Here we are, in the run up to Thanksgiving and whether you’re alone, cooking for your immediate household or cooking for an intrepid crowd that decided to brave the airways and highways to get to your table, you’re thinking about this year’s feast of gratitude.
It might be the first time you have taken on the task of cooking this very special meal. It may be that in the past, you have dined with a group, each of whom brought a dish. And maybe that’s the only dish you know how to make. You realize that you do have to serve more than mashed potatoes, as lovely as they are.
Breathe. Let’s mix it up with some ideas of how to feast well and actually enjoy the process of cooking and eating. Remember that even if you’re cooking for one or two people, Thanksgiving is a meal that thrives on helping hands and in the midst of a pandemic, we take the help we have around us, gratefully. Sacrificing a crowd now ensures more years with more loved ones later.
First, I don’t think I have to tell you that there will be no stuffed bird on our table this year. So I have no advice for you on that piece of the feast. Except this: if there is a turkey on the menu and you’re a vegan, please don’t use this precious moment of togetherness to lecture what few loved ones you can have around you. Not today. Not after this year. Turn the other cheek and enjoy your Brussels sprouts.
There are so many vegetable dishes you can use to fill your table with the abundance of the season.
And this year, let’s try no recipe recipes.
Load up your shopping cart with root vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Make sure you have yummy olive oil and some fresh rosemary. Bring home some apples or pears. Tempeh or lentils will make for a delicious protein-packed side dish.
And don’t forget the lemons.
Chunk cut some root veggies and toss them with olive oil and a bit of salt. Roast in the oven until browned. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them before serving and it’s a dish fit for royalty. Turn any leftover vegetables into a lovely bisqu by pureeing them with a bit of water and seasoning them to delicious perfection.
Toss chopped potatoes with olive oil, salt and rosemary and roast until browned for a dish that will win you raves.
Lentils cooked with winter squash and finished with parsley make for a homey but yummy main course. And tempeh? Tempeh can be anything you desire. Fried and stewed with veggies makes for a dish that feels so very special and only you know how simple it was to create.
Poach apples or pears with white wine, raisins and cinnamon and serve this yummy stewed fruit with some cookies for a lovely dessert that won’t stress you like a pie can, because who can’t bake cookies and who doesn’t love them?
So as you prepare for the holiday, just cook. It doesn’t need to be picture perfect, not this year (or any year). Make food that creates joy and helps you to feel comforted and satisfied. My fondest memories of Thanksgiving feasts oddly have nothing to do with the food and everything to do with the laughter, the chatter and the glorious chaos of having too many hands in the kitchen.
And if Thanksgiving won’t be a big deal for you or you’re just not into it, cook for yourself, in the spirit of the season. In humble gratitude for all life has brought us: the good and bad times; the easy days and the challenges that bring us to our knees; the joyful moments with loved ones; the comfort of someone you love holding your hand. It’s part of life. The more we feel, the more alive we are.