Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

A Fowl Thanksgiving Under a Gemini Moon


Even before this week’s full moon in Gemini brought promised tension and chaos, our Thanksgiving preparations yielded a few glitches: the cornbread mix wasn’t gluten free after all, necessitating another trip to the busy store; too much liquid in the pie crust made the dough tougher than usual; and the Thanksgiving napkin rings were nowhere to be found–annoyances that slowed us down a little but didn’t jeopardize the coming feast.

On Wednesday morning, my yoga teacher warned us that the Gemini full moon could make Thanksgiving interesting. “Great,” said a friend. “Just what I need to hear with 18 people coming for dinner.” Those of us with big Thanksgiving plans resolved to summon flexibility and remain open to changes that might prove improvements on traditions rather than problems.

I went home to finish the pumpkin pies (from our Winter Luxury pumpkins) and set the table. John was gone when I arrived, on his way to deliver onions and carrots to the community food share for Thanksgiving dinners. The phone rang. “Do you know anyone with a German Shepherd,” asked my elderly neighbor, “ because one’s here right now killing my chickens and ducks.” Horrible! I’ve seen dogs kill chickens and it’s a terrible sight. I didn’t know anyone with a German shepherd but told her I’d watch for the dog as she hung up to call 911.

After putting the pies in the oven, I went out to our Sunflower community room to set the long Thanksgiving table, a task I always enjoy. The dishes are from my childhood, my parents’ pottery wedding dishes with a harvest design. My younger sister and I stood on stools at the kitchen sink to wash those dishes for years until a dishwasher and Corelle came into our home.


I use my Grandma Smith’s silver plate, too, and set beeswax candles in her old blue canning jars down the center, reminding me of all my farming grandparents and the delicious meals they’d provide. In the middle of the table I placed the new pumpkin centerpiece made from canning jar lids that John’s mom had sent. We were sorry she’d miss celebrating with us this year.

Soon John appeared at the Sunflower Room door, opening it just a crack, which seemed odd until he said, “There’s a dog out here. A huskie.”

“Oh, no. That must be the dog that killed the neighbor’s chickens. Can we catch it? Is it safe?”

The dog seemed friendly enough and came to John when he called. We were cautious, though. Strange dogs make me nervous, “strange” meaning both unfamiliar and odd-acting. This dog seemed more the former than the latter, but it’s wise to be careful around any stray dog, especially one that’s just killed something. John held the dog’s collar and read the owner’s name, phone number, and address while I wrote it down.

Since the dog was docile, we decided to tie it to the tree with the goat rope until someone could come get it. I unwound the rope from the pen, the goat watching warily the dog from the top of the overturned barrel where she likes to climb. We carefully attached one end around the tree and the other to the dog’s collar–and let go. As soon as it realized it was tied, the dog lurched and jumped, trying to get free.

When we called our neighbor, the animal control officer was already there and came over right away. “I know that dog,” she said as she approached it under the tree. “He gets away a lot, but he’s never killed livestock before.” The dog seemed happy to see her as she switched our rope for her lead.

“What will happen now?” I asked.

“The owner will get a ticket and he’ll have to keep the dog in his own yard somehow. He’s a nice guy; I’m sure he’ll compensate for the chickens and ducks.” We were glad to hear that; lost chickens and ducks meant considerable lost income for our neighbor.

After lunch, Thanksgiving preparations continued. I finished setting the table and preparing the Sunflower kitchen for the next day’s cooking (we use three ovens for the feast). On the way back to the house, I stopped in the barn to check on the 30-pound turkey in the barn fridge, the only cold place large enough to hold it. John had turned the fridge up when he’d brought the turkey home. I’d felt ice crystals on the skin under the packaging the day before and turned the temperature down again. I wanted to be sure the turkey was properly thawed because discovering a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning isn’t fortuitous.

Truthfully, we didn’t need a 30-pound turkey. Three of the fourteen of us at the Thanksgiving table are vegetarians anyway. I thought I had ordered a 25-pound organic turkey from our local health food store but somehow my order ended up in the “over 25 pound” category. I wasn’t even sure it would fit in our oven, not to mention having to get up an hour earlier Thanksgiving morning to give those extra five pounds time to roast.

