I read a nice little post on The Blue Hour a few days ago that made me think. It was called “Where I’m At” (thus the name of this post) and was just kind of about sitting back and taking stock. One of the great things about blogging is the immediacy of it: you write something and you publish it and people read it right away. But so often, we’re always making sweeping statements about the seasons, upcoming holidays, food trends, or traditions. Today that’s not going to happen.
There are lots of leaves in the driveway and pacing dogs in the kitchen. I’m waiting for the mailman.
I’m feeling a little restless with a too-long to-do list.
Gearing up for Thanksgiving in New York. Trying to dig my fall sweaters out of storage and figure out a time to get my bangs trimmed. And drinking lots of milky earl gray tea.
I’m craving nachos something fierce lately.
I just bought a new pair of boots I adore.
I’m trying to let the holidays wash over me and take from them what makes me happy, leaving the rest far behind.
In a few days, I’ll accompany my friend to get her nose pierced in the city and buy a crate of apples at the farmer’s market.
I have a little secret I really want to share with you but I can’t quite yet. Soon though. Very soon.
That’s where I’m at.
And while I sit and take stock right here right now, I made myself a large glass of shandy (or shandygaff), my new love. I had a ball jar full of house shandy at Farmer Brown restaurant in downtown San Francisco the other night and rushed right out to buy some ginger beer the next day. Now, I’ve got shandy on my mind. To make it at home, just experiment with a lighter beer that you love and either ginger beer, cider, or a citrusey soda. For my shandy’s I happen to like Bundaberg ginger beer. A lot. I suggest a big ball jar and a spin around the neighborhood before the leaves all drop. And check out Brian’s post when you have a second.
Mix ginger beer and beer together and garnish with lemon wedge. Drink slowly on a Wednesday afternoon–or any day that calls for shandy.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.