Thanksgiving in the Rear View Mirror

After much anticipation and angst, Thanksgiving is now over.   Even Pit Bull Nora (aka “Psycho”) enjoyed herself as 20 relatives from Texas and Tennessee joined us in Greenwich to celebrate a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Pit Bull Nora was unusually calm amidst all of the commotion, which I ascribe to the fact that she no longer feels so alone after seeing so many fellow inmates from the asylum.

My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough food.

Macy's Day Parade

One of the big highlights was an early-morning trip to the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Dan’s office is located near Macy’s at the end of the parade route and both kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  I had expected that some of the “adults” would stick around to serve as sous chefs to the Frump Sisters, but shepherding wild kids around the blocked streets of New York City seemed to be a far more appealing choice.   (Editor’s Note:  Good call!)

Macy's Day 2015 Kids

Fortunately, the weather was wonderful (the warmest and driest that I can recall in 25 years).  As such, the kids managed to spend most of their time in the backyard playing football and riding the swings.

kids on swings

This provided the adults with plenty of time to engage in online shopping and tell bold lies which are rude to contradict over Thanksgiving, because even learning-impaired relatives from the south are entitled to their day in the sun.

Leslie’s Pink Salad. Best served at a Breast Cancer Awareness Party.

As requested, we served Leslie’s Betty Crocker “pink salad” and Langston’s Green Bean Casserole.   For those unfamiliar with the “green bean casserole,” it consists of canned green beans and Campbell’s mushroom soup with fried onion rings on top.  (Editor’s Note:  I didn’t realize that grown people still eat this factory-processed garbage, but apparently 60% of Louisiana families will serve this casserole on Thanksgiving Day.  Go figure!)   Even “bad” nostalgia has a difficult time maturing into a better palate.

vintage port

Papa giving a Vintage Port lesson

Always one to try and elevate the culinary knowledge of my relatives (no matter how difficult), I served a bottle of 1975 vintage port that has been kindly stored by Dan.  Colby was the only one at the table paying attention to my discourse as most of our adult relatives had only recently been weaned from a beer bottle – let alone wine.  The adage “pearls before swines,” comes to mind.

I have decided that people up north do things differently.  For instance, Frump Sister Trish decided to make a “six-foot” sandwich for lunch.  Her daughter, Meredith, convinced that the bread was “less than 6 feet,” decided to measure it.  Now, I had assumed she would have asked for a measuring tape, but instead she decided to crawl up on the table and compare the sandwich length to her 5′ 4″ body.


She proved her point, but it did seem like a somewhat unusual way to go about it.

Sadly, you can’t choose your relatives. Most of them are confident and self-assured, but there is always one who suffers from low self-esteem. Clearly, anyone who runs around in a “Boss” baseball cap is to be pitied – but not worth taking seriously.   I tried to give him some “attitude” counseling, but I don’t think I was able to reach him.  (Editor’s Note:  To borrow a relevant joke from Maverick, “Langston was so homely as a child that his parents had to hang a bone around his neck for the dogs to play with him”).  In any event, he has a dominant wife (clearly Pinson genes) and is unlikely to stray too far off the beaten track.


Even Pit Bull Nora felt sorry for Langston and gave him a lick to cheer him up.  Of course, Langston had to put a little Taleggio cheese on his hand to encourage Nora to do so.

I am looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving again with our relatives.  Corinne’s favorite memory was having a slumber party in sleeping bags with her cousins.  When I explained that people down south actually sleep in sleeping bags rather than beds, Corinne insisted that we move south “soon.”

P.S.  I am pleased to report that Leslie “Love My Family” Pinson managed to get to the airport at 6 a.m. for her 8:30 flight.  Sadly, the scheduled flight was for 8:30 p.m. rather than 8:30 a.m.