I opened the barn fridge door, expecting the top shelf to be full of turkey. The top shelf was empty. The second and third shelves (too small for the turkey anyway) were empty. I even looked in all the fridge drawers and door shelves where a 30-lb turkey obviously could not hide. I looked all over the barn, thinking John had left the turkey out accidentally. Having previous experience with objects de- and re-materializing, I even looked back in the fridge again to be sure I wasn’t overlooking something. Still no turkey.

What to do but go ask John if he’d brought the turkey in the house. No. So where’s the turkey? For a moment, I wondered whether that morning’s dog had gotten into the barn and dragged the thing away. Nah—it would have made more of a mess.

Then I remembered it was Wednesday, the day the food pantry people come for the veggies we donate to community families every week. The person picking up surely must have thought the turkey was another donation. That made sense—but we were still short a turkey. The pantry only runs until noon on Wednesdays. Now three o’clock in the afternoon, surely we were too late to get the turkey back.

Every Tuesday, I send an email to the wonderful friend who picks up our veggies to tell her what we have. I looked back at that week’s email and saw that I had mentioned that the turkey was on the top shelf because I needed to let her know the veggies were on the second shelf rather than the top this week. Once I re-read the note, I realized that she must have sent someone else for the pick-up. Even though the turkey part of the message was vague, I knew she would never have interpreted it to mean “take the turkey.” On the other hand, someone less familiar with our arrangement certainly could think a turkey donation accompanied the vegetables.

Since the pantry was closed for the day, I tried to call and email my friend but couldn’t reach her. Now the need for logistics took hold. It wasn’t that we minded the turkey having gone to the pantry, but we still needed a turkey—and it was 4 PM the day before Thanksgiving. Would we really be able to find an organic turkey at this late hour? I called the store where we’d bought the missing turkey. No, they were out—but they hoped we could find one.

John jumped in the truck for his second trip of the day to the neighboring town while I called to reserve a turkey—hopefully. Yes, they had an organic turkey—21 pounds, which was plenty—and they’d hold it for him. When John got home, he said everyone in the meat department had a good laugh about our “donation.”

I was glad, in fact, not to cook that big turkey. We had plenty at our Thanksgiving meal, with most of it—potatoes, leeks, squash, onions, carrots, beets, herbs—grown on our own farm. We rushed around getting everything on the table until, finally, we could sit down to eat as I whispered “What have I forgotten?” to John. The gluten-free cornbread stuffing was especially good this year with Oregon hazelnuts from John’s mother (see recipe below). I had forgotten to cook the kale ribbons for the beet-farro salad, but no one missed it. If I had to forget something, that was the thing to forget. We were complete, seated by a fire in the wood stove as the snow fell gently outside.

Before we recited our annual grace together, I asked everyone to think about all the Thanksgiving dinners sharing something from Stonebridge, from vegetables on the table to the wine we’ve grown and vinted—to the turkey in the barn fridge. We laughed a little at that thought before giving thanks with a poem of gratitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

For each new morning with its light

For rest and shelter of the night

For health and food

For love and friends

For everything [that] goodness send

We are thankful.

Between the meal and dessert, a few of us headed out for a breezy farm walk. Dusted with snow, the grass in the prairie flower garden waved like white caps on the ocean. I love the winter garden for its call to rest instead of weed.

IMG_5688After the heat of the walk turned to chill, we headed back to the Sunflower Room for pumpkin and pecan pies, dishes to wash, and games to play. As the sun set and the snow fell, everyone went home, and John and I took the leftovers into the house. He’ll make turkey soup with the roasted vegetables and turkey; I’ll make soup from the remains of the spiced squash scooped out from its skin and pureed with coconut milk. With all the leftovers (including pumpkin pie for breakfast), we won’t need to go anywhere for a wintery while.

