Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day To Be Thankful

Growing up we always celebrated Thanksgiving at my Gram's house. She cooked the same exact dinner every year, and we would eat it at 1pm on the dot. You were given the option of having Cran-Raspberry or Tomato Juice to drink with your meal and we always had the same 4 choices of pie for desert after the dishes were done being washed, dried and put away. The adults ate at the table, and the kids ate at a fold out table in the living room. It didn't matter how old you were, or, in my case, even if you were married and had small children of your own, if you were not one of Gram's kids or married to them, you ate at the kids table. It was how things were done, and it was comforting. Some years back, for reason's I will never quite understand, Gram started keeping bread and cookies in her oven. She also started battling Alzheimer's Disease, and we arrived at her house one Thanksgiving to discover that she had turned on the oven to pre-heat and had forgotten to take whatever she was storing in there out. That was the first year in my life we ate later than 1pm, and the last year Gram got to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

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The next year my Aunt took over and the whole affair moved to her house. The menu changed a little bit to reflect some her husband's favorite dishes from growing up, and my brother and his wife started switching off between our family and her family. Some years some of my other brothers came, and some years they didn't. In the midst of all of this, my mom left for Maryland and some years my dad was in Florida for Thanksgiving and some years he was home. Times they were a changing. A few years ago Ashley started asking if we could have Thanksgiving at home with just the four of us. My grandparents were getting on in age, and it seemed like the timing was bad. However, at the same time I started thinking that my kids were getting on in age and soon they would be leaving home and maybe they wanted to "come home" for Thanksgiving and it might be time. Then last January my Gram passed away. Last Thanksgiving was the first one without her and we went to support my Grampa. Since then we've had food allergies and intolerance's crop up at our house and asking my Aunt to have to accommodate all of that seemed like too much, so in light of all of the above, we decided to do Thanksgiving at home this year.

I have never cooked Thanksgiving dinner before. Sure, I have cooked a turkey before, and made side dishes to go with it. Last year, C and her family came over and we had our Harvest Dinner, which essentially was a Thanksgiving dinner, just served earlier in the month. So I felt fairly confident that I could pull it off. Except for this time, we had the whole gluten-free thing to contend with. Really, however, if you think about it, most of a Thanksgiving dinner is naturally gluten-free to start with, if you don't mess around with it too much. You have to be careful with store bought turkeys, as they inject all sorts of things into them to keep them fresh and plump them up. Between gluten and soy, it was too much bother so I went local and got a turkey from a wonderful man out in Westmoreland. I can't tell you how delicious our turkey turned out, so I won't even begin to try. On top of that, we had maple glazed carrots,  brussel  sprouts, and mashed potatoes using vegetables from our C.S.A share at Tracie's Farm in Fitzwilliam. I made a wonderful wild rice stuffing and cranberry sauce, and as luck would have it, the night before I came across a recipe for gluten-free gravy from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. I wasn't planning on making any bread this year, but Ash asked if I'd make cornbread, and I figured that would be a great idea. My cornbread recipe has an adaptation to make muffins and as my 9x9 pan was tied up with our dessert, which was pumpkin cake with a butter-cream frosting, I thought it would be a great addition to the table. Turns out if you follow the adaptation, the muffins burn. I wasn't impressed, but the family used forks and ate the tops and insides anyhow and it all worked out in the end. There were some logistical things that I am sure we can work out better for next year surrounding the actual cooking of the food items, such as pre-cooking some things and then just heating them up as the turkey rests when it comes out the oven, but overall I think it was  a huge success and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. When it was all said and done, The Boy™ surprised me and washed all the dishes. I had much to be thankful for indeed.

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