My gal pal and I spent almost the whole hour it takes us to walk from the Star office to Main Beach and back on Monday talking about — what else — food. Not food in general, of course, but specific to our Thanksgiving tables.
My friend will have fewer people than usual this year; the group at my house will be as large, if not larger, than it used to be in days gone by, when we balanced our dinner plates on our laps. For quite a few years, when the kids were old enough to be part of the crowd and to help and the grown-ups hadn’t yet reached four score (let alone four score and ten), not sitting down at a table was fine. This week, however, given that we will range from 21/2 to 80-plus, we all need a place at a table.
Anyway, my friend and I dispensed quickly with my turkey and her ham. She’s going to have her standard cornbread and sausage stuffing, and I’m going to follow last year’s success with sausage, apples, and parsnips. Then we went on to talk about potatoes. We are both planning sweet potatoes — hers will be made with apples and mine with orange juice — and, somewhat reluctantly, we are making mashed potatoes, too. We were forced to, we told each other, because certain grandchildren insist. But green vegetables had the real focus of our attention.
She had thought of doing string beans in a Williams-Sonoma manner, dressing them up with shallots, for example, but decided that would be too much work. She also told me that she has to dissuade her husband every year from small canned peas; he asks for them because he had them as a child.
As for Brussels sprouts, which are not only traditional but can be roasted slowly with a little oil — a plus when a lot of other cooking is going on — not everyone likes them. Then she had an inspiration: How about collard greens? They would stand up to the richness of the stuffings and desserts and, she suggested, you could just toss them around with some oil in a frying pan before mealtime. I agreed to think about it.
Speaking of desserts, she’s got it over me because she is a good baker. She plans to make a pumpkin roll this year, explaining that you bake the cake in a long strip and then roll it with whipped cream instead of jelly. But I get points for Oysters Rattray as an appetizer. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksiving in our house without it, a version of Oysters Rockefeller using sorrel for the green sauce under which they are broiled.
As we neared the end of the walk, the conversation turned to those living in inadequate shelters on Thanksgiving, without prospects of returning to houses that were destroyed, or those struggling still in cold, powerless apartments. On Thursday, we will be very aware of how lucky we are in having been spared Sandy’s fury. And we will continue to be thankful for those who have been able to go where volunteers are needed to help others.