When my pantry friend called to apologize for the mix-up, I told her not to worry about it. Other than the stress of the moment when I worried we’d have no turkey at all, everything turned out well. I didn’t have to wrangle a 30-pounder into our oven and another family had a nice organic turkey that should make lots and lots of post-Thanksgiving sandwiches. I’d learned my usual precautionary paranoia comes in handy sometimes when it says “check the turkey” the day before rather than 6 AM Thanksgiving morning. Imagine our surprise if it hadn’t gone missing until then—a circumstance for which we offered thanks. And we have a good story with which to remember this very Thanksgiving, a time of chaos exchanged for a time of deep bounty, a reminder of gratitude for all we have and can share. For this and so much more, we are thankful.


Stonebridge Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing

Makes enough for a 9 x 13 cake pan (Serves 15 but double if you’ve got a big crowd and want some inside the turkey too)

Ingredients (veggies and nuts can be prepared the night before and stored in the fridge):

1 package Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix (read the package carefully to be sure it’s GF)—prepared two days ahead of time in a square pan as directed and cut vertically into ½ inch rows in the pan to dry (cover lightly with foil as it dries). I prefer Bob’s Red Mill Glute-Free to his non-GF cornbread—it rises higher and has a moister texture for the stuffing.

3 large carrots, grated, about 2 cups

3 leeks, sliced thinly, about 2 cups

1 ½ cups chopped roasted hazelnuts (any nut will do, but hazelnuts are especially good)

One 32-fl oz carton organic vegetable broth

Fresh rosemary and dried sage, chopped finely, a tablespoon or so or both, depending on your herb tastes

Salt and pepper to taste (a tsp or two salt and some cranks of pepper)


Preheat oven to 375. Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9 x 13 cake pan and oil the bottom and sides, especially the corners (or just oil really well without parchment).

In quite large bowl, mix the cornbread cubes (breaking them into ½ cubes when needed), grated carrots, sliced leeks, chopped hazelnuts, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour the box of veggie broth evenly throughout the mix, turning with a large spoon to moisten all the cubes.

Place the mixture in the cake pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cover with foil (leave it unattached for venting) and bake another 30-40 minutes (keep an eye on it for over-browning.)

For our spiced squash recipe and more on Stonebridge Thanksgivings, see the chapter “Putting By” in A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography.






Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

If Life Gives You Apples . . .

Or when it doesn’t give you cranberries, make apple salad for Thanksgiving.

We host Thanksgiving for family and friends here at Stonebridge. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s all about the food, most of which we grow ourselves. This year, the potatoes, parsnips, leeks, carrots, winter squash, and pumpkin all came from our fields.


We don’t grow cranberries at Stonebridge, so every year my mom makes her cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, one of our aunts passed away in North Dakota days before Thanksgiving and my parents had to make the long trip back for her funeral. They would spend Thanksgiving with one of our cousins and head home the next day.


Rather than try to approximate my mom’s cranberry relish, I decided to use what we had in the cold room of the barn: organic apples from the fruit shares we offer through Ela Family Farms on Colorado’s Western slopes. Our last box included three kinds of apples in three colors—yellow Golden Delicious, green Granny Smith, and reddish-yellow Fuji—perfect for a beautiful apple salad with walnuts. I cored, chopped, and dipped the apples in lime juice to prevent browning, and tossed them with an olive oil/apple cider vinegar dressing and toasted walnuts. The salad wasn’t the same as my mom’s cranberry relish, but it was delicious and something fresh at the Thanksgiving meal is good to balance the other heavy foods.


[Did you know the USDA is considering allowing a genetically modified apple into our food stream? The reason for the genetic modification is to prevent browning, but if it’s allowed, you won’t know your apple is genetically modified since food manufacturers don’t need to label their products as such. Browning prevention is clearly aimed at mass food preparation– including restaurants, school cafeterias, manufactured apple products like applesauce and potentially even baby food–since it’s hardly a problem for home consumers. As with all GMO foods, we need to question whether the supposed benefit they offer is worth the health and environmental risks. You can learn more here—and tell the USDA by December 16 that the so-called Arctic Apple isn’t something you want to eat.]

