While I can’t prove Einstein was an epicurean, his riff on insanity has remarkable resonance when it comes to Thanksgiving.
You have to admit that Thanksgiving is just a little crazy. It’s the only official U.S. holiday that doesn’t occur on a Monday, which means you don’t have a full weekend to prep food, set up extra card tables and arrange place settings. This critical job is usually relegated to late Wednesday night after a full day of work. Our birds have surgically installed pop-up timers that inevitably “pop” before the turkey is done. And, the typical after-dinner activity — when we’re usually in a turkey coma — is to watch hours of hyperactive football, or go shopping for December holiday “door busters.” It’s no wonder Martha Stewart has been trying to remake Thanksgiving for decades.
We are suffering from a preponderance of pumpkin.
My moments of Thanksgiving insanity usually extend to certain traditional ingredients and kitchen operations. For years I rode the pumpkin bandwagon: pumpkin soup, pumpkin hummus, pumpkin pie, pumpkin crème brûlée. Maybe it was the whole-wheat pumpkin breakfast cereal spotted in the supermarket that finally sent me over the edge. We are suffering from a preponderance of pumpkin. This year, I’m swapping out the squash. Butternut squash is the new orange … or something like that. Perhaps you’re saying “Really? Isn’t butternut squash another Thanksgiving cliché?” But, you probably haven’t tried it for dessert. This year I’m reimagining a traditional pumpkin Bundt cake with butternut squash, which adds a mellow flavor, a sunny golden sweetness and silky texture rarely achieved with pumpkin.
“Oven Cleaning Day” is officially scheduled for November 21, the same week as my annual physical (because who wants to get their cholesterol tested after Thanksgiving?).
Just about the time the parade is gearing up and I’m preheating my Viking trophy stove, I typically think, “I probably should have cleaned the oven.” Yes, Thanksgiving is the designated day of the year when months of spatters, grease and drippings return and haunt you with a vengeance. One year, this resulted in billowing smoke, just two hours before the arrival of guests, which sent me frantically opening windows and fanning the smoke detector with a dish towel. When the doorbell rang, the chirpy, ear piercing alarm had finally stopped and my guests were welcomed with a brisk indoor temperature of 50 degrees and a distinct “eau de campfire.” Never again. “Oven Cleaning Day” is officially scheduled for November 21, the same week as my annual physical (because who wants to get their cholesterol tested after Thanksgiving?).
Now, if none of this helps to curb the Thanksgiving insanity, I’ve got one more no-fail option. Shop the liquor store early and often. A fine Long Island wine should not be limited to Thanksgiving Day, but should propel you into your holiday preparation with grace and good cheer. And, if there’s smoke billowing through the kitchen when the guests arrive, it’s not a bad antidote to the chaos.