophistication) if you leave the jellied salad (far) behind. :mrgreen:
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jenise » Thu Sep 16, 2021 3:46 pm

Fresh green beans made in a scratch sauce with shitake mushrooms and scorched onions is a killer vegetable dish that deserves to be eaten whenever fresh green beans are available. But the old Campbells soup thing once a year? No, please not that!

So I'm now all set to go with a vegetable dish, the mashed potatoes, and a carb-free appetizer to go with pre-dinner champagne.

Bob's childhood T-dinners were always made by his grandmother. That is, when he was lucky; his mom was a terrible cook. Granny Ruth's specialty beyond the usual sides and the identical canned cranberry sauce I was tortured with was some sort of creamed grated carrots that I have given up trying to replicate for him. I think it comes down to that I just don't want to do that--apparently I have some deep-rooted belief (pun!) that carrots shouldn't be creamed. :)
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Thu Sep 16, 2021 3:52 pm

Jenise wrote:So I'm now signed up for a vegetable dish, the mashed potatoes, and a carb-free appetizer to go with pre-dinner champagne.


Hooray!

What do you think of the boneless turkey? Didn't see a stem to attach the pump to inflate it so I wonder how it will hold shape (I am an anti-stuffing in bird advocate as it can lead to uneven cooking and salmonella in extreme cases). Wish I could find my family oatmeal stuffing recipe.

What wine are you thinking of? Our host says nothing goes perfectly with turkey so takes that as a license to do as one pleases. I am thinking red, perhaps a Dolcetto.......or I could bring that Argentine Chardonnay you love so much!
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jeff Grossman » Thu Sep 16, 2021 3:55 pm

My mom ordered T'Giving from the deli. Everything was very tasty. :lol:
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Paul Winalski » Thu Sep 16, 2021 4:16 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:for all I know there was only one immortal salad that was brought out for repeat performances.


The salad equivalent of the legendary Christmas fruitcake?

-Paul W.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Thu Sep 16, 2021 4:43 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:
Bill Spohn wrote:for all I know there was only one immortal salad that was brought out for repeat performances.


The salad equivalent of the legendary Christmas fruitcake?

-Paul W.


Yup - that is the other immortal food item. For reasons best known to herself, my wife makes those things and then anoints them periodically with brandy for around a year. I don't like to hurt her feelings, but I have asked two people that are on her Christmas cake list (it is not, I should note, a list that people are anxiously trying to join) whether they would rather have the Christmas cake or the unopened bottle of Brandy that went into it, with all the alcohol not yet evaporated. Very sensible people they were, too, but I didn't communicate the answer to SWMBO lest she have her feeling hurt. There are still several of them out there and I have a mental picture of wedges of Christmas cake used as wheel chocks, door stops etc.

I actually wanted to try casting up a lime Jello pineapple look-alike once, using plastic resin, because no one in living memory had actually eaten any of it so I figured that I would be safe and with any luck, by the time someone discovered the subterfuge, I would be able to say that I had introduced the facsimile several years before and no one had ever touched it.

It rates right up there with the upside down cakes adorned with pineapple rings with half a Maraschino cherry placed in the middle of each one, glowing with what I mistook for another manifestation of radioactivity.

BTW, while we are on edible oddities, I knew a guy in high school whose father had been so struck by the Swanson TV dinners that were released in 1954 that he bought some and put them in his freezer, being sure that they would be worth real money some day. He passed them on to my school friend (who was also decidedly idiosyncratic - he drove a Morris Minor to university and managed to roll it upside down - slowly - in the snow one year on the way to university while full of his car pool he ran to subsidize his fuel costs. It rolled over gently and he was ahead of his time in having installed seat belts way before they were mandatory, but the passengers forgot that when you were hanging upside down and released a belt you would fall in a heap and hurt yourself. They took out their frustration on the Morris, which looked like it had been peened by elephants.

PS - he actually thawed one of the dinners and tried to eat it. He survived but I never did get the full story on that one.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Paul Winalski » Thu Sep 16, 2021 5:47 pm

There is a legend in our family that there exists only one Christmas fruitcake. Nobody ever eats it, and it gets passed around from family to family like a hobbit mathom.