Everyone at our table loves Thanksgiving stuffing, so it’s a mystery why we don’t make it at other times of the year.  I use grated carrots and sliced leeks from the garden, along with chopped hazelnuts from Oregon, vegetable broth, and bread cubes for ours. This year, my sister volunteered to make gluten-free cornbread with corn kernels for our stuffing. What a difference homemade cornbread makes to the stuffing! She made it a few days ahead so that it could dry in cubes. (When you’re chopping vegetables for the stuffing, be sure to prepare some extra for a Stonebridge Post-Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie, recipe below).

With our brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread, my sister’s whipped yams, our friends’ roasted Parmesan parsnip fries, an all natural turkey from another’s friend’s store, Stonebridge mashed potatoes, vegetarian and turkey gravy, John’s wheat crescent rolls, spiced carnival squash (the recipe’s in my book,  A Bushel’s Worth), pumpkin pie from our own Winter Luxury pumpkins, and another sister’s gingerbread cookies, we feasted in the Sunflower Community Room and toasted our dear Aunt Del Vera, a farm girl with city ways. Dark-haired with big brown eyes, she was a beauty who made every occasion of our childhood visits to North Dakota a special one.


Our Aunt Del Vera is on the right. We will miss her laughter and elegant ways!

Thanksgiving Day was warm enough for a walk around the farm between dinner and dessert, but a few days later, the arctic cold came down from North Dakota and settled in for a long stay. With the farmhouse warmed by our woodstove, we put our Thanksgiving leftovers to good use, especially in our vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (recipe below). The below-zero temperatures stayed around for almost a week, making outdoor work less appealing and providing the perfect excuse for holiday gift crafting by the fire.

Now the weather’s warmed again and we can venture outside without wearing so many layers. Yesterday we found our Winterbor curly kale had held up well under row cover during the terrible cold. John and I are anticipating our solstice celebration next Saturday with good food and handmade gifts. Our town paraded last weekend as usual, a sign that flood recovery is underway. We hope that these busy holiday days regenerate all our spirits and bring solace for our losses with the help of community, family, and friends. Happy Solstice!


Stonebridge Post-Thanksgiving Vegetarian/Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Preheat oven to 375. Oil one three-quart or two one-and-a-half quart casserole dishes (if you make two, you’ll have one to take to a friend’s).

2 cups thinly sliced leeks
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
2 cups chopped curly kale
1 32-oz box veggie broth
4 cups mashed potatoes
Parmesan or other cheese, optional

Saute leeks in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until golden. Add carrots and sauté one minute. Throw in hazelnuts and add curly kale. When the kale is softened, pour in 2/3 box veggie broth. Simmer for one minute. Moving the veggies to the edges of the pan, add 2 Tbl flour to thicken the broth.

Pour filling into prepared casserole dishes. Top with mashed potatoes (two cups each, if splitting into two dishes). Sprinkle with cheese, if using. Bake 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling.

To reheat second casserole, bake 30 minutes at 375, until bubbling.


Filed under ecobiography, sustainable agriculture

Black Friday Sounds Like a Plague

The media hype surrounding Black Friday this year astounded me in its hijacking of the Thanksgiving holiday into something commercial and crass. As many commentators pointed out, a day that used to mean spending time with your family has become a competitive spectator sport. Stores opened at obscenely early hours for “specials” that had shoppers stealing out of each others’ carts. This scarcity tactic led to people mobbing shops and even pepper-spraying other shoppers to get something they certainly didn’t need in the first place.

In the mid to late 90s, my women’s studies students and I organized an event called Why Shop? Week to raise awareness about the connection between women producers of products—generally low-paid workers in underdeveloped and developing countries—and women consumers—the audience for fashion and beauty advertisements founded on the message that women are never good enough so buy, buy, buy, including products that are unsafe and unhealthy. Both of these groups of women should be natural allies because they face a common struggle for women’s rights. That is, women’s lives should not be limited and trivialized by sexist stereotypes of women as merely producers or consumers of products. When women consumers realize that the products they’re told to buy to improve themselves are often produced by other women in unsafe and exploitative working conditions, shopping can be seen in another light. By learning the story behind the product and asking “Who Made It?” Who Needs It?” and “Who Profits from It?,” we can start to free ourselves from a misogynistic consumerism that profits from women’s economic and social vulnerability. Women are more than what they buy and they deserve fair wages and working conditions for any job they undertake.