A Betty Crocker Thanksgiving

As readers to GourMay are aware, our Texas relatives will be joining us for Thanksgiving and for that we are most grateful.  I had hoped to welcome them with this ice-breaker joke:  “A family reunion is an effective form of birth control,” but my timing was off by about 10 years.   I suppose I could chime in and say “You don’t choose your relatives,” but I actually like mine and so does Pitbull Nora.   

Betty Crocker

While I am OK with nostalgia, I do draw the line at Betty Crocker when it comes to food.   Some critics trace the decline in American morality, drug addiction, childhood obesity and propensity for consuming vast quantities of colorful but largely unappetizing processed foods to Betty Crocker.  I find this criticism of Betty a bit harsh, but memories of her gelatin tomato aspic still turns my stomach.

In this delightful video, the New York Times commissioned artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari to interpret the 1971 Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library. They were faithful to the period, but not particularly kind to the “good” Betty.

I bring this up, because – sadly – Betty Crocker recipes are now beginning to appear as family favorites for Thanksgiving.  I thought I had seen everything until “Love My Family” Leslie insisted on Betty’s “Mystery Pink Salad.”  Mind you, I could easily see this hideous dish served at a Breast Cancer Awareness lunch, but hardly see its place at the Thanksgiving table.

Fellow Gourmand, Lord Cheseline of Maiden Lot Farm has just returned from a month of eating his way through Europe.  Fortunately, the folks in Spain and France had never heard of Betty Crocker.  He sent me this delightful collage of the tasting menu at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain.    According to the Financial Times, this is the number 1 ranked restaurant in the world.  I can see why.

Celler Can Roca

Needless to say, this is what I had in mind for Thanksgiving, but as the pious Pilgrims would say, “you must avoid giving the natives anything out of their culinary comfort zone.”

Thanksgiving Post-Mortem

For those interested in trivia, 51 million turkeys were consumed by Americans this Thanksgiving Day.  Needless, to say not all Americans gathered around the table to give thanks: Native Americans gather annually on this day in Plymouth, MA to celebrate this “National Day of Mourning.”

It’s hard to argue with their point of view, but I suspect that if the NFL Washington “Redskins” change their name and logo to something less “racially” offensive like “Foreskins” all will be forgiven by Native Americans.

Given GourMay’s declining readership, Editor-in-Chief Sheila has recommended that we give readers “what they want to hear,” rather than the “rantings of a grumpy old man.” We want to hear from you, so please check on the box below that best represents your view in this year’s first “Right Side of History” Poll:

Regardless of which way you voted, I would like to provide readers with a post-mortem on my spatchcock heritage turkey that we cooked for Thanksgiving. It was delicious and the recommended timing was dead on! I will certainly be using the technique for all future turkeys. Found below are a few photographs of the bird at various stages of the cooking process.

Turkey Legs Skin Side Down at 250 degrees

Turkey Legs Skin Side Down at 250 degrees

Flip turkey breast and cook for about 2 hrs at 250 degress

Flip turkey breast and cook for about 2 hrs at 250 degrees

Papa and sous chef with Turkey

Papa and sous chef with Turkey

Now there are many people who dismiss the culinary virtues of a heritage turkey, but frankly it tastes like turkey rather than the factory-farm variety produced by Perdue. Courtesy of Cooks Illustrated (Nov-Dec Edition), found below are the characteristics of a heritage turkey as agreed to by the Livestock Conservancy and the American Poultry Association:

  1. Heritage turkeys must have a long productive lifespan – five to seven years for breeding hens, three to five years for breeding toms – and have a genetic ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems.

  2. Heritage turkey must have a slow to moderate rate of growth, reaching marketable weight in about 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs before building muscle mass.  Commercial turkeys grow to full size in only 12 to 14 weeks.

  3. Unlike commercial turkeys that must artificially inseminated, heritage birds are the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.

Now heritage turkeys cost quite a bit more, but are certainly worth the money.  If you attend a market, consult with your poultry specialist.  They often can supply heritage turkeys for far less than ordering online.