Current Issue
BB Past Issues
A Note From Marcy
Complete Recipe Index
Subscribe to BB
Subscriber Sign In
Free BB Classics
About Us
Contact Us
When Bakers Write - Features
Scent of A Baker
Books
Music and Dance
Product Reviews

A Note from Marcy

Hello Fellow Bakers and Friends of BetterBaking.com,

This is just a convenient, last minute reminder of some of our favorites for Thanksgiving. These are handy recipes from my Complete Recipe Archives. For those who recently inquired: yes, you can still join as a BB member, in order to have access to these recipes and each new one every new issue. Just remember that these subscriptions will be honored until September 30 2006. Check http://www.betterbaking.com/subscribe.php for more details.

In the meanwhile, the BB Test Kitchen is embroiled in cookie testing and other goodies for the December holiday season. Stayed tuned and stock up on baking essentials.

To my American visitors, as well as family, from Durham, North Carolina, to New Jersey and New York, and to all my toiling test bakers, across the States, may I take this time to wish you all a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving greeting. To my fellow Canadians, gearing up for a chilly but hockey-filled winter season, I suggest we consider a second Thanksgiving-style dinner in culinary solidarity.
For those visitors who drop by BetterBaking.Com just to read the more literary pickin's, happy baking and happy reading both.

Marcy Goldman
Host, Editor and Village Baker
www.BetterBaking.Com

 

The Thanksgiving Recipe Collection

For more recipes, check search words like pumpkin,  turkey, cranberry or search in categories such as Soup or Brunch or Vegetables (for neat side dishes). You might also want to drop on by to our friends at www.Huntsingerranch.com
 for the best organic turkeys in the land.

The Best Brined & Roast Thanksgiving Turkey
Old Fashioned Perfect Roast Turkey
Just the Best Thanksgiving Stuffing Not-Out-of-a-Box

Durkee Green Beans and French Fried Onions Casserole
Best Ever Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Durkee Green Beans and French Fried Onions Casserole
Thanksgiving Roasted Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Classic Pumpkin Pie
Vermont Country Inn Pumpkin Cheesecake



Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?
Have the Holidays Got You Frazzled Over Hospitality?/
Whatever You Do, Don't Count the Potatoes......


Marcy Goldman

I have a friend I haven’t seen in awhile but we spent a formidable era together, both new brides in our early twenties, creating all sorts of feasts. Susan is British-born, having arrived in Canada as a pre-teen. Despite our different backgrounds, we both shared a love of food and saw the kitchen as an adventure and touchstone to creating a warm home. The minute I met Susan, I saw she was no mean slouch as a cook and baker. Barely 20, she was as capable as anyone twice her age, having, much like me, done tons of cooking for her mother, father and brother early on, having learned from her Nan, in England. I, as she did, had a special bond with a grandmother. She, as I, was somewhat of a latch key kid who acquired domestic skills and responsibility that ignited a passion for cuisine that endured from its onset.

From Sue, I learned how to make superb gravy using roasting pan drippings, wonderful shortbread, and the real reason why some of us serve broccoli (to support a crown of melted cheddar cheese or Hollandaise of course). Susan is also the friend in my feature, The Anglo Judaic Restaurant Coffeehouse which you can view in When Baker’s Write. But Susan also taught me one other thing I have never forgot.

We were making a great full nine yards dinner for friends in a country house we had rented for one season. I started counting potatoes for roasting, meaning to toss them with fresh dill, tons of black pepper and a halo of olive oil. “Stop!”, she said. Why? Because, she patiently explained with her light British/Canadian accent, “We don’t count potatoes. We figure on …lots. It is just ‘not done’ to count the potatoes. There will be enough.”

Was she superstitious about this? A touch but mostly, it was something homey and sweet she had learned early on and passed to me.