Sure, it’s not simple. Women all over the world need jobs, but low wages and dangerous conditions for some women should not be the necessary conditions upon which other women’s self-esteem is based.

These connections are not easy to make but my students came up with innovative ways to—at the very least—start questioning the link between US consumption practices and women’s labor exploitation. One year they staged an alternative fashion show called “Crimes of Fashion: Are They Worth It?” exposing the real world of fashion, especially the labor exploitation of sweatshop workers in the U.S. and overseas.  Here the students modeled “recycled” clothing from a second-hand store to suggest creating one’s own fashion sense rather than following trends found in magazines.

Another year they created an alternative beauty pageant called “Ms. Assembly Line” whose talent segment featured contestants from garment, athletic shoe, appliance, and agricultural businesses demonstrating their production skills, while a red, white, and blue-sequined Ms. Super Shopper displayed her talent running up a hefty credit card tab. The students’ even revised the lyrics to the famous pageant song: “She is the poorest of the poor/ Except in the U. S. where she has more and more.”

Another year, the skit, “Shop ‘Til They Drop,” included talk show host Sally “Dressy” Raphael interviewing guests with shopping addictions, including Cher, a teen shopper from Beverly Hills; “Grandma Claus,” an overly generous holiday shopper; Mikey Swoosh, a Nike fanatic; and Annie Smith, a high school student addicted to beauty products.  Experts helped guests face their addictions by educating them about their consumption habits.

For each of these events, the students decorated shopping bags highlighting the disparity between wages and profits for common women’s products while questioning the message that enough is never enough.

With Why Shop? Week, we tried to raise awareness about the role consumerism plays in limiting women’s rights. I hope when my former students hear about Black Friday, they reflect on the ideas we discussed years ago. I’m discouraged that shopping has been raised to a national holiday and that people are even harmed by manufactured scarcity and media hype. Black Friday sounds like a plague—and like a disease, it seems to have spread a terrible contagion: greed. I hope next year we say “Enough is Enough” to the stores, advertisers, and manufacturers that trivialize our freedoms and cheapen our lives with a shopping mania in service of profits for a few rather than rights for all.


Filed under memoir, women's writing

The Pumpkin’s in the Oven–Let Thanksgiving Begin!

I just put my pumpkin and butternut squash in the oven to bake, signaling the beginning of preparations for the Thanksgiving meal. But not really. Those vegetables were planted last spring, tended all summer and harvested this fall. They’ve been stored in the closet of our coldest bedroom until today. Now they’ve been halved or quartered, seeds scooped out for the chickens, and are roasting in the oven at 350 for a good one and a half to two hours, until the flesh is soft enough to spoon into bowls for the pumpkin pies I’ll make on Wednesday and the squash pear soup I’ll put in the crockpot early Thanksgiving morning.

I love this meal and I do love having Thanksgiving with family and friends in our Sunflower Community Meal. But I have to admit, it can be a lot of work, especially Thanksgiving morning when we’re up before dawn to get the turkey in the oven—something I, as a vegetarian, don’t even eat!

So why do I do it? Of course, spending the day at home on the farm with people I care about is a big reason—the biggest one, I’m sure. But I have to admit, I do love the food, especially my traditional Thanksgiving recipes (some of which you can read here from last year’s Thanksgiving blog).

And I don’t make the meal by myself. Everyone who comes brings something delicious, like my brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread, one sister’s blue corn muffins and another’s gingerbread cookies, my mother’s cranberry relish and pecan pie, and our British friends’ amazing trifle.

