Food, a celebration of Gratitude

It is Thanksgiving morning and the preparations are well under way. Every dish is a reminder of how much we have to be thankful for.

IMG_1127The turkey has been in the brine since yesterday morning, this is Tricia’s one day a year for turkey, but I have never had better, she does it so well. The brine has apples, rosemary, herbs, mustard seed, fennel seed, onion, cranberries, a bottle of white wine, and probably a lot I am forgetting. Then she will put herbed butter under the skin.

Don’t overcook your turkey, 163F is perfect. The days of cooking turkey for 5 hours like they did generations ago are gone, it only dries it out. If gravy is the only way you can swallow the turkey it is overcooked, it should be juicy and flavorful.

I baked skillet cornbread for individual puddings that will be stuffed with collard greens. We boiled and mashed the potatoes that will be used for a potato casserole with a parmesan-butter-breadcrumb crumble.

IMG_1776Tricia made her fabulous cranberry sauce, none of that canned jellied stuff, her’s is cooked like you would jam, with Chambord Liqueur added.

We picked out a bottle of a 2010 D’Alfonso-Curran Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, California.

I think someone is bringing pumpkin pie, but desert is never high on my priority list so I am not sure.

So all that is left is a bit more cleaning – windows in the dinning room, mop the floor, blow the leaves off the driveway – then it is down to the final prep.

Wherever this day finds you and however you celebrate, alone or with others, take a moment to be grateful for all that you have. I am reminded of the Psalm, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Even when life is hard there is much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving from theWinsketcher.

Wines Not To Drink For Thanksgiving

Pinot is good, be sure its from Oregon

the drunken cyclist

Thanksgiving is this week here in the U.S. and that means that just about every wine blog in the country will have a post on what wines to serve at Thanksgiving. They will all cite the fact that it is near impossible to find a single “perfect” wine that will pair well with all the foods that will find their way on to the table.

And they would be right.

I would hazard to guess that most wine people spend more time figuring out what wines to consume on Thanksgiving than they will spend exercising the following month trying to burn off all those extra calories consumed.

I say: don’t waste your time, as there is no “perfect” Thanksgiving wine. Instead, follow these simple guidelines on what not to do.

Don’t be bold: Unless you are at home and can go down into the cellar to grab something else, now is not the time…

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Share a meal with a friend

IMG_1576Over the last twenty years or so I discovered genuine cooking. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I experienced, unknowingly, a transformation that made the task of family food preparation easier and less expensive, while sacrificing quality and health in the process. Processed food must have seemed like manna from Heaven, it was cheap and easy to a generation that was still reeling from the shortages and rationing of the depression and a war.

My cooking ancestry comes from a family of migrant farm workers, and immigrant homesteaders that moved to the big city of Portland, Oregon. My perception, some six decades after the fact, is that the Portland branch, my fathers side, approached food from a utilitarian perspective, they ate to live, food was a necessity, and simplicity with economy was the objective.

The first great cook I remember was my Grandma, my mother’s mother. Two foods stand out, her homemade bread, and her turkey with egg noodles. Grandma grew up in Nebraska, she lived through the dust bowl; she learned how to cook when ingredients were scarce and limited. Like centuries of cooks before her, the most amazing meals were born from poverty.

The smell of her fresh baked bread is as vivid today as it was all those years ago, a thick slice while still warm, loaded with butter; thankfully we were not concerned in those days with fat and cholesterol. She made “egg noodles” – any chef would be impressed – eggs and flour, a bit of salt, rolled by hand, no pasta machine for her. Boiled quickly, then served with a wonderful sauce of leftover turkey and gravy, a comfort food I have not had in at least 40 years.

My mother tells people that I liked to cook when I was 12, I do remember it vaguely but until I was in my late thirties I must confess Hamburger Helper and instant Kraft Au-gratin Potatoes were common, even Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Such is life, economics, and reality.

Then Tricia came into my life. She has been fascinated with food her whole life, has a degree in food science from Central Washington University, and is so realistic about food, it must be good, and in moderation. Our early meals were eclectic, a mix of creative cooking, and sadly more processed than we would ever do today. But someplace along the line we became foodies.

I started traveling, eating at better restaurants, we ate out a lot and traveled, we watched cooking shows on PBS, trying out new recipes; we were transformed. Today food and wine are our hobbies, and what a wonderful hobby it is.

Our best times are cooking together, eating together, and talking. We are devoted to local, organic, humane, and sustainable food. When we travel we shop at local markets, look for restaurants that don’t have the menu in English. Food brings us together, it is what calms when there is stress, encourages conversation, makes us laugh, and how we show we care.

My advice to couples is learn to cook, it’s not that hard. Pour a glass of wine, put on some music, cook together and talk. Set aside the worries and frustrations of the day, even those issues that all couples deal with, and cook, and eat, and talk. From the beginning of time meals have brought people together, it still works. We need our relationships in these stressful times, so share a meal with someone you care about, in a small way it adds to the peace we so need.