By Nancy Marie
I call Thanksgiving an important holiday simply because it is my all-time favorite celebration. Those who know me well, might suggest that it is because I am addicted to food, and all the things that go with food like shopping and cooking. But, I prefer to think that it's because the holiday is so simple to celebrate. All you really have to do is cook, and what's so hard about that. Right? Wrong!
For some reason, I can complicate just about anything. Thanksgiving, at my house, starts a full month in advance as I start scanning cooking magazines for recipes. They say you should never, ever serve a new recipe to guests without first trying it out before-hand. But, I never follow rules, suggestions, or instructions, so I cut, plan, and figure out ways to amaze and horrify my guests with all sorts of new taste treats.
And then there's the guest list. I always tell my family, there's twelve of us in my immediate family, that this year it will be "only family." (This year we are up to 14, and Thanksgiving is still four weeks away!) Somehow, by Thanksgiving day, the list has grown to include everyone one I know who does not have someplace to go for Thanksgiving dinner. One year we had twenty-two people for a formal, sit-down dinner with tables and chairs spread out across three rooms.
Also, Thanksgiving has to include china, crystal, the good silver, lace tablecloth, and linen napkins. And since I only use this stuff once a year, on Thanksgiving, it all has to be washed, dried, pressed, shined, etc. on Thanksgiving morning, because I've been too busy cooking to do it at any other time.
The cooking always starts the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day, and by Wednesday night my feet are throbbing. At this point, I don't care anymore what the food looks or tastes like, but that's when the real fun begins. One of the traditions around my house is that everyone, from the youngest member to the oldest - all the invited guests - have to cook something for the meal. On Wednesday night, all the women come over with assorted bottles of wine, and we have a cooking party. Needless to say, we often just create a big mess rather than actually accomplishing anything - but we do have a lot of fun. Except for the year we poured a hot Jell-O mixture into a crystal bowl. Bad mistake. The bowl cracked in half before it made it into the frig. What a mess! "Sorry folks, no Jell-O salad this year!"
The male guests are not excused from the preparations. It's the one time of the year I can get even as I order them to, "Get the china down from that cabinet over the frig; take out the trash, again; and, dry the dishes please." By the time we all sit down for dinner, everyone breathes a big sigh of relief. But that sigh soon turns to a moan when I begin yet another long-standing tradition.
After the main courses, and before dessert, I pass out a piece of paper and a pencil to everyone, instructing them to write down one thing they are thankful for. The papers are folded and placed in a basket. Then I pass the basket around and each person pulls out one of the anonymous entries. Then we read them aloud, one-by-one, and try to guess whose it is. This can be a real interesting experience, especially with teenagers in the crowd. One year, one of them mentioned that they were grateful for flush toilets. Well, I suppose
Finally, it is time for the toasting and dessert, and since my book review is a cook book, I want to share with you one of my family's favorite recipes. It is for eggnog, and the best you've ever tasted. Even those that don't like eggnog will love this recipe.
1 Dozen eggs
In a large pot simmer coconut in evaporated milk. Stir frequently to keep mixture from sticking and/or burning. Continue to simmer (about 20 minutes) until all the oil and flavor in the coconut is released into the milk. After 20 minutes, strain out the coconut flakes. A colander won't work for this. You must use a strainer of some sort. Strain over a clean bowl, reserving the milk and throwing away the coconut flakes. Add the whole milk to this mixture.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and that your Thanksgiving is happy, peaceful, and blessed.
Doug Jones came home to New Jersey to open a new restaurant and renew a relationship with a girl referred to by his friends as "the disapproving blonde." Life, he thought, was good. But when the deal for the restaurant fell through, and the blonde's disapproval became terminal - Doug found himself in the last place he'd ever imagined. Thirty-one years old, living with his parents and poor. Or as Doug writes: "A ridiculous poor. I couldn't even afford the whole word 'poor.' 'Po.' That's what I was. I was po."
After a disastrous and extremely funny attempt to pull copper wire from a swamp to make money and an addiction to Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies, Doug finally landed a job in New York City. But it was his excursions every Friday to the Union Square farmer's market that opened the door to a new career and the joy he hadn't found in the corporate world. Doug's brother, Guy, had a stand in the market, and Doug would bring tomatoes, herbs and his brother's mesclun back to the office. The response was so positive, that Doug left his job to start a new business he called "My Brother's Farm." Bags of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and breads were delivered to clients who were looking for high quality, organic foods, that couldn't be found at the neighborhood grocery store.
MY BROTHER'S FARM is the funny, touching and engaging story of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Doug's rise from "swamp" to success. It is also chock full of wonderful recipes gathered from many of New York City's finest restaurants. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to eat and loves to laugh. A truly tasty morsel!
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