I realized again when I was making Thanksgiving food for myself and a few to-go customers (25 or so), that I did not have any firm recipes for any of the dishes. In and of itself, that isn’t a problem. But it means by Thursday, I have tried and tested so many of the dishes that Thanksgiving has lost its charm.
This year, we made a new dish and I, of course, chose not to use a recipe. Sweet Potato Casserole. How hard could that be for 75 or so?
Well, it turned out to be kind of dicey. We hung our potatoes first to get some of the water out. Then added brown sugar, sorghum, eggs, cream. Tested it. Liked it sort of. Fixed it. Tested it. Lightened it with egg whites. We covered it with streusel and homemade marshmallows and baked it. Maybe we over baked it.
The next day, I look inside the containers and realize it is just awful. Dense and way too sweet potato-y. Thanksgiving food is not generally supposed to be more healthful than flavorful. And this one was definitely in the good-for-you but not actually good category.
So I fixed it. Staff removed all the cooked marshmallows, I ground the streusel up in the mix and lightened it. A LOT. And it was delicious. I think I can recreate this for next year, hopefully skipping the step where everything is packaged and ready to go only to be dumped and fixed.
And isn’t that the way with life. We have a plan. We execute. And sometimes right when it’s ready to go, you have to have a “make it work moment,” as Tim Gunn, my girls’ favorite TV person says. The casserole just isn’t right.
This Thanksgiving, I had a house full of folks. I tried really hard to make it both less stressful and less sad than last year. Without my mom here to do it all, last year was just kind of a mess. And we managed to also overcook everything just enough to piss me off.
This year, we did better. More family so it was more festive. And really, what is the difference between 15 and 25 guests anyway? Besides the having to put up tables in the living room and a buffet table in the hall... and needing to borrow my cousin’s silver. It really turned out to be a good time had by all. Even me. But I have to say, I still think the leftover turkey and oysters afterward are the best. Somehow it tastes better in your pajamas. Doesn’t everything?
For those of us in the catering/restaurant business, there is a small window for Thanksgiving and then it’s full out til almost Christmas Eve. This year we managed to get the turkey and family part done, but have yet to get our Christmas tree. If we don’t get that before this weekend, we will end up with a sad Charlie Brown version on Christmas Eve. It’s that crazy. And it seems important to only decorate in a fun sense, not in a painful sense. I always have this delusion that the whole family is sitting down, drinking cocoa (and champagne, of course, for us grown ups). And it's really fun. But it is more likely to be rushed, with 10 min of ornaments put on with some nagging, in the middle of cooking and the girls studying for exams.
And then there are teacher gifts!!! I really like to err on the side of handmade. Cookies, cakes, pies, and such with small gift cards. And I aspire to put the love into the making in proportion to the care and love my kids’ teachers give to them. But it, too, seems rushed. I start with grand plans that end with streamlining to coffee cake and cocoa mix. Maybe it’s just that I don’t plan well?
Don’t you just wish that these days were one hour longer? So that all that needs doing got done without freaking out? I wouldn’t say I wanted December to be two months, but a few spare days in the middle would really help my ability to organize and breathe.
I would give you the recipe for that sweet potato casserole, that in the end was quite tasty, but I really have to make it again to figure out what I did. Promise to send it soon!!