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Food For Thought

I have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving leftovers. My first inclination is to reach for two slices of soft, white bread, mayonnaise, and crisp lettuce leaves and construct that turkey sandwich that sends me, almost as stuffed as was the turkey, off to bed and some wild dreams brought on by too much whipped cream on all three kinds of pie.
Yes, you read that right. There is, of course, the traditional pumpkin pie. A brother-in-law once insisted it wasn’t official pumpkin pie unless the crust was soggy. Not liking soggy pie crust, I learned that spreading a tablespoon of flour in the crust before pouring in the pumpkin mixture goes a long way toward keeping it crisp and flaky.
Then there’s the mincemeat pie with all those tangy spices, plump raisins and NO MEAT. I prefer the fake mincemeat filling made with apples, raisins, currants, and chopped-up green tomatoes that have been treated to some magical process overnight in the refrigerator before combining them with the rest of the ingredients. My mother-in-law made and canned this mixture every year after she’d canned all the ripe tomatoes and picked the green ones to save them from the frost. Her recipe added melted beef suet to each jar, but I prefer the fresh taste of real butter.
That third pie is usually the chokingly sweet but wondrously delicious pecan pie, with all that butter and brown sugar. For me, it isn’t actually traditional, just that Thanksgiving is as good an excuse as any for indulging in something so decadent. I say usually because, sometimes, it’s an equally rich cream cheesecake pie topped with cherry pie filling. Topping that one with whipped cream seems to be a bit of overkill but– hey– it’s REAL whipped cream! Non of that vegetable-fat whipped topping on my Thanksgiving pie. Nothing matches the flavor of thick, fresh cream, whipped to a lather and lightly flavored with sugar and vanilla. I’ve told everybody who will listen that those whipped toppings make my feet swell up. For some reason, I do retain fluids when I eat them or similar things like instant puddings. Of course, one might argue that the real cream makes ALL of me swell up, or gain weight, but it’s Thanksgiving and I use half artificial sweetener in the cranberry sauce, that should help, right?
The leftover pie never seems to go to waste. What gets tossed eventually, is that little dab of stuffing that stuck inside the turkey cavity; the watery remains of the Waldorf salad, simply because it doesn’t keep well; and most of the green bean casserole which everybody likes but they were just too full and, besides, they could have that any time. I’ve often puzzled over just who decreed that this casserole was traditional for Thanksgiving dinner? Could have been the Green Giant people, the Campbell’s soup folks, or the ones who make those mysteriously crispy canned onion rings. How do they do that, anyway? I’m pretty sure they weren’t around when the pilgrims and Indians shared that initial feast all those years ago.
There’s still nearly half the turkey left. I figure the white meat will be gone once everybody has had their bed-time turkey sandwich. What’s to do with all that dark meat on the drumsticks and thighs? I really don’t care for turkey soup. Somehow, it just doesn’t taste as good as chicken soup does. Maybe I can tolerate one casserole with lots of mushrooms, wild rice and plenty of onion– even a little gravy if there’s any left. Turkey bones are too big for the disposal and they smell bad in the trash, so you have to keep them refrigerated until garbage pick-up day.
For many years I was tempted to buy one of those boneless turkey rolls so I can avoid the whole mess. I got soundly voted down every time I mentioned it. The outcry amounted to a plea for tradition. I ask you why it is only the cook who is expected to stick to tradition. The hunters no longer go out and flush out wild turkeys for the feast. They aren’t interested in dealing with all those turkey innards and pinfeathers. They’ve long since learned not to give the bones to the family dog. They haven’t planted pumpkins among the corn stalks and harvested them to be cut up and cooked down for pulp for those traditional pies. Nor have they raised and butchered the beef for the traditional mincemeat. And I didn’t notice anyone wading around in the bog for those traditional cranberries. Tradition, I guess, comes with a caveat – “As long as it isn’t too inconvenient.” For everybody except the cook, that is.
One tradition I managed to get modernized around this house is related to the next big holiday coming up. All I had to do was– just once– recruit the biggest objectors to remember to water that live Christmas tree regularly and to be in charge of vacuuming up all those tree needles that stick in the carpet. They readily agreed that my artificial Christmas tree is every bit as traditional as a real one.