Thursday, November 01, 2007

Holiday Cooking

Now that Halloween has come and gone for another year other holidays burst to the forefront, not to mention November being an important birthday month. I have come to savor each of the major holidays for their unique personality and spirit. As my family has matured we have changed the holidays to more appropriately fit with the character of our family.

Thanksgiving is a chance to be imaginative and try new autumnal foods. Unlike Thanksgivings of my youth when my mom slaved over the meal for a week and was devoured in a few short minutes we now divide the work between my mom, sister and I. Actually, my dad not too many years ago confessed to not enjoying Thanksgivings in which my mom chained herself to the stove and preferred her company to such a production. We now have very informal Thanksgiving meals in which we make a buffet of all the dishes and watch movies together most of the day. The sides my sister and I make are ever changing. One year I made a squash soup, but often we make a couple of new salads and at least one new vegetable dish. What has been permanently added to our meal are roasted root vegetables--in fact we eat them pretty regularly throughout the autumn and at times with a whole chicken roasting on top.

I made the pumpkin pie last year, but was not as pleased with it as I might have been. I believe I will try another recipe this year whether for a cardamom-buttermilk pie I saw in the November 2007 issue of Saveur (an excellent magazine which not only has recipes, but stories rich in food history and the cultural and emotional significance of food) or another tempting treat from Gourmet's November 2007 issue like the Cranberry Almond Crostata or from Bon Appetit's November 2007 issue: Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie (I was impressed with their multitude of Thanksgiving dishes in both these issues).
I have to mention my favorite part of Gourmet: the Editor's Letter by Ruth Reichl. I own her triad of food-centric memoirs and I love her ability to evoke the most vital and elemental of life's themes through food writing. If anything most informs my blog writing style it is the editor's letters found in magazines like Gourmet & Bon Appetit.

Christmas is our more formal sit down dinner when we splurge on prime rib for my dad and uncle (the rest of us are strangely disgusted with that piece of meat) and lamb for us (my dad who is otherwise pretty open to food will not eat lamb of any sort). I now make a much lauded croissant bread pudding studded with plump, tart, ruby-bright dried cherries (adapted from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook which is a wonderful cookbook full of simple, but delicious recipes) and drizzled with nutmeg-vanilla crème anglaise (from Gale Gand). The bread pudding is so popular that I receive requests for it all year long, but I now refuse to make it for anything but the holidays in order to preserve the sense of wonder and specialness of such a dessert.

This coming holiday season I am thinking of beginning a new tradition--a Cookie & Ornament Exchange. It is all an idea right now, but I realize that celebrations sprinkled throughout the year are vital to me and for retaining friendships and fostering new ones.

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