Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Vicki Delany

Today is Thanksgiving Day, and I am celebrating at my daughter’s house in Ottawa. Many of our American readers will be checking the date of this posting to make sure they haven’t stumbled on a blog from 11 months ago.

No, you’re in the right place at the right time.

In Canada Thanksgiving is the second Monday of October. Which makes total sense to us because Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration, having nothing to do with pilgrims and First Nations. It also seems to me to make a lot more sense to have a big holiday on a Monday, so people with jobs have time to get there and to do all the cooking, rather than a Thursday which is the middle of the week.  But I digress. In my family we always have the big dinner on Sunday, which is very common. This year we had it on Saturday, because one of my daughters is a paramedic and had to work Sunday and Monday.

Christmas is a much bigger holiday in Canada than Thanksgiving. In most families, people will gather for Thanksgiving but they aren’t likely to go vast distances and travel across the country (or around the world) as they are for Christmas. Traditionally the meal at both Thanksgiving and Christmas is turkey. We do not eat green beans with cheese sauce (ug) or anything with marshmallows on it. Marshmallows are for putting on hot chocolate or roasting over a campfire. Nothing else except maybe Rice Krispy treats. We do like those.

On Thanksgiving in Canada, many people make pumpkin pie, but not usually at Christmas. Of course pumpkin is plentiful in October but not in late December, although these days we are quite likely to use canned pumpkin. For Christmas dinner I will make two desserts: a fruit pie and a cake or pudding. This is because one of my daughters is the only person in the western hemisphere who does not like fruit pie.

The latest Constable Molly Smith book, Under Cold Stone is set over Thanksgiving, and Molly Smith is making her first-ever Thanksgiving dinner.

I am (if I do say so myself) quite a good cook.  Molly is not. I had fun trying to remember what it was like NOT to be able to cook.

Here’s a sample:
Molly Smith eyed the turkey. It did not eye her back.

It was frozen solid and had no head.

Now, what was she supposed to do with it? The Internet said the safest way to defrost a turkey was to leave it in the fridge. Unfortunately it also said that this twenty-pound beast would take five to six days to fully defrost. She didn’t have five to six days. She had forty-eight hours.

Her mom had left her with instructions for cooking the turkey as well as recipes for her favorite side dishes and desserts. She’d said to go to the butcher to order a fresh, organic, free-range turkey. Her mom hadn’t told her to put the order in a month ahead of time, and when Smith showed up this morning – Friday – to buy one, expecting to pick it up on Saturday, she was told she was too late. All those birds who had only days ago been happily pecking in the weeds of their spacious enclosures surrounded by green fields overflowing with organic produce ripening in the sun were accounted for.

She wasn’t too disappointed. A free-range turkey was always nice, but plenty of people bought a factory-farm raised bird from the supermarket, and they seemed good enough. Unfortunately, the supermarket in Trafalgar didn’t stock fresh turkeys, only frozen ones.

Back to the Internet to search for plan B. Okay, apparently you could defrost the turkey in cold water. That method seemed to suit a cook who had nothing at all to do for an entire day as the water should be kept cold and constantly refreshed. Smith was scheduled to begin a twelve-hour shift in two hours. It might have been doable if she still had her apartment above Alphonse’s bakery on Trafalgar’s main street, to which she could slip every few hours to replace the water. But now that she was living a good half-hour outside of town, it was unlikely her shift supervisor would approve of her driving back and forth all night.

Ah, what the heck. They were young and healthy. A bit of improperly defrosted turkey wouldn’t kill them. She wiped out the sink, dropped the heavy bird into it, and ran cold water.

Lucky had given her the family’s favorite recipes – stuffing (not dressing!), butternut squash casserole sweet with a hint of maple syrup, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, and pecan pie. She eyed the pile of grocery bags spread out across the counter. Even if she did have time to defrost the turkey in the fridge, she’d have trouble finding room.

She checked the recipes one more time to make sure she hadn’t forgotten to buy something important. She was on afternoons this week, would get home at three on Sunday morning, nap for a few hours, and then get up and start cooking. Fortunately, Sunday was the start of four days off, so she didn’t have to squeeze the preparation and then the meal into between-shift time.

She headed upstairs to get ready for work. She showered, washed her hair and tied it into a ponytail, put on her uniform, struggled into her equipment-laden belt, went to the gun safe and retrieved her Glock. Last of all she slipped off her engagement ring and tucked it into its box in the table on her side of the bed. She never wore the diamond to work.

Back downstairs, she drained the sink and added fresh cold water. She studied her efforts – the bald white turkey looked mighty unappealing. Then, feeling like a proper fifties-era housewife, she shifted her gun belt, settled the weight of the Glock into a better pace on her hip, and left for work.

Molly's mom has left her with recipes for all the family favourites. What's the can't-do-it-without dish for your family? For us, it's my mom's stuffing. I make it exactly as I was taught all those years ago.


Sybil Johnson said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pam said...

Happy Thanksgiving Vicki. I still use my mum's sausage meat stuffing with chopped apple and onions. Yummee!

Donis Casey said...

I want that pecan/pie in the photo. Did you make that?

Donis Casey said...

I meant pecan/pumpkin...

Eileen Goudge said...

My mom's cornbread stuffing. And my pecan cranberry pie. Wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.

Vicki Delany said...

The photo is a stock photo, Donis. Although I have been known to make pecan pie!

Aline Templeton said...

I do envy you thanksgiving! Like you, Vicki, I enjoy cooking and it would be like having the fun of doing a posh Christmas lunch without all the hassle of buying presents!