More holidays should be like Thanksgiving (and I don’t just mean because of the food). In my family, this day means the four of us gathered around the table in the middle of a Thursday, eating comfort food, with Bailey somewhere nearby. We don’t exchange presents and we don’t spend hundreds of dollars. There aren’t any Thanksgiving songs to sing or Thanksgiving movies to put on. There’s the meal, and the random television shows after, but there’s little else. It is filled with everything that matters and none of what doesn’t. And this year, on a day when the hot water went out and the weather got much colder and two fire trucks rushed to our neighbor’s for some kind of emergency, we were blessed to look around and see not what we lack but what we have. You know, this little family I have been given are the three people I have fought most with in this life, the ones who know exactly what drives me crazy and who have seen me at my most selfish and ugly, and we disagree on many things, but, I know I don’t say this enough: I am so thankful for them.
Here’s a look, via photos, at our Thanksgiving:
Things began around 10 AM, when I pulled out our defrosting turkey breasts (each around six or seven pounds) to stuff with Grandma’s moist bread stuffing, rub with oil, cover with butter, season and stick in the oven.
Mom made the sweet potatoes, which she has explained to me as being this simple: Roast seven whole sweet potatoes in the oven the night before until they’re tender. In the morning, peel potatoes and cook on the stove with 3/4 cup brown sugar, a stick of butter and some cream or milk. Mash and stir in marshmallows.
Bailey keeps things interesting. Here, he tries to break down one of the doggie gates my parents installed. (It’s just because he wants to be where we are at all times. He loves us.)
I boiled four peeled and chopped baking potatoes, drained them and mashed with butter, cream and salt and pepper. After adding more cream, then more butter, then more salt, then more cream, I lost any sense of proportions or measurements (is this how people who don’t use recipes always feel?) and in the end, I think we needed more cream.
Brown n’ Serve rolls are a tradition from back when Grandma used to do Thanksgiving, and, to me, they taste like dark afternoons around her dining room table. I miss her.
Here’s Bailey again. Adam took this shot because, hello?, the dog is sleeping with a wooden table beam as a pillow. That is something to photograph.
All right, here we go: at around 2:30 PM, the turkey breasts looked like this, all browned and beautiful, their pans filled with bubbling juices we’d add to the gravy. This began the final half hour of cooking in which I made the green bean casserole, stuck the rolls in the oven and plated side dishes; Dad carved the turkey; Mom made the gravy; and Adam kept his eye on the homemade pumpkin pie he’d stuck in the oven a bit earlier.
And in the end, the table was filled with all of this:
We ate at places set with turkey place mats:
with full plates:
and Adam’s fantastic pumpkin pie for dessert (recipe below, from our great friend Wendi):
I loved every bit of it.
recipe from our friend Wendi, who adapted it from All Recipes and sent it to us after we BEGGED and BEGGED because she made it for us and it was the best pumpkin pie ever.
1 sugar pie pumpkin
1 pie crust (recipe pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie or a refrigerated crust, which is what Wendi and Adam use)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
Roast your pumpkin (directions here).
In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition.
Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. You can place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning (Adam doesn’t).
Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown. (from Wendi: Most often I have to cook longer – but I did have two pies in there, though.) Cool pie, and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.