Thanksgiving, or, the stress of timing

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Thanksgiving’s over now, and I’m simultaneously sad and relieved. We had the most guests ever (there were 8 grownups and one 2-year-old there, plus I had to make sure I had leftovers for a friend who was sick on the night), which meant even more stress than usual. Obviously I am not missing the pressure! At the same time, though, I have less of an excuse to pore through cookbooks and blogs now. I will be at the in-laws for Christmas, so won’t be doing any serious cooking for the rest of the holiday season.

The final menu:

Bread

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Cauliflower cheese soup

Red cabbage

Mashed potatoes

Maple-roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts

Roast potatoes

Roast parsnips

Turkey (duh!)

Crispy sweet potato roast

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Cornbread

Cranberry pecan tart with hot toffee sauce

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As always, the hardest part of so much cooking for me was getting everything out hot at the same time. How do chefs do it?! I was clever this year and took two days of annual leave before the dinner, which we celebrated on the Saturday. Thanksgiving is the last Thursday of November, and traditionally happens during the day; however, it was more practical to have it on Saturday so people could enjoy it properly without having to think about going to work the next day. I didn’t mind this, but was slightly disappointed that we had to have it in the evening as several of our friends still had to work during the day. Anyway, I used the time off to plan and prepare. This year I made quite a bit in advance; on Friday I made the bread, soup, sweet potato roast, tart, and chopped the cabbage. Saturday was therefore much less stressful than usual, right up until the end, when the guests arrived and I was trying to reheat everything, set it out, and make the gravy. I sincerely hope this will get easier with practice, because I just go a bit mental, which is an awful thing to do in front of guests! (Our kitchen/living room are open plan, so there’s no possibility of hiding it.) Thank goodness R was there to entertain people while I finished up.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t overly happy with how everything turned out and the last-minute stress kept me from enjoying the night as much as I should have. No one had any real complaints, though, so I guess that’s good. The cauliflower cheese soup went down an absolute storm among my friends (I didn’t actually get to eat any, so I’ll make sure I make more the next time), as did the Brussels sprouts and the cranberry pecan tart (the recipe was in Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook, which I’m very pleased to be using  already). I particularly loved the toffee sauce – it’s just brown sugar, cream, and butter, so it’s incredibly unhealthy, but also incredibly delicious! I wasn’t thrilled with the Brussels sprouts; they lost a lot of their colour and went a bit too soft for my liking. I was also disappointed with my red cabbage. It is one of my favourite personal Thanksgiving dishes, as I associate it so strongly with my mom. It is sweet and sour style, braised with vinegar (DON’T use malt vinegar, please!) and a bit of brown sugar. I never measure for this, but this is the first year I’ve been a bit unhappy with it. I think it was a one-off, though, so I’ll be trying again at some point this winter. The mash was also a bit stodgy, and the roast veg wasn’t as crispy as I would’ve liked. Also, the turkey wasn’t as lovely as it has been in previous years, though I can’t put my finger on why.

The important thing about Thanksgiving, though, is that people get together, relax, eat, and catch up with each other. From that perspective the night was definitely a success. It’s also a good opportunity to show off my lovely dishes:

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P1180472P1180474 Wedgwood platter, probably circa 1930s-40s; Alfred Meakin, probably circa 1930s (given to me by a friend – they were her grandparents’!); handpainted English platter, probably circa 1930s

 

Now to get even more organised and make sure I’m less stressed next year…to close, here’s a picture of the post-Thanksgiving chaos. Believe it or not, this is a big improvement on last year’s mess!

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Tonight I’m still thinking about Thanksgiving, as I’m finally making turkey stock from the carcass. Plenty of leftovers to get through this week, too!

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