Since we've been married, we've alternated where we spend the holidays, trying to divide the two biggies evenly between both sets of parents from year to year. Luckily, we only have two sets of parents to juggle (instead of four - or more - like many I know) and both sets are equally accommodating and understanding. Neither of them pressure us to do anything in particular, or make us feel guilty about what we choose. I hope they both know they're BOTH our favorite parents!
Anyway, with this new babysitting arrangement, we're lucky to see the Jon's parents a few times a month and my parents for an extended weekend once a month. It's the perfect opportunity to enjoy family holiday celebrations in our own home, which we've never really done before. I'm especially happy because even though I know she's too young to remember now, I want Alice to experience a lot of family traditions and celebrations at home as well as with grandparents or other family. This last weekend, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents while they were in town, since we won't be seeing them for the actual turkey day. It was a first for both Alice and I; her first Thanksgiving experience and the very first time I cooked or hosted a Thanksgiving feast. I was delighted to have a proper table and chairs for the occasion!
I planned a fairly traditional and straightforward menu without any excessively elaborate dishes or preparations and was feeling pretty capable until I read a collection of holiday hosts' horror stories that shook my confidence. If I had more time or more house or more uninterested cats, I would have ironed my table cloth; planned out my centerpiece and table setting; and assembled, organized, and cleaned my serving pieces. I didn't stress though, everything got to the table with little more chaos than the obligatory mad-dash just before serving time. Everything was delicious AND warm, we didn't run out of anything AND we have plenty of leftovers. Success!
The only thing missing was my sister, who couldn't make the trip down for the weekend. She joked that we should set a place for her with a photo and a candle. My dad took that seriously and stuck a photo from our fridge in the husk of the Indian corn centerpiece. My mom didn't even notice until halfway through the meal. See if you can spot her in the photo below...
|Traditional candied yams with marshmallows (left), and one slightly well-done Pumpkin Pecan Pie (right).|
I was hoping to get my first holiday feast under my belt without any mishaps or catastrophes, but there was one minor casualty. For dessert, I made a traditional pumpkin pie and a "Two-fer Pumpkin Pecan Pie" from this book (my very favorite cookbook) by the unparalleled Dorie Greenspan. The traditional "Libby's famous" pumpkin pie was flawless - that is, until a can fell out of the cabinet above the pie and left a delicate circular imprint on the top - and baked to perfection. However, the pumpkin pecan was not quite so perfect.
Dorie Greenspan suggests that the "Two-fer" is best the day it is made and recommends it be served warm. No problem, says I, and pop it in the oven just as we sit down to dinner. I figured it would be perfectly cooked and cooled by the time we're ready to eat for dessert. The recipe calls for baking the pie at 450 degrees for 10 minutes before reducing the temperature to 300 degrees and baking another 35-40 minutes. I dutifully set and reset the kitchen timer, but neglected to reduce the oven temperature. The pie emerged a bit, um, carmelized. Or scorched. Or blackened. We ate it anyway, and it was indeed delicious. The pumpkin custard didn't set properly at that high temperature and was a bit like pie gravy that evening, but I can report that it set up quite nicely in the fridge and was perfectly wonderful for breakfast this morning...
Anyway, I think it was a highly successful (and delicious) first effort. I am thankful that I have a home to host the ones I love, and can cook them a delicious meal to show how much I love them and how lucky I am to have them in my life. I have so many things to be thankful for, I can hardly fit it all into one feast! I hope you and your loved ones have much to be thankful for and that you all savor a satisfying meal this Thursday. Don't burn your pies!