Tuesday, November 22, 2005

B: A culinary plea

This is just a short note to all of the cooks out there that will be working hard on Thursday preparing dishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. I know it is tempting with all of the magazines and cooking shows pumping out holiday recipes, but please for the love of your family and friends and all that is tasty, DON'T follow the temptation to try something new for Thanksgiving. I have several reasons for this based on experience:

1) Your dish will never come out like the one on the show, it will take longer and it won't look or taste nearly as good as that TV chef said or pretended it was.

2) Thanksgiving is a time for traditional dishes. People don't want new things, they want their old favorites. Even if the old standbys aren't that good, people don't really want change.

3) Bad meals any other day of the year are quickly forgotten, but bad meals on a holiday are remembered forever.

4) The holiday is a time to show off your best cooking skills and even if you are a great cook, an unknown recipe can turn out very bad. This won't make you look good.

5) Nobody wants their feelings hurt, but bad food is tough to ignore and if you are responsible you are going to know it and that won't make you feel good.

The one caveat to this rule is if you have field tested the dish prior to the big day and had a jury decide that it is acceptable to serve on a holiday. I know this is very Martha Stewart, but if you are going to serve a new dish or change an old one it must be tested. Make sure you are getting honest feedback from somebody that has average tastes. Asking a husband that will eat anything, or a friend whose idea of gourmet is extra relish on their Filet o Fish is not acceptable. Get good advice and be ready to deal with disappointment. Better today during your test than on Thursday in front of everybody.

I know this is a little late for thanksgiving, but there is still time to test things, or give up on that idea that Emeril planted in your head and get the ingredients for a dish you know how to make well.

Oh Yeah, one last thing. Remember to hide the seasonings from oldsters "helping" in the kitchen. Their experience is invaluable and it is a great way to make Granny or Auntie feel useful and needed, but their taste buds aren't what they used to be and nobody wants a cup of salt in the gravy.


Merce said...

Oh my! Your list is good advice but I'm not sure that people remember all the food they've had at every Thanksgiving. I know I don't. What I do remember about most Thanksgivings is getting everybody together, hanging out, getting drunk, and having a good time, all over a table filled with food. Yum. There's nothing better. Trying new things is o.k. in my book because it's not really about the food. But to your point, great food makes the whole day complete and I love great food.

The one Thanksgiving I do remember vividly is the first year I spent with my Dad, (a self proclaimed culinary disaster), after he and my Mom split up. My Dad decided try something new and BBQ the turkey. A couple of hours into this experiment, there were 3 feet of flames shooting out of the BBQ'er and the grass in the back yard was on fire. I have no recollection of how the turkey ended up tasting, but we laughed for a long time about my dad running wildly around the yard stamping out the flaming grass and trying to salvage the charred mess of flesh. And we still laugh today about it. Suffice it to say, it's a story that gets told every year when everybody pulls out their turkey stories.

So, whatever the food is at this year's feast, remember to enjoy the time you spend with your loved ones, and don't worry too much about offending anyones taste buds. Chances are they'll forget it by next year.

Almostgrace said...

The field test is great advice although this year I made Rachel Ray's "Stuffin' Muffins" which were great. I used my regular stuffing recipe and just scooped it into a muffin tin. Very good.

We have made Alton's turkey for the last 3 years and let me tell you - it is the only way to make turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving guys!

mandy said...

Merce - I completely agree. The true enjoyment of Thanksgiving is not simply about the food, but more about the times when everyone can get together and have a great time over a big meal. I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday for that reason alone. No gifts, no big expectations, just friends and family and food and drinks.

That said, I must also agree with B, simply because I am a perfectionist in my own kitchen. I am crushed when the whites on my fried eggs turn out too runny. So if I make a dish for a bunch of other people and it doesn't turn out good, I am positively sure that they will remember it, and more importantly, remember me as the lady who fucked up the sweet potatoes. Realistically, I know that's not what happens, as I don't do this with anyone else's food, and although I remember that granny used two pounds of salt between last year's gravy and stuffing, I still love her and we still had an excellent time.

By the way, everything this year tasted fabulous, and I only wish that my stomach was bigger so I could have eaten more. And even if we had peanut butter and jelly for dinner, I'm sure we would have had a great time - how could you not with that group?!?!

And Leslie, I completely agree with you too - Alton's turkey rocks. We made it a couple years ago and it's a keeper!