Sunday, November 13, 2005

Let's Do The Turkey Trot

"Let's Do The Turkey Trot" is the title of a song recorded by Little Eva (famous for singing the original hit version of "The Locomotion"). We're going with that title because we have an e-mail from a reader who asked to be unnamed but will not be home for Thanksgiving and asked us to write about our favorite Thanksgiving foods.

Betty: Chess pie. There are a ton of things I enjoy, but the holidays always mean chess pie. My mother makes the best one in the world. She's taught me how but, honestly, I'm too lazy to make one. Even if I cut corners and used ready made pie crust, I still wouldn't have the time or energy. But at Thanksgiving I have the time and energy to grab as many slices as I can. She makes one pumpkin pie but she makes several chess pies because we all love that pie. It wouldn't be a Thanksgiving in my family without my mother's chess pie.

Ava: I'll go with the cranberries. I don't care if it's out of can or if it's cooked. My mother makes a big production out of cooking it from scratch and, to me, it tastes pretty much the same either way. But when I think of Thanksgiving, that's what I think of. I'll usually grab a roll, put a little bit of turkey in it, put a little bit of cranberry sauce in it and that's Thanksgiving. My mother will be saying, "Eat something else" but that's really all I need.

Jess: I'm not sure what to pick. There's a green bean casserole that I really like and there's also a squash dish that my mom makes. The food's always nice but it's really just that we're all around the table together that stands out to me.

Cedric: My favorite thing isn't lunch. Lunch is good and the food's all warm and all that. But my favorite thing is a few hours later. When you're hungry again and you go back in the kitchen and everyone makes their own plate. People are more relaxed then. Usually some weirdo that someone's brought over as their date has left and a beer or two has quieted down one uncle who's always too loud, plus no one's worrying about how their dish tastes because everyone's already sampled it. You make your plate, you head back to the living room and it's just a quieter version of the lunch.

Ty: Mashed potatoes and gravy. My favorite food all year round and at Thanksgiving, there's so much you can have thirds and fourths and there's still plenty left over. It's from real potatoes and not the instant stuff. And the gravy has some of the turkey drippings so it's really good. That's what I'll be thinking about when we all grab our plates and start piling the food on.

Jim: For me the big thing is that my dad and I go out with my grandfather to the trees in his yard and pick up some of the pecans that have fallen off them. We go inside and crack them open, enough for grandma to make a pecan pie for Christmas, but I don't think they last for that because my granddad eats them all the time but that's what he says we're doing it for, and we just crack them open and snack on a few as we go and talk about whatever. That's what really makes it Thanksgiving for me.

Rebecca: I'm going to go with pie, like Betty. My favorite pie is apple pie and my grandmother makes them from scratch. Slices the apples, rolls her own dough, all of that. For years, I was always one of those people saying, "Well, how about colas? I could bring colas. Ice?" Everyone in my family is an outstanding cook. I'm an okay cook, I'm not outstanding. But male or female, everyone in my family, except me, has a dish they can make that's amazing. So, hat tip to C.I., I mentioned this one year as Thanksgiving was approaching and C.I. said, "Rebecca, I'm going to teach you to make a Key Lime pie." I didn't think so. C.I. asked if anyone else brought a Key Lime pie and I said no. So I get told, by C.I., that this is going to be my signature dish and everyone's going to love it, that on holidays when I don't make it, I'll hear, "Rebecca, why didn't you make that pie?" I didn't believe it. But I played along and it is now my signature dish. And everyone loves it. "Rebecca, you're bringing the Key Lime pie, right?" I always get asked that. Now here's the secret, I never eat it. I really don't like Key Lime pie. So I'll grab some of my grandmother's pie.

C.I.: The turkey. Because it's a nightmare to cook and because it means using the giblets to make the gravy and it's just a nightmare all around.

Elaine: I'm going to add to C.I.'s story because I've observed the cooking process. C.I.'s turkeys can be photographed. They're golden. They look like something you'd see Martha Stewart pull out of the oven. How does that happen? By putting the turkey in at midnight and basting, basting, basting and more basting. Where does C.I. sleep through the night on the night before Thanksgiving? On the floor in front of the oven. I'm not joking. The turkey's cooked with green apples and I have no idea what else, onions and some other things, for flavor. One Thanksgiving, I actually attempted to cook a turkey and it was a nightmare. It looked ruined. C.I. brought it back to life with a ton of butter and a ton of chicken stock. But that's the only time I've ever cooked. My brother and I get together if he's in the country but if not, I go visit a friend or else just eat a turkey TV dinner.

Dona: Holidays can be rough. I feel like, and I'm not trying to bring up anything painful, that we should note that Elaine and her brother lost their parents when Elaine was very young. Geez. I'm not sure, I guess I'd say the stuffing. I love all kinds of stuffing provided it doesn't have raisins in it. I can't stand raising in the stuffing. I also prefer that it look like stuffing with bumps and all as opposed to losing like a sheet cake. My father's always in charge of the stuffing we make. Other relatives usually bring some with them, but the one that's made in our house is made by my father. He puts in celery and onions and I don't know what else. But no raisins. It's just the right blend of everything, whatever he uses and just thinking about it right now is making me hungry.

Elaine: I'll add that it didn't bother me what Dona added. I probably should have added it myself because the holidays can be difficult for a lot of people. I'll also add, to lighten things up, that C.I. can't fry worth ___. And C.I. can't make gravy. Except giblet gravy. In a pan, C.I. can make it. In a skillet, forget it.

C.I.: That's true. I can fry an egg and that's about it. I can't fry chicken or make gravy in a skillet. If I make "fried" potatoes, they're really baked because I can't fry. Which is now a good thing because fried foods are bad for us.

Wally: They may be bad for you, but I eat a ton of french fries. And wouldn't dream of calling them "freedom fries." Whether the electricity is back on or not, Grandpa knows we're going to Mom's. She has electricity. She keeps begging him to come up and stay with her but he's convinced that they'll get the electricity on at any minute. C.I. and Elaine were talking about giblet gravy and my mom uses all that in her gravy. I think that's the best gravy and wish we had more than just on the holidays. I'll put it on my mashed potatoes and on my dressing and on my turkey. I like the chunks of meat in the gravy. Guess I'm like the dork in the Sonic commercial talking about the "meat dressing."

Mike: I know everyone thinks turkey when they think Thanksgiving but I'm not rushing for the turkey. It's nice and I'll have a slice but what I always grab for is the ham. My mother makes this really great glazed ham. It's juicy and it's the thing I want. Day after when everyone else is making turkey sandwiches, I'm reaching for the ham. On our birthdays, Ma always lets us pick what we want and fixes it. I always ask for her Thanksgiving ham. One year, my brother broke his arm and we all had to go to the emergency room. When we got back, the ham was almost done and Ma was hurrying trying to fix some stuff to go with it and I told her all I really wanted was the ham. I meant it too. I wasn't trying to be nice. Just cut me off some ham, slap it on a plate and I'm happy.

Kat: Fudge. Fudge brownies are not the same thing as fudge. The only time I ever had fudge growing up was on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'd ask for it during the year and would usually get "fudge brownies." They're not fudge. I have one aunt who makes it each year. I do her like people do Rebecca about her Key Lime pie, "Aunt Paulina, you're going to bring the fudge this year, right? You are bringing the fudge?" I've pestered her every year since I was eight according to my father. But he says she loves it and is just thrilled that I ask for it. Everyone eats it and there's never any left to take home, but apparently I'm the only one who will request it. I think everyone else just expects her to bring it. And they should because she always does. (Laughing) But I have to check and make sure.
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