First, full disclosure: I do not (heart) the holidays. And nothing announces the official start of the festive season than Thanksgiving. Well, I guess there’s also Halloween, the end of daylight savings, the beginning of cold & wet weather, but I digress.
Here’s my beef with end of year celebrations: Too much expectation and anticipation followed usually by, let’s be real here, disappointment. Throw in some cultural disconnect, a bit of family drama, a smidgen of self-diagnosed seasonal adjustment disorder, and meat-centric meals and, well, me and the holidays aren’t a good match.
But — wait — don’t go, this isn’t going to be a bummer blog post, promise. When you have a kid in the picture you just have to get over yourself and any party pooper tendencies that set up shop in your psyche this time of year. I’ve learned ways to navigate this potentially challenging period (nothing like practice) and I’ll share some of them with you all. And recipes too! So stick around.
Think different. Who says you have to eat turkey and that weird Jell-O-canned-fruit-Cool-Whip concoction your relative brings every year?
The last TG I hosted I fed a hearty batch of Lentil Soup to six vegetarians on a cold winter’s night. An unconventional but popular choice.
Find more veggie fare for Thursday’s table at NPR’s Kitchen Window from San Francisco food blogger Nicole Spiridakis, along with gluten-free recipes for the big day by another local scribe Stephanie Stiavetti.
Pecan pie or pumpkin cheesecake not your kind of sweet note? I hear you, so try starting a new tradition for the end of the meal. This year, thanks to a prolific tree, I’m going to make the Meyer Lemon Tart from the new My Nepenthe cookbook. (Recipe follows.)
Keep cool. If you suffer from last minuteitis, you’re likely scrambling to come up with a menu right now. Relax, you’ll find a great little guide over at Food News Journal, complete with hand-picked recipes for every course that should serve you well. I especially like the look of Brussels sprouts with buttered pecans courtesy of Gourmet (R.I.P).
Practice gratitude. Last year, my first solo TG in two decades, I received more than a dozen invites for dinner. A dozen. Now I know how the homeless feel: Everyone wants to feed you on Thanksgiving. I attended three fun soirees — flirted with trouble at one, observed the raw anger of a recently divorced dad at a second (note to self: bitterness may be a key flavor but it does not make for good company at the dinner table), and plopped down for dessert & dish at a third. All that and dance class with my galpals, added up to a pretty stellar day in my mind. And while the food was good everywhere I went, it was the connection with friends that sustained me that day.
This year, my boy and I will visit with two families he’s known since birth. We’ll take a hike and picnic with one, and then have a low-key meal and play highly-competitive games with the other. (Heard of the card game Spit? More fun than the name suggests and super addictive.)
The food will be good at both venues, natch; we all like to eat around here. But what’s likely to nourish me most on the day is the generosity, kindness, and friendship of the posse who have served as my surrogate family in the more than 20 years I’ve called this country home.
And that, from where I sit, makes for a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy.
Meyer Lemon Tart
—From My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele
Serves 8 to 10.
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 cup flour
5 or 6 Meyer lemons (1 cup juice)
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
7/8 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
4 tablespoons butter
1. Beat the butter with the sugar, salt, and flour until just combined.
2. Press the dough evenly into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan.
3. Freeze the prepared tart shell for at least 30 minutes before baking.
4. Zest half the lemons (setting the zest aside), then extract the juice from all the lemons to make about 1 cup.
5. Whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined in a medium nonreactive, heatproof bowl, then whisk in the lemon juice.
6. Place the bowl over a gently simmering pot of water and whisk continuously until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
7. Whisk in the butter in pieces.
8. Cook, stirring frequently, until the curd coats the back of the spoon, another 5 minutes or so.
9. Taste and adjust the sweetness, as needed.
10. Strain the curd into a separate bowl, then whisk in the zest.
11. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface while cooling.
12. Bake the tart shell for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown in an oven preheated to 375°F.
13. Cool slightly, then spoon the lemon curd into the shell, spreading evenly with a spatula.
14. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until just set but still slightly jiggly in the middle.
15. Serve chilled with a dollop of lightly whipped cream or fresh berries.
Photo Meyer Lemon Tart: Sara Remington