But beyond a wonderful day with family and friends, it’s possible I host Thanksgiving because I can’t imagine pie from canned pumpkin. I’m sure it tastes just great, but I made a commitment to pie from scratch a long time ago and I can’t go back now. Just for this pie, we grow heirloom Winter Luxury pie pumpkins with sweet, thick flesh. They’re beautiful in the field, like gemstones of the autumn. Once the vines die back, we bring the pumpkins into the barn to await the end of October for our CSA members to share.

Besides the joy of growing them, I like getting pumpkins and squash out of the bedroom closet, chopping them in pieces and scooping out the seeds for the chickens. I like the way those vegetables feel in my hands, I like their fall colors, and I love how easily they go from raw to cooked. I always marvel that people long ago decided squash was something that could be eaten and even made into a pie, at one time considered more a meal than a dessert.

And now pumpkin pie marks the Thanksgiving holiday, along with other goodies. Maybe the turkey holds that spot for meat eaters, but for me, it’s the pie. I even eat it for breakfast the morning after the Thursday feast.  Here’s my recipe, adapted a long time ago from the back of the Libby’s can.

Stonebridge Homemade Pumpkin Pie

A day or two before you’ll make the pies: Preheat oven to 350. Cut your pumpkin in half; scoop out the seeds and a little of the stringy pulp right under the seeds. Place cut side down on a baking sheet with edges and pour a little water into the bottom for a bit of steam. Bake for 1 ½-2 hours, until a knife inserted in the outside skin pierces quite easily, like softened butter. Cool a bit and scoop out the cooked flesh into a bowl; cover and chill until you’re ready to make the pies. If the flesh seems quite watery, you can cook it down on the stovetop in a pan until it’s firmer. It really depends on the pumpkin—which is why homemade is more work but more delicious than canned.

Old Fashioned Crust

This makes three crusts but since I can only bake two pies at a time, I freeze one-third of the dough for pie some other day. Making it in a food processor saves time but if you like, cut in the pastry with two knives.

3 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups cold butter (2 ½ sticks)
½ cup cold water
1 beaten egg
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Pulse flour and salt in the food processor until combined. Add the butter in ¼ inch slices and pulse until the size of peas.

In small bowl, combine water, egg, and vinegar. With processor running, slowly drizzle the liquid mixture through the feed tube just until the dough forms a ball; stop the machine so you don’t overprocess the dough. You may not need all the liquid before the ball forms. Divide into three equal portions and chill at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge in a covered bowl. You’ll need two of these portions for two pumpkin pies so freeze the other or make a pecan pie too.

To assemble two pies:

Roll out two crusts and place in two pie plates. Prick the bottom with a fork and crimp the edge with your left index finger between your right index and middle fingers.

Preheat oven to 425.

Pumpkin Filling:
In food processor bowl, mix
3 eggs
3 cups pumpkin
1 cup turbinado or cane sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
3/8 teaspoon cloves
3/8 teaspoon allspice
1 1/3 cans evaporated milk (1/3 can is ½ cup)

Blend well. Pour half the mixture into each of the two pie crusts.

Place the pies in the oven and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and cook for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean (or push it gently with your finger to feel if it’s set).

Cool well before eating. Whip some cream and serve! Each pie makes 8 large or 12 small slices.


Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

Almost Thanksgiving

Yesterday was a quiet Sunday so I got out my cache of Thanksgiving recipes to plan the week’s preparations for the big meal on Thursday. Most of what we cook comes from the farm, some down in the root cellar waiting–butternut squash and shallots for soup, pumpkin for pies, carnival squash for roasting—and the rest—carrots, turnips, leeks–waiting in the field for digging today or tomorrow.

My job today is to make gluten-free cornbread so that it’ll be stale for the stuffing on Thursday, joined by chopped hazelnuts, sliced leeks, grated carrot, rosemary, thyme, and veggie broth. I’m making the stuffing gluten-free this year for my daughter and sister but I think everyone will enjoy it and not even know it’s gluten-free.

