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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The New Old Thanksgiving Dinner

I'm taking a few quiet minutes to gather my thoughts before the madding crowd arrives and the kitchen becomes Chaos Central.

The turkey is stuffed with Ms. Conroy's Irish Sausage Stuffing and is in the oven (Who else but the Irish would stuff meat with meat?). We begin preparing vegetables in a few moments, and I still have to make the chocolate cream pie (our son-in-law's favorite).

The grandkids will arrive later this morning. The 100-piece, giant-shapes Rain Forrest floor puzzle is all set to put together (Ms. Mackie will LOVE this if Ms. Abby doesn't drive us mad by taking a puzzle piece, running away with it, screaming, "No, I do!" until we figure out a way to incorporate her into the activity without completely ruining the fun for everyone else.)

So far, all the traditions are intact. I'll even accidently-on-purpose burn the bottoms of a few of the dinner rolls because, well, how else would everyone laugh and proclaim, "NOW, it's a perfect Thanksgiving Dinner!"

Except that one member of our family will not be eating the turkey or the stuffing.

Our youngest daughter, Mia, has struggled with asthma for the past 5 - 7 years. She's been on an inhaler twice a day and had to use a 'rescue' inhaler several times a week.

A little miracle happened about 6 months ago. Her doctor suggested to her that she might be allergic to animal protein. Or, as she says, "Anything that comes from anything with a face and a mother."

I tell you that this is absolute truth: Within three weeks of becoming a vegetarian, she was completely off all inhalers. She takes absolutely nothing - NO THING - for her asthma. It's gone. Done.

It is truly miraculous.

We are deeply, deeply grateful.

So, back to Thanksgiving.

Mia was feeling very uncomfortable about sitting at the dinner table. She's the youngest and has always hated being "the baby" - i.e. "special or different." She's really an 'old soul' so I understand. So do her siblings, which is why they torment her. It's what siblings are supposed to do. Especially at holidays.

"I don't miss meat at all," she says. "I miss the memories."

There are some hungers that are stronger than physical ones.

It took a bit of research and a few weeks of testing in the kitchen, but we have come up with a few really wonderful alternatives.

The extra firm tofu is, as I write this, marinating in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. It will be baked with asparagus and sliced bell pepper and some wild mushrooms that have been brushed with ginger oil. The tofu will become crispy and the veggies will be served on top, with a side of tahini dip.

We'll also have sweet potato and mushroom stuffing along with butternut squash that has been cooked in pear and apple cider until the cider is caramelized.

My prediction is that while Mia and I will be the only ones eating the tofu, everyone will love the new stuffing and squash - along with the Irish Sausage Stuffing and Sweet Potato Casserole.

Mia is thrilled to think that others will be eating "her food" when she isn't almost overwhelmed with gratitude that she is being incorporated at the table without fanfare or fuss.

She has no idea how grateful we are that she is no longer prone to wheezing or dependent upon her inhalers.

It's a new old Thanksgiving Dinner in which we will quietly celebrate a little miracle even as we create new memories to cherish.

There's always room at the table for everyone and their particular favorite foods.

Isn't that what the First Thanksgiving was really all about?

Well, then, that will be enough quiet reflection for one morning. It's back into the kitchen for me. I'll emerge sometime later this afternoon.

Dinner is at 2 PM. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. There's a few extra portions of turkey and stuffing, tons of vegetables, and lots and lots of dessert. I can especially recommend the Chocolate Cream Pie or the Pumpkin Pie which will be served with homemade ice cream. . .

. . . which reminds me. Off I go to make the ice cream . . .

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.


KJ said...

Happy Thanksgiving! We give thanks for turkey AND tofu.

Lapinbizarre said...

"Who else but the Irish ...?" The English. A guest leaving a party I gave ten years ago was overheard asking a friend "Don't the English eat anything but meat?"

Happy Thanksgiving.


V. Happy Thanksgiving!
R. And also with you!

We're waiting on turkey to be done and kids-going-to-inlaws-first to show up ... enjoying some football in the meantime.

Growing up we had a bread knife that we called "the Thanksgiving knife" ... because it was the one Mom always used to slice off the burned bottoms of the brown-and-serve dinner rolls that were an obligatory part of our annual Thanksgiving feast!

All best to you and yours ... Yum, Yum!

Unknown said...

Happy Thanksgiving. Congrats to Mia on her miraculous discovery and subsequent cure.

Fran said...

What a beautiful post- I got all teary reading about Mia and her food. I miss the memories.

As for stuffing meat with meat, my own Irish-American mother taught me the same thing. I make it each Thanksgiving, all from my head and from my heart, as she did.

Happiness and joy to you and your whole family Elizabeth!

episcopalifem said...

Many blessings to you and yours Elizabeth!

Jim said...

Living with a celiac wife, I am learning to make gluten free dinner roles and biscuits. Still a work in progress, but the biscuits are getting close.

My big experiment this year was using a slow cooker to make bread stuffing which has to be handled with care in a gluten free kitchen. It was a total hit. Things learned include use a lot of chicken broth or better yet turkey broth, and cook on low for a long, long time (5 hours!)

I also did a wild rice stuffing that was a hit.

Sue-z made a desert parfait (jello pudding is gluten free) of pumpkin, vanilla and whipped cream. It worked with the no-crust rule.

Over all, I was pleased. Of course, 5 adults, 3 bottles of wine, any dinner is likely to be at least ok.