by John Ryan
Last year, I wrote a Thanksgiving column on the assumption that while your good sense blinked you offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner. This year I assume you learned your lesson and accepted an invitation to someone else's home.
Not that I hate cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Actually, the truth is that Thanksgiving is one holiday meal I like making. Sure, it's hectic at moments, but the meal itself is not that hard. My biggest problem with Thanksgiving is getting the shopping done and the house cleaned up before guests arrive on Thursday. In spite of the scramble to be ready, I'm glad that Thanksgiving doesn't shift around like Valentine's Day or Christmas. It always lands on a Thursday, which means that unless you work at a franchise, you get Friday off too. Four days off in the middle of the holiday season...now that's something to give thanks for! with four days off I can eat too much on Thursday, drink too much on Friday, stay out late on Saturday and still have time to recover before Monday morning.
Speaking of eating too much.... Overindulgence on Thanksgiving is practically an institution. In the coming weeks we'll see all sorts of articles urging moderation. Yet the fact is that Thanksgiving is a feast day. And no matter what anyone urges, offering anything short of extreme excess is considered low rent. So if I'm cooking, I don't mind if someone offers to bring something. And if I'm going to someone else's home, I will sincerely offer to bring something other than wine.
With this in mind, I offer a sweet potato casserole and fruit pie this month. The casserole, besides being a delicious alternative to the usual marshmallow affair, transports well and heats up easily. And it's not fussy. If your host's oven is at 375 degrees, fine. If it's at 275 degrees, that's fine too, it'll just take longer to heat up.
The apple and berry pie also travels well—and it doesn't require reheating. I especially like this pie at Thanksgiving because it's not mincemeat. I know that apples and berries don't deliver the medieval richness of suet, dried fruit, and nuts, but it's a fine fall pie nonetheless.
And finally, I offer a breakfast suggestion for the long and sometimes cold weekend. I realize that the unofficial post-Thanksgiving breakfast is leftover pumpkin pie. But a lazy, sleep-late weekend is the perfect occasion for this crouton casserole. In spite of its crusty name, the casserole is soft and comforting--a vegetable bread pudding for breakfast!
Enjoy it while it lasts. The next naturally occurring 4-day weekend won't come around until the 4th of July.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
This page created November 1999