I don’t know why that particular saying stuck with me all my cooking and baking career and hosting life but it has. In holiday season, which this surely is, from honey and apples, to U.S. Thanksgiving, and yet more festive meals up ahead in December, I am reminded of  my friend's remark. There is something both generous about that approach and serendipitous. You can of course, count one potato-per-person and have exact numbers, making sure there is enough and yet no waste. Or you can rejoice in simply knowing that potatoes, so good for you, so plentiful, so historical (ask anyone Irish or Peruvian) are also one of the best deals, barring wheat flour and other grains and legumes, on the planet. Bottom line about counting potatoes is that instead of metering them out, you can simply open your heart and hearth, as well as your cook’s instinct and let it be. Somehow it all turns out. Since that time, I have never count potatoes. I eyeball it  -whether it is potatoes for roasting, potato pancakes, baking, mashed up with garlic or diced up into hashed browns for a big brunch.  

Not counting the potatoes has become a metaphor for me in hosting gatherings at my table. For one, I never plan too much ahead for that just makes me more pre-occupied about things and not in a particularly good way. In truth, I seem to need the energy that comes from working on the fly.  I configure a bare-bones overview/menu, and then embark on a crazy baking and cooking day or two, crammed into yet more cooking and baking that is professionally allocated.  One son is a reliable sous chef, one gets guest duties, and one gets the ‘front of the house’, i.e. table-setting and the mad-dash, house clean-up. My only rule is that I try not to shop for food the same days as I am preparing it.  Like not counting potatoes, I seem to need to leave a bit to chance. I need to also leave a little bit undone, before guests arrived. That flush on my cheeks when the doorbell rings is part of my charm. As for the detailed menu, the thing is, I might find something special at the market and why make asparagus when it turns out they are pretty well giving away leeks! Change plans, change a recipe, make room for things to unfold in another way. I can think on my feet - the best chefs do.

And then there are the guests. Some years, some celebrations, there are more people or less. More and noisy doesn’t always translate into happier or more fun but at holiday time, I think most of us tend to think the numbers game means better times. One year, mid-divorce, trying to replicate a pre-divorce holiday dinner, I knocked myself trying too hard. My eldest son, one of the three wise men I live with simply said, “Sometimes, we just don’t all want to play the happy family game”. Good point - wonderful reality check. Like stuffing a turkey with a small cavity, sometimes, it can’t always be done. The bigger point is to not try so hard for certainly that is beyond the whole point of the occasion.
It's supposed to be fun. If there is difficulty, it should be about jockeying many dishes in one over-taxed oven - the people part should flow as it will.

People often email me, presumably about recipes for the holidays but also about the stress of festive meals at various times but particularly around American Thanksgiving. There are concerns with the menu and sometimes visitors will also share concerns about ‘who is coming to dinner’. Will this guest mix with that guest? Will it be too many people? Three people are diabetic; two are gluten intolerant and can I make steamed pudding with Splenda? There is a real issue about family, friends and strangers mixing at the table. How will it all turn out? Will people get along? What if they don’t mix well? What if the bread doesn’t rise a third time or the apple cake gets mushy before Thursday? What if the food is not as good as people expect or not enough? What if no one talks and conversation runs drier than a bad brisket?

Here's my stance. It is a blessing to be invited to dinner. Most guests, fortunately, innately know this. If they fuss, shame on them. Never apologize or protest and tell people, as they are enjoying your repast, what it was supposed to be like or how it turned out but not perfectly or as you thought.. Cooks and bakers of the land: hold your chin up and find that inner grace. Your worst effort in offering food is still your most generous gift anyone can partake of. If you want people to feel comfortable, ask them to help you - even if you have everything under control. People feel good participating. Doing, not just eating, is how we bond. Moreover you cannot cast the table nor script the celebration. Each occasion, each season unfolds like another Robert Altman movie, done a la Betty Crocker. Actually, it is sort of like initially tepid baseball games I have coached or new tango partners that looked iffy and yet had respectively great games with amazing outcomes and dances that still make me sigh. You never know how it will turn out, if you permit things their flow. Similarly, many a meal has also started out iffy. Oh, the food was fine – but there have been occasions of stiff conversations, awkward pairings at the table, spills, chills, and the strain as various dinner guests have settled in. I have felt my smile, at times, congeal more solid than a cranberry jello mold that had double the gelatin. Yet, from some really odd evenings, have come some of the warmest times. No one remembered the food as much as the moments between people.  As the host, I feel guests only have one obligation: to find themselves at my table and make their own connections. I am cooking and baking, I am opening the front door – the rest, given my benevolent attitude, is up to them! With social serendipity comes humor, softness, and memories.  The table is the stage; the food, and I say this as a chef, is only a prop. It is the energy behind it that is everything. From such energy some say one loaf becomes many or manna rains from the sky and suddenly, one has a feast where there was a desert.