-Paul W.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jenise » Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:13 pm

Bill, somewhere there's a movie about a bunch of losers in Arizona who are frozen dinner collectors. They have meetings, freezers everywhere, they share hot tips and show up at the grocery stores in the middle of the night in order to be the first to get the new releases. The joke's unworthy of a two hour film, but the concept to anyone who's ever collected anything is rather funny.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Thu Sep 16, 2021 9:43 pm

Never Been Thawed (perhaps it should have been titled "Made without Thawed)?

I shall keep an eye out for it.......
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jeff Grossman » Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:51 am

Bill Spohn wrote:For reasons best known to herself, my wife makes those things... There are still several of them out there and I have a mental picture of wedges of Christmas cake used as wheel chocks, door stops etc.

Tut. I have had good fruitcake, and I treasure the Xmas puddings I receive from a friend's mother. I'll agree that it isn't a treat much in favor for the past 100 years or so, but tut anyway.

I actually wanted to try casting up a lime Jello pineapple look-alike once, using plastic resin, because no one in living memory had actually eaten any of it so I figured that I would be safe and with any luck, by the time someone discovered the subterfuge, I would be able to say that I had introduced the facsimile several years before and no one had ever touched it.

I vaguely recall some cooking show in which they recreated an earlty 20th-C feast and making the enormous, "fruit-filled", multi-layer, multi-color wobbly dessert was a *significant* effort!

It rates right up there with the upside down cakes adorned with pineapple rings with half a Maraschino cherry placed in the middle of each one, glowing with what I mistook for another manifestation of radioactivity.

I've made one of those, many years ago. It's not a bad cake but it hasn't had any pizzazz for half a century or so.

I knew a guy in high school whose father had been so struck by the Swanson TV dinners that were released in 1954 that he bought some and put them in his freezer, being sure that they would be worth real money some day... but I never did get the full story on that one.

I would suppose they had dried out. Sixty years is a long time for water to sit still, even frozen water.

I remember eating Swanson TV Dinners as a child. The fried chicken was kinda greasy but if you were in the mood for it, well, grease is good. Who knows what the turkey tasted like because you had salty gravy and sagey stuffing to go with. I think there was a roast beef one (also in gravy) and a Salisbury Steak one (also in gravy). The sides were heavily machined, er, um, processed. I recall the mashed potatoes were gluey, carrots held up OK, but green things all suffered. Desserts were sweet enough but often too dry to be worth eating.

A noble-enough experiment in portion control, but let's eat something else, please.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Barb Downunder » Fri Sep 17, 2021 4:20 am

What is it about Americans and fruitcake? It is real food, unlike jello salads (? :shock: ) and canned green beans with mushrooms soup, neither of which has ever appeared on a table near me. Except for jellied beetroot which is more about stain prevention lol.
Christmas cake has always been popular here as is Christmas pud, a not dissimilar beast.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:44 am

And then there was the ubiquitous cranberry jelly, usually just standing on a plate (or cut in half either so that it wouldn't roll off or perhaps from some rudimentary sense of showmanship on the part of the cook). I'd forgotten that

Some condiments seemed obligatory even if no one in living memory had actually consumed any. The cranberry jelly is one and previous generations of my family would always trot out some mint sauce whenever lamb was on the table.

I never liked them although the hard sauce for puddings (which is made from sugar, butter and a shot of whiskey) I recall liking - must have been an early sign of fondness for the single malts as I have never been a dessert fan
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jeff Grossman » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:30 am

Yes, the plate of wiggly cranberry sauce - in the shape of the can it came in - was a staple at my family's table. (I like cranberry sauce so make my own with lots of Cointreau.)

Mint sauce? Gak. Never understood it but I expect Commonwealth members to chime in. :)

Hard sauce? OK but why not leave the sugar behind, double up on the brandy, and have more-impressive flames when it comes to the table? :mrgreen:
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Karen/NoCA » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:35 am

