Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE HYPOTHETICAL FEAST

With the holiday coming up, I might as well admit it: I've always been a heathen. Not fond of Turkey, and most of the fixings horrify me. All in all, if it's supposed to be a celebration, why must we suffer?

Yes, we did celebrate Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My father had to order a bird three weeks in advance from the local poulterer, and explain forcefully and repeatedly that we were NOT boiling it up for soup. The only use locals could imagine for a turkey was broth.
The poulterer did not understand what Thanksgiving was, but he dutifully abstained from breaking all the major bones in the birds body, which would have yielded the marrow easier.
Americans were an almighty strange kettle of fish.
Perhaps they didn't know how to cook?
A likely possibility.

When I returned to the States I discovered that people would also serve green bean casserole, succotash, boiled creamed corn, candied yams, and a salad with Thousand Island or Ranch dressing alongside, then follow the meal with warm pie and ice cream.

If they didn't want to fall asleep, they had coffee afterwards.
American coffee; enough said. More than.
Not Douwe Egberts.


Seeing as my father took two days off every year for the holiday, he did all the cooking. He had mastered how to roast the bird so it had a crispy skin and tender meat. And it was flavourful. Which is something most other Americans cannot manage.

He made his own cranberry relish.
The bread was fresh and crusty.
There was stuff to nibble.

Still, the problem with turkey was not enough skin, too much meat.
And all of us preferred the dark meat.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Valkenswaard was fun.
Reveling in our Yankee reprehensibility.
To the distress of neighbors.


Trying to do so in the United States has often been a drag. I always feel an obligation to eat turkey, which means tasteless disappointment when I obey, guilt and a sense of a lost annual opportunity if I don't.
But in all honesty, I really do not like turkey.
Or crispy onion green bean casserole.
Or corn, yams, and succotash.
Plus beer or sports.
Shopping.


If I had to cook turkey, I'd probably saute sliced breast meat with fermented blackbeans, garlic, and ginger, and braise-simmer the legs in sherry with ginger, salt vegetable, black mushrooms, and star anise, till fall-apart tender. Vegetables cooked al dente served alongside.
Garlic mashed potatoes as a side dish.
Rice, and a bowl of soup.

And, of course, two or three lovely sambals. It isn't a banquet unless there are two or three sambals. Plus bitter melon, and crunchy stuff.
And a noodle dish. What kind of crappy feast is it without noodles?!?
I'm thinking pancit guisado, with lots of crab meat.
Green onion, garlic, bokchoy.

Maybe a separate dish of green beans, as a nod to tradition.
Or maybe not. Traditions mutate.

No cranberries at all.
In any guise.


Foregoing the turkey entirely and filling up on crab instead is a better basis for a seasonal celebration, but tradition insists on Turkey.
A bottle of wild bourbon ain't gonna cut it.
It has to be real dead bird.



Pancit guisado ng alimango.
Enough for everyone.
Sounds good.



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