Large Family Eating: The Thanksgiving Edition


When it comes to traditional meals, I’m of the school of “If in ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Every year in September or October, Canadian lifestyle and cooking magazines release their Thanksgiving issues where re-inventing the wheel seems to be the key concept. Here’s some inconvenient truth for you: if you can’t stand your mother-in-law’s turkey and fixin’ , chances are that her cooking talents are lacking. Next year, don’t try to stuff guinea fowl with some fusion South Asian mixture. Just get a good cookbook and give MIL a break. Here, tradition is Queen.

I am not a naturally good cook. My husband and I were laughing at our early days as a couple because we had a rotation of two meals: tortellinis with tomato sauce (from a can) and tuna sandwiches. I grew-up surrounded by my mother’s excellent cuisine so it didn’t take long for me to put on my try-hard pants and broaden my horizons.  My mother-in-law (who is a good cook, wave!) gave me a subscription to Canadian Living Magazine, my mother gave me a few good cookbooks and I learned by trial and error. I don’t consider myself a good cook yet — I’m way to distracted and rushed to do a good job of anything — but I can follow a recipe. Here are a few of our family favorite Thanksgiving recipes (with pictures from 2 years ago because Thanksgiving lunch is tomorrow in this family. But hey, a turkey’s a turkey…)

THE TURKEY AND THE STUFFING: Sage Butter Turkey with Shallot Sausage Stuffing. We need to breed turkeys with bigger cavities because there is never enough of that stuffing. I usually double the stuffing recipe, stuff the turkey, beat a few eggs into the leftover stuffing, pour it into a loaf pan and bake it into a “stuffing loaf”. I usually make a whole pound of sage butter and keep some for the bread. Food poisoning tip: take the butter you will need for the bread out before you start playing with the turkey so you don’t cross contaminate your butter by repeatedly putting your raw-meated hands in it. Buttering the turkey is a highlight of Thanksgiving and the children fight for it. We cook the bird on the BBQ (you’re welcome, neighbourhood). I don’t have a recipe for roasting a turkey on the BBQ. All you need to remember is: indirect heat for a long time. If you can use an aluminum pan to catch the drippings, you can baste away but not until the turkey is somewhat cooked: you don’t want too much heat variations by opening and closing the BBQ repeatedly.

Collage_Turkey 2012

THE CRANBERRY SAUCE: I always make the cranberry apple sauce from Canadian Living.

THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Where I manage to make Brussels Sprouts (a) totally edible, and (b) bad for you (sorry, can’t have one without the other). Here’s how: first I pare the sprouts and blanch them for 4 minutes (maybe?); then I cut them in two (because surface matters for what is about to follow); then I fry some bacon and set it aside; I pour out most of the fat but leave what is coating the pan; then I add some butter (yes!!! I absolutely do); then I add some finely sliced onions and cook them until golden but not too much yet; then I add the sprouts and brown them in the butter; wait, we’re not done here; then I put them in a baking dish, add the bacon and — believe it or not — COVER IT WITH CHEESE. Then I bake the whole sinful thing. Then I pray that my kids won’t want to eat any.

THE SQUASH: My favorite squash recipe comes from a tattered printed email I received after after a youth group pot luck where it was served. You take dried fruits (I like to use a mix of cranberries and currant but anything goes, even raisins) and throw them in a pot with booze. Yes you do. Cover the berries in booze (Sherry comes to mind) and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer until the fruits are plump and the booze is mostly evaporated. I can’t remember if I cover it or not but you’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, roast the butternut squash according to your favorite method. Scoop the flesh into a bowl, add the booze-soaked berries, a generous serving of butter, salt and pepper, et voila.

THE GRAVY: by now, I am totally exhausted and my mother-in-law, who is a pearl, remembers the gravy which I have completely overlooked. She makes it using the turkey drippings, some chicken broth and a thickening agent such as flour, cornstarch or Bisto stuff, depending on what I have on hand.

THE DESSERTS: My mother-in-law usually brings the desserts and the selection is Thanksgiving themed. If you want a good pumpkin pie recipe, check this one out from Smitten Kitchen.

That’s the Thanksgiving Dinner with the English side of the family. On the French side, we celebrate everything with my favorite dish of all time, the traditional “tourtiere-that-is-not-a-meat-pie”. I promise to write a post about it but I need to find some pictures and a recipe that corresponds more-or-less to what my mother makes to share with you. Just to tell you how much I adore this traditional French Canadian dish, when I was pregnant with my first child and very sick, my mother made a tourtiere for my birthday and I remember throwing-up and coming back to the table to start again. Now that’s commitment.

Tomorrow I might get adventurous and try some kind of scalloped sweet potatoes. Anyone knows of a good recipe?

Leaving you with my favorite quote this Thanksgiving, in memory of Paul Prud’homme:

Anderson: So how to you cut the turkey to be able to stuff it with a duck stuffed with a chicken?

Paul Prud’homme: Very carefully so you don’t hurt yourself!

4 Very-Serious-Things I am thankful for


A friend tagged me in a Facebook gratitude challenge whereby I was asked to post 3 thankful things for 5 days. Then tag 3 more people, do the hockey-pokey and turn myself around lest I desired to bring forth 7 years of locusts unto my descendants… or something. I gave thanks for 3 consecutive days, choosing family, faith and friends as my themes. I never met an alliteration I didn’t  love and thus running out of f-words I could share on Facebook, I decided to take the gratitude to my blog. And maybe, possibly because I take a stab at –oh — roughly 2/3 of my Facebook friends in today’s first item. By publishing it on my blog, I give them the courtesy of not having it show on their timeline. I’m nice like that.

Today, 4 Very-Serious-Things I am thankful for:

1. Perspective. Because my Facebook and Twitter friends love to share how hateful the leaders of Canada and the U.S. are. One for shutting down rural post offices, the other for trying to introduce health care insurance. And all I think about are the real people trapped on Mount Sinjar who had 4 hours to flee their homes of face barbaric extermination. “Hateful” is what’s happening in Iraq and Syria. “Democracy” is what’s happening in North America. Perspective is appreciating the difference.

2. Flexibility. Someone once told me “We have to be flexible because we can.” Flexibility, the ability to adapt, to roll with the punches, to accept changes without fear, is a gift.Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.

3. Fertility, childbearing and breastfeeding. I made a commitment to Natural Family Planning 14 years ago and learning the ebb and flow of my whacky cycles has been a struggle. I was once told, in reference to an unplanned pregnancy, that I had a “fertility problem” and I have felt sorry for myself. But I have also seen many people close to my heart struggle with infertility and repeat miscarriages. As I enter my forties, I can see the pain and sadness that infertility wreaks all around me and I am thankful and deeply humbled by the gift of fertility. I have never lost a pregnancy, never had a caesarian birth or an epidural, I have given birth naturally 9 times, including a breech birth and a multiple birth. I have been able to feed my children from my breast and grow them into healthy, chubby wonders. I have experienced, without even asking for it, the natural and peaceful births that other women fight tooth and nail to have. My body is truly fearfully and wonderfully made. When people ask me if/when we will get “fixed”, I always answer “We’re not broken!”

4. Privilege. I received an inheritance I did nothing to earn when I was born white, healthy and loved in Canada. Every day I am reminded of the little things that are made easier for me just because I was born in a privileged situation. As I pass this inheritance down to my children, I try to remind them that to whom much has been given, much will be requested. We do not feel guilty for our privilege, but we honour it by recognizing it and spreading it around.

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