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Food for Thought





"Thanksgiving Day Blues" Saturday Evening Post Cover, November 28,1942
"Thanksgiving Day...
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La Belle Cuisine


Well, I really did want to write something like this myself. Been thinking
about it day and night. For real. Ever since I watched Food Network's
Thanksgiving Family Feast Challenge, in fact.
Among other things, I was fascinated by the fact that the winning family
had prepared quite an atypical menu. And this despite the fact that the
sons came up with a well-charred fried turkey. We are talking black, okay.
However, the judges declared it to be quite juicy and delicious.
But that is not the point. Never mind the well-burned turkey. The menu
was most eclectic. As I e-mailed Chef Keegan that evening, the fact that the
medal (not to mention the $10,000 check!) did not go to any of the "typical" American families for their more "typically" American Thanksgiving Feasts
struck me as most American, in the very best sense of all-inclusive. If we
take the time to follow our family tree to its origin, we'll find that all of us
were immigrants in some generation or other, right? I have probably over-
simplified this concept somewhat, but hey, that's why I've decided to let
Nigella speak for me. I'm sure you'll agree... (MG 2009)


A Feast to Follow the Feast
The New York Times Archives
by Nigella Lawson

“I am not eligible to speak, I know. An English woman writing about Thanksgiving
is like an Irish-Catholic bride giving her Jewish mother-in-law recipes for Seder
night. But I find myself so taken with Thanksgiving - this, for me, entirely foreign
and exotic creation of a feast - that I just have to join the party. And what's
more, I am happy to gate-crash if that's what it takes.
Now, I dare say that Thanksgiving cannot compete on gastronomic grounds with those great Chinese banquets that lasted for days, but there is something incon- trovertibly magnificent about what the French structuralists might call a meta-
feast: when the very purpose of the meal is to celebrate the feasting.
Of course food has always played a significant part in any celebration; it is
the language that ritual speaks when it wants to make itself understood. But
Thanksgiving, I can't help feeling, is really about the food itself. Most crucially,
it is about American food — or rather eating in America — and the glorification
of the luck of living in this land of plenty.
Indeed, that emphasis helps show the holiday for what it is — a manifestation
of the federal union in food form. There is within it, in other words, both the
notion of uniformity and of individual difference. I remember once around this
time of year going to an Italian butcher on Sullivan Street in Manhattan and
finding turkey with a spinach-flecked stuffing studded with garlic; friends of
mine in Chicago, whose parents came from Bombay, once sent me a recipe
for a Thanksgiving turkey stuffing that combined chili, yogurt, ginger, cumin
and cilantro with an out-and-out American corn bread.
My recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers are no less far-flung, and no less aware
of the holiday's roots for that. After all, the Thanksgiving feast is held not only
in memory of the Pilgrims' first harvest but also in recognition of George Washington's proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789, which came after years of revolution and hardship, and the difficult birth of a new nation. When President
Lincoln gave Thanksgiving its legal status as a national holiday, it was an ef-
fort to unite members of the divided states and to urge upon them their shared
status as Americans. This last had the most profound effect, and its resonance,
of course, is that Thanksgiving unites everyone who celebrates it, which means
all souls who sit down to dinner in America on the fourth Thursday of November, whatever their varied antecedents.
Unlike so many other feasts — Christmas, Easter, indeed any religious festival
or those small local fetes in France or sagre in Italy — Thanksgiving is not
about what makes you different but about what you can share.
 In this spirit, I will say that the single best thing about Thanksgiving is that most
discredited element of the feast, the turkey itself. Gallons of ink have been spilled
to criticize the unredeemable dryness of the bird, but me, I love a turkey. I love
the stuffing, too. And although it's unalloyed greed for the flavor that makes me
slaver most, I enjoy the symbolic properties as well. That stuffed turkey tells us
something: throughout folk history, food has been stuffed to show the fabulous
abundance of nature. It's a way of celebrating plenty and showcasing the seasonal coming together of the fruits of the earth. Perhaps most emotively, as Claudia
Roden has pointed out in talking about Sephardic cooking in her magnificent

