Friday, November 24, 2017

Post-Thanksgiving Post