The other job for the day is getting out the vintage “Homestead” dishes we use for Thanksgiving. They’re the “everyday” dishes my parents got when they married and have been passed on to me for this meal. I’ve got 18 place settings, which is a good thing because we have almost that many people coming for dinner.

Tonight I’ll cook the butternut squash and pumpkins in halves on a baking sheet with a little water for steaming until they’re soft and then I’ll scoop them out for the soup and pie.

Tomorrow I’ll set the dishes on the long table in our farm’s Sunflower Community Room and decorate with small squash and pumpkins from the field.

Wednesday I’ll make the pies with the pumpkin I’ve cooked, as well as make the spice butter for the outside of the turkey and to pour over the carnival squash, an acorn variety that I slice in wedges and bake covered with foil with a little broth in the bottom of the dish in a second oven an hour and a half at 375 before the turkey’s done.

I’m a vegetarian, but I decided years ago that I like Thanksgiving at home so much, I’ll make the turkey for everyone else. We buy a huge one from our friend’s natural food store, so big that we have to get up while it’s still dark to get it into the oven. Every year I complain to John, “Why is the vegetarian making the turkey?” but I have to admit, I do eat the gravy—flavored with our leeks and rosemary—on my mashed potatoes.

Here’s the recipe for the Spice Butter:

1 stick of softened butter

2 tsp coarse salt (smoked is good)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp cumin powder

1 clove minced garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp each allspice, cloves, and nutmeg

2 Tbl honey

Leave it out the night before so it’s soft for spreading on the turkey, then melt the rest for drizzling over the squash slices.

Wednesday night I mince and sauté the shallots for the soup and also slice the leeks and grate the carrot for stuffing. I mix up all the dry stuffing ingredients in a huge crockery bowl so it’s handy in the morning. All I have to do then is add broth to the portion that will go inside the bird. We put leeks and rosemary in the bottom of the roasting pan with the turkey on top, and pour quite a bit of broth in the bottom. We coat the bird with olive oil and then rub on the spice butter, stick it in the oven, and go back to bed for an hour or so.

Up again when it’s light, we peel potatoes to boil for mashing, slice the squash for one dish and carrots and parsnips for another, douse the turkey with broth a few more times, get out the serving bowls, and make the soup.

I made this soup for the first time last year and it’s a great way to sit down at the table before we start passing the other dishes, plus I can put it in my biggest crockpot and forget about it while I tend to other things. My sister brings gluten-free, blue cornmeal mini-muffins to accompany the soup and it’s just right for a first course.

Here’s the recipe for Squash Pear Soup:

5 cups cooked butternut squash (3-4 pounds of butternut squash (1 large or 2 medium), already halved, de-seeded; cook for an hour and a half or so at 350 and scoop out of the skin)

4-5 minced shallots, sautéed in a little olive oil until golden

6 ripe pears, stem and core removed

2 tsp ground ginger

3 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1-2 tsp ground thyme

1/16 tsp cayenne powder

Puree all ingredients in a food processor and place in 6-qt crockpot. Add 1 ½ quarts (6 cups) vegetable broth and stir until smooth.

Heat for 2 hours on high setting.

At the same time I make the soup, I warm ½ gallon of cider with four cups of strong chai tea in a smaller crockpot to serve with my brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread while we’re cooking. This year we’ll spread the bread with yummy pumpkin butter that a subscriber gave us at the end of the season—a double pumpkin treat while we wait for everything else to cook.

It’s always a little hectic getting it all to the table but everyone helps. Our oldest daughter and son-in-law whip the potatoes with half-and-half and butter; John carves the turkey; my mom makes the gravy after the bird comes out of the pan; my sisters get the stuffing and veggies out of the oven; friends put the dishes they’ve brought on the table; and someone forgets that the rolls are in the oven until we’re all seated at the table and we have to run back for them.

The food’s ready, the table’s lovely with candlelight, and we’re all here, grateful for another year together. But before we eat, we recite a verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson that captures all that we have to be thankful for:

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food

For love and friends,

For everything [that] goodness sends.

We are thankful.


Filed under memoir, sustainable agriculture