On a recent flight, my daughter sat next to an actress affiliated with a Chicago based comedy troupe. The actress needed some ideas for an upcoming Thanksgiving sketch routine and asked my daughter if she had any funny family holiday meal stories. The story my daughter shared was one my husband and I have no memory of. She insists we were there. Clearly the scene made a vivid impression on her.
She was a teenager, and we were enjoying a delicious feast with my sister’s reserved family when for no reason my daughter could fathom, my husband started talking about beef testicles – their size, texture, cultures that eat them and how they’re prepared. For you Westerners, maybe this isn’t such an unusual topic (what with your famed Rocky Mountain Oysters), but we’re Midwesterners with a strong dash of New England in us. Then again, my husband is a person of broad and varied knowledge and knows how to sound certain about things. He insists that he currently knows nothing about beef testicles in general and their culinary possibilities in particular.
I do remember a few odd Thanksgiving vignettes. In the mid-1970’s I was eager to get from Boston back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. I saw a posting for someone looking for other Chicago-bound students looking for riders in their car. Five of us – three of us complete strangers to the others – squeezed ourselves into a Volkswagen Beetle and drove 18 hours straight, making only occasional stops. At one stop in the middle of the night I ordered a cup of chili at the all-night rest stop restaurant and spooned up a gnarly chunk of gristle that I swear was hairy. By contrast that year’s Thanksgiving meal with my family was beyond fantastic. When the weekend was over, I flew back to Boston.
When Chris and I were first married we joined our friends to make a feast. Not being totally comfortable yet with cooking and kitchens we wondered why the half and half never became whipped cream. We also learned the indelible lesson of making sure to have the lid on the blender before you puree the pumpkin soup.
One year my Chicago clan joined us in Boston for Thanksgiving dinner at Plimoth Plantation. The plantation was interesting with its period costumed interpreters who never broke character, but the meal was uninspired traditional fair served by waiters in a modern building with bland walls. More compelling was a visit to the Wampanoag Homesite where we got quite a different take on the first Thanksgiving Day.
What fond or funny Thanksgiving memories do you have? And, while we still have a little time before grocery shopping, can you share a favorite recipe?
Here are two exquisite recipes my family has nearly every Thanksgiving. (They’re recipes for flatlanders. Adjust as needed for higher altitudes.) In the picture above, the Rice Pudding is in the large yellow pot and the Praline Squash is toward the back in the orange pot.
Elegant Rice Pudding
1 c. water
1/2 c. short or medium grain white rice
1/2 vanilla bean, split (Whole Foods carries them. You can order them – and practically any other spice in the world from The Spice House.)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
1 c (1/2 pint) heavy cream
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. dark seedless raisins or dried sour cherries
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon boiling water
1. In 2-quart saucepan, heat water to boiling. Add rice, vanilla bean, and salt. Cook 10 minutes.
2. Add milk and cook over very low heat until rice is tender – about 10 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter 1 1/2 quart shallow baking dish.
4. In small bowl, combine cream, sugar and eggs; fold into rice mixture along with raisins or cherries. Remove vanilla bean and pour rice mixture into buttered baking dish. Sprinkle top of mixture evenly with cinnamon.
5. Place baking dish into a large baking pan in oven. Pour boiling water into baking pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake 30-45 minutes or until pudding is firm and top surface is golden brown. Cool to room temperature on wire rack.
Serve at room temperature or refrigerate (covered) to serve chilled.
2 packages winter squash, thawed
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
a dash of pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
• Combine 1st four items and cook over low heat until butter melted in.
• Add this mixture to the beaten eggs.
• Pour into a greased 1 quart casserole.
• In a separate dish, combine the remaining 4 ingredients and sprinkle on
• Bake at 350o for 30 minutes. (adjust for altitude)
You can also find my dad’s fabulous apple sausage stuffing recipe (and many other great food related essays and recipes by LDS authors) in my book Saints Well Seasoned: Musings on how food nourishes us – body heart and soul here literally for pennies! (Warning: there are typos in Camilla’s cinnamon rolls and Jan’s Red Jello.)