Book of Jewish Food:
An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York

(Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), food is stuffed to show the fullness of life. How can
you beat that? Now, all feasts are about plenty, about taking greedy pleasure
in abundance. And for me, as with all home cooks, that points to one glorious happening: leftovers.
Come Friday, I want a fridge bulging with cold turkey and Tupperware containers
of sweet potatoes. To tell the truth, I'm happy to eat them, standing leaning on the
still open refrigerator door, for my finger-picked breakfast, but I love the culinary
fiddling to which they can lend themselves with great satisfaction.
Carve some slices from the hacked-at bird, and make some potato cakes to go
with them, augmenting the sweet orange mush with body-bolstering white potatoes
and adding tang with lime, chilies, cilantro and scallions. Sweep up any stray cran- berries you may have lingering about the fridge and boil them up with vinegar,
spices and chopped Bartlett pears, and turn these into a rosy-hued chutney to
dollop on the plate alongside — or to be eaten with — any meats you fancy over
the next six months.
I should confess that up till now I've always taken a skeptical line on rehashing
cold turkey. It's so good to eat as is, or stuffed into sandwiches, that it's taken
me a while to discover its reconstructive potential. But perhaps that's because
when I was a child cold turkey was always used to make fricassee, the meat
reheated to the point of desiccation.
But turn that cold turkey into salad — and not just plain turkey salad — and
you're really talking. Steep bits of shredded bird in a quickly assembled Viet-
namese dipping sauce, toss with cellophane noodles you've dunked in water
and you have a tangled amalgam of such, well, more-ishness I cannot mention
it without drooling.
Or make a sataylike sauce of peanut butter, chili bean and Chinese vinegar,
and you have a gloriously wolfable creation that I am delighted to call Bang
Bang turkey.
 Whatever the old adage, too much is truly as good as a feast. And who
wouldn't want to give thanks for that?”

Amen, Sister Nigella!


Chili-Cilantro Potato Cakes

Time: 20 minutes, plus 30 minutes’ chilling

1 large egg
2 Thai green chilies, seeded
and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 cup, densely packed, cooked and
cooled mashed sweet potatoes
3 cups, densely packed, cooked and
cooled mashed white potatoes
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Break egg into a bowl, and whisk in chilies, garlic and ginger. Add juice and zest of lime, and mix well.
2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, white potatoes, scallions and cilantro. Mix well with a fork. Add egg mixture, and stir until evenly
3. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using a 1/3-cup measure, scoop
up some of the mixture. With wet hands, shape into a flat cake or
patty, then place on plastic. Make 12 cakes. Refrigerate until well
chilled, at least 1/2 hour, to help them keep their shape when frying.
4. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and add oil. When
oil is hot, add potato cakes. Fry, turning once, until crisp and golden
brown on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes a side. Serve hot.
Yield: 12 potato cakes.

More Feast to Follow the Feast Recipes!

Some celebrated Nigella recipes:
Aromatic Chili Beef Noodle Soup
Char Siu
Coq au Vin
Ham in Coca-Cola
Marinated Pork Loin
(Lomo de Orza)

My Grandmother’s Ginger-Jam Bread
and Butter Pudding

Noodles with Scallions, Shiitake
Mushrooms and Snow Peas

Rolled Loin of Pork “Cinghiale”

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into
enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,
confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a
home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

~ Melody Beattie

"As you go through each day, are you mindful of the little blessings
God has given you? The air you breathe, the family you have, the
reliable car you drive. If you were to sit down and list all of the
blessings in your life, big and small, you would begin to cultivate
a thankful spirit. Today, look for blessings in unexpected places
and be sure to express your gratitude to our loving and gracious
Father in heaven."

~ Dr. David Jeremiah

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating icon icon



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