For too many years, Thanksgiving was always at our home. The kids, grandkids all came here. The turkey was called Pandora's Turkey, it is a specific weight, cooked in a tight disposable pan, on a charcoal Weber Grill with all the vents open. Cooked for three hours, and the grill is never opened. It was guarded by our second son because he loved the process and the outcome. It was a piece of artwork for sure. Real mashed potatoes, always put through a ricer, real homemade gravy with homemade stock, dressing, always fresh green beans, and a carrot dish especially made for one granddaughter who adored them. I had two fresh cranberry recipes that were killer, and a must every year. It took all week to cook the dinner, I did one or two dishes every day so that by Thanksgiving it was all done except for the oven and stove doing the rest of the work. The dressing was put into a crockpot to gently warm, as were the mashed potatoes. This idea caught on with friends and neighbors who wondered why they did not think of it years ago. Over the years, everything was perfected, and it was a wonderful meal. Then the bomb dropped! Our kids decided I was doing too much work, too many dishes to wash, too much food to put away. So, one year we went to their house only to find out, no one wanted to do all that work. Imagine my surprise when I found out we were having tacos on Thanksgiving! Then there was the purchased turkey, and fixings all ready cooked from a local deli. While not the best tasting, it was edible but for me, it was NOT Thanksgiving. I did ask to make it simpler, by everyone bringing something, that did not work because they would bring the ingredients, then make and cook in my kitchen. I had to get pots and pans out, help with whatever, not fun.

I kept my mouth shut but gradually, as the grandkids started working, college, things changed, now we all stay home. Gene and I have a small Thanksgiving dinner at home and each family does their own thing.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Paul Winalski » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:53 am

Barb Downunder wrote:What is it about Americans and fruitcake? It is real food, unlike jello salads (? :shock: ) and canned green beans with mushrooms soup, neither of which has ever appeared on a table near me. Except for jellied beetroot which is more about stain prevention lol.
Christmas cake has always been popular here as is Christmas pud, a not dissimilar beast.


I don't know where the American tradition of fruitcake at Christmastime came from. One rarely sees it outside the Christmas season. Our family (me included) always classified it in the unreal food category along with jello salads. Fruitcake never appeared in our house except when received as a gift from someone else. We did make and enjoy mince pies, though.

Traditional English Christmas pudding is almost unknown in the US. I've only ever had it when celebrating Christmas with ex-patriate British friends. BTW, what coin do you use in Christmas pud in Oz in place of the traditional threepenny bit? For that matter, what replaced the threepenny bit after decimalisation in the UK?

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Sun Sep 19, 2021 1:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:01 pm

Barb, I think that Thanksgiving (and Christmas etc.) are really for kids and it is an excuse to get the whole family back together at least once a year. We'll see how this Thanksgiving works with Jenise and I bringing different dishes and our friend doing the turkey (that fact that the pics he sent show a turkey covered in bacon, I take to augur well for the chances of success).

Just a comment on mashed potatoes. Potatoes that are boiled and unadorned are simply almost tasteless starch. All of the flavour (and much of the texture) comes from what you put in them or on them - they are a blank canvas and hardly palatable without cream or butter or gravy etc. I'm not saying that which potatoes you use and how you cook them doesn't matter - it does - you can easily wind up with something as palatable as wallpaper paste if you do it wrong - but the point is that they are a carrier for other flavours.

I'm not sure that you can say the same thing about rice, which at first glance looks pretty similar - a simple starch that takes on various flavours from other ingredients, but that doesn't do justice to some of the varieties of rice, at least that is my impression.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:11 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:
Barb Downunder wrote:Traditional English Christmas pudding is almost unknown in the US. I've only ever had it when celebrating Christmas with ex-patriot British friends.
-Paul W.


True, but as young kids we had a live-in domestic helper (can't think of any other term that describes what she did - some cooking cleaning, keeping the kids out of their parents hair - both of my parents worked so needed some additional help at home). One of them (with the very British name of Priscilla) was from the UK and cooked British plum pudding when called on to do so at suitable holidays. I remember it steaming for hours.......
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Ted Richards » Fri Sep 17, 2021 1:28 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:What wine are you thinking of? Our host says nothing goes perfectly with turkey so takes that as a license to do as one pleases. I am thinking red, perhaps a Dolcetto.......or I could bring that Argentine Chardonnay you love so much!

I've always been partial to a 15-20 year old Ridge Lytton Springs or Geyserville with turkey ­— especially if someone brings candied sweet potatoes (hopefully without the marshmallows).
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 17, 2021 1:41 pm

Ted Richards wrote:I've always been partial to a 15-20 year old Ridge Lytton Springs or Geyserville with turkey ­— especially if someone brings candied sweet potatoes (hopefully without the marshmallows).