At holiday time, if more people show up at the last minute or someone cannot come, either way is fine with me. Each dinner becomes its own self-contained play, a tableside tapestry with its own stitching that we will remember for time to come. Do I rush to clean up as we finish eating? Never. I don't mind dessert and tea on a table with wine stains and crumbs of the bread I baked. Do I fill the sink and dishwasher before I hit the hay or do a marathon clean up so I wake up to a pristine kitchen? Jamais. I rather like the half-filled wine glasses still on the counter, my bread board my brother Mark carved for me, still with remnants of a country bread we said we would save for the birds in the morning. I like seeing the flowers someone brought hold court on a table that still vibrates with the good will brought by many chuckles, and twinkling eyes, and toasts made hours ago from the people who sat at it. Mine is a huge maple table, over 8 feet long. It has grooves and markings from pumpkin carving sessions, apple peeling times, strudel rolling, and wax drippings from Chanukah and Sabbath candles. I can never quite get the wood surface as perfectly amber as it was when it first arrived, all the way from Sault Ste. Marie. But after people have come and gone....that is when my table is a tender witness to those it has helped me host. I love my table best when it is in after-dinner disarray, happy as a dishevelled bride, who sits still in her bridal finery, thinking of the joy that has just past in a thrice, albeit it was some hours of special times.
Great feasts are not about how many guests showed, nor fancy dishes nor new dinnerware. It is about heart and intention and for lack of a better term, being open-palmed. It is about receiving people and being received. That is the real grace of Thanksgiving.

For someone 'in food', you would be surprised at how slapdash I can be and how essentially simple the fare is. That is as much by circumstance as by choice. I never mete out warmth, reserve the good linen napkins, nor count potatoes. In the end, at any festive gathering where I am the host, I only
count one thing.......... bridge chairs.

Happy holiday season, happy November. May I offer my most cordial wishes, from my bustling, messy, sticky-with-honey, flour-coated, spice-infused, incense-laced, squirrel-haunted kitchen to yours,

Marcy Goldman

Wheat Siren & Wordsmith
www.BetterBaking.com

Recipes

Savory Specialties
Pomegranate Braised Sweet Potatoes
Herb Slathered Turkey
Cream of Turnip Soup
 
Sweeties and Bread Stuffs
FREE!!! Canned Cranberry Sauce Bundt Cake
Thanksgiving Golden Bread Pudding with Hot Cherry Sauce



44th Apple Cake AKA Cinnamon'N Vanilla Americana Tart
World's Best Double Pecan Pie aka Perfect Pecan Pie
Harvest Crunch Brown Sugar Cheesecake
Solid Chocolate Cake With Spiced Crème Anglaise
Three Apples ‘N Spice Pie, in honor of Apples, art www.heatherhorton.com

Bread Stuffs
Sweet Pumpkin Challah
Italian Hearth Bread
Dark 'N Delicious Rye,Cranberry Currant Rolls

Golden Corn Rolls for Thanksgiving

OUR BONUS PUMPKIN FILES
Pumpkin Pie Spice Yeasted Donuts - Tim Horton's, a superb Canadian donut chain, is known for their innovations. Recently, they introduced a fabulous Pumpkin Spice Donut I was craving to try. But each day, for an entire week, they were sold out! So I created my own spicy, yeasted pumpkin donut, filled it with custard, and finished it off with a toss in cinnamon sugar. Don’t tell Tim Hortons but I
upped them  one.

Pumpkin Spice Cake Donuts 
Filo Pumpkin Tart 


Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:

Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, Ive know the feeling; I know the place. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.

Printer-Friendly VersionRecommend This Page

 BakerBoulanger / BetterBaking.com 1997-2003