Okay, so Halloween is over, and it's time to start tuning into Thanksgiving. The Holiday for cooks who love to feed people!!
So, does anyone have Thanksgiving stories? Christmas seems to always take the attention away with the rush to shop here and there, but I really love Thanksgiving the most.
In my husbands' family, his Great Aunt was the Thanksgiving cook and from the day we were dating we would attend Thanksgiving at her house. We've been together 21 years and up until she could no longer cook for the Holidays (about 5 years ago) we attended every year. His favorite item on the menu is her sweet potatoes, not just ANY sweet potatoes, but the way that SHE cooks them.
Over the years I learned to cook my own thanksgiving, and I would make mine for just us in September, and then the families in November. So he would want THOSE sweet potatoes. They didn't look like any sweet potatoes I had ever seen, or ever saw in a cookbook or magazine. Even OLD cookbooks etc. On the plate they looked like you baked sweet potatoes and then put them in a bowl (no skin) and mashed with a potato masher. BUT they were soooo sweet that I didn't ever like them.
I would ask his Aunt how she made them and she wouldn't really give concrete instructions (I'm a good cook and a culinary school grad!!) and all I really got was they are just cooked in a cast iron pan with brown sugar and butter.
That is all I ever got to go on, so it took 15 years of trials, I cooked sweet potatoes every way I could think of in my cast iron pan, with brown sugar and butter. I would keep asking his mother (who helped his aunt in the kitchen) and she insisted that the sweet potatoes were raw going into the pan and it was really quite simple. I made them that way. I ended up with partially cooked potatoes coated in a rock hard candy shell, just like one of those red candy apples from the fair!!!
So.....Last year I decided to stop trying to make them according to their directions and to use my head. I remember the end product. I peeled and chopped the potatoes ahead of time, and then steamed the chunks until they were JUST done. Set aside. Then in my pan, about 30 minutes before we were going to eat I would melt the butter, brown sugar and a little honey until it was bubbling and thick looking. Not long at all, but then I would add the sweet potatoes and stir (heat on very low) until they were soft and coated thick and gooey. Then they were covered until we ate and I finally did it!!! They looked and tasted like his Aunts version.
So here we are.......years later. His Aunt passed 2 years ago, and my husband's mother was missing Thanksgiving very badly so she traveled up just to have me cook. I went all out and copied everything I could from the Aunt's version of Thanksgiving. We are sitting down to dinner and she said that everything was just like she remembered (within reason, my noodles just taste better! ) She couldn't get over how good the sweet potatoes were, and I told her that I discovered to pre-cook them and they turn out perfect. She says, "Oh no, Aunt M ALWAYS cooked them raw."
<<deep sigh>> I will bet that they were never cooked raw, but I'm done arguing the point. It took a long time to get stuffing to taste like hers, my noodles NEVER taste like hers, but I think mine are better, and my sweet potatoes look and taste like hers. I'll just keep my mouth shut in the future.
AND, copying someone ELSE'S Thanksgiving meal from other peoples' memory is VERY hard...........
Tami, I agree that Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle. It seems like every year I think of smething I need for my table and 2 days before the holiday there's nothing but Christmas stuff out.
As a young bride, many years ago , I made the classic mistake of cooking my turkey with the bag of innards still inside. I can alos remember having a conversation somewhere with an older woman (she was probably the same age as I am now ) about the meal I had cooked. I was very proud of the spread I put on and the guts in the turkey was really my only error, I was 21 and had never cooked a meal even near that size or complexity. She was really condescending and mean to me and made me feel like a slug.
Mean woman: "You didn't make the pies, did you?"
Very young, naive me: "Oh, yes, pumkin and apple"
MW: "Well, I'm sure they weren't from scratch"
VYNM: "Yes, they were"
MW: "You made the pie crust?"
VYNM: "Well, no, I didn't make the crust"
MW: "Did you use fresh pumpkin?"
VYNM: "Well, no, I used canned."
MW: "That's not from scratch, my dear" in a snarky tone.
LOL, I really had no idea that I hadn't made my pumkin pie from scratch and was crushed and mortified.
As an aside, I still use canned pumpkin but I have learned to make my own crust