Darn - don't think I have any of that wine that is that young. I guess mine now qualifies as 'Geezerville'? :mrgreen:
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Jenise » Fri Sep 17, 2021 3:55 pm

I've always presumed that fruitcake originated in Britain. But put me down as a fan--I love fruitcake though some are not made as well as others. To me a poor fruitcake has too few walnuts and brazil nuts and way too many raisins. Worse than too many raisins are currants, gritty little devils whose texture I dislike very much.

Bill, re potatoes. Mashed potatoes indeed benefit from all the fats that go in there but I for one could sit down with a perfectly steamed potato simply sprinkled with a little salt. I love the real, actual taste of potatoes as I do nearly everything in the produce section. No need to drown everything in cheese or bacon to make it palatable.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by DanS » Fri Sep 17, 2021 4:54 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:For too many years, Thanksgiving was always at our home. The kids, grandkids all came here. The turkey was called Pandora's Turkey, it is a specific weight, cooked in a tight disposable pan, on a charcoal Weber Grill with all the vents open. Cooked for three hours, and the grill is never opened. It was guarded by our second son because he loved the process and the outcome. It was a piece of artwork for sure. Real mashed potatoes, always put through a ricer, real homemade gravy with homemade stock, dressing, always fresh green beans, and a carrot dish especially made for one granddaughter who adored them. I had two fresh cranberry recipes that were killer, and a must every year. It took all week to cook the dinner, I did one or two dishes every day so that by Thanksgiving it was all done except for the oven and stove doing the rest of the work. The dressing was put into a crockpot to gently warm, as were the mashed potatoes. This idea caught on with friends and neighbors who wondered why they did not think of it years ago. Over the years, everything was perfected, and it was a wonderful meal. Then the bomb dropped! Our kids decided I was doing too much work, too many dishes to wash, too much food to put away. So, one year we went to their house only to find out, no one wanted to do all that work. Imagine my surprise when I found out we were having tacos on Thanksgiving! Then there was the purchased turkey, and fixings all ready cooked from a local deli. While not the best tasting, it was edible but for me, it was NOT Thanksgiving. I did ask to make it simpler, by everyone bringing something, that did not work because they would bring the ingredients, then make and cook in my kitchen. I had to get pots and pans out, help with whatever, not fun.

I kept my mouth shut but gradually, as the grandkids started working, college, things changed, now we all stay home. Gene and I have a small Thanksgiving dinner at home and each family does their own thing.



This sounds close to what Thanksgiving was in my family. My wife and I hosted it most years. It was a week long event. We started early in the week making pies, crust one day, filling the next, finishing the third). Prepped the sausage/apple/cranberry stuffing, cooking off the sweet potatoes for the casserole (think SP pie without the crust). Making the stock to be used for the gravy and the dressing that wouldn't fit into the bird.

I quickly learned to cook two birds. One the day, done in the oven, before that was sliced and ready to reheat. On T-Day, the second was cooked on the Big Green Egg. You may ask why two birds, when you are feeding upwards of 25 people, one bird takes to long. The BGE frees up the oven for other things. The first year I did the bird on the BGE, it was the first to go. Every coming back for seconds wanted the 'smoked' one.

We always had room for more people. When my nephew was in college we told him to bring any of the students who lived far away with him. We even had people drop in that had already visited their own relatives celebrations but wanted to visit ours. It was about food as much as it was about the celebration. What great memories.

Sadly, since I lost my wife I have been trying to get one of the younger family members to pick up the tradition. None has volunteered. I still host family gatherings, but on a much smaller scale. Katie and I would skip a year every once in a while (still hosting a New Year's brunch to make up for it) trying to see if there would be movement to start the tradition in siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. I'm still hopeful.
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Re: Thanksgiving

by Bill Spohn » Fri Sep 17, 2021 5:05 pm

Potatoes have different textures (starchy, waxy etc.) and as well some different basic tastes, but I still think that they function best as a canvas to display other flavours on. Unless you salt them or fry them or add things to them like garlic, rosemary etc., they get boring pretty quickly.

But please, please, no 'truffle oil' (the quotes are there because much/most so called truffle oil has never been anywhere near a truffle). Although I have heard of an interesting way to cook a truffle. Halve a potato and hollow out a place for the whole truffle, then wrap the halves with the truffle in foil and bake. The truffle stays moist and the potato takes on a fair bit of 'truffleness'. That is second hand, though as I have never been lucky enough to sample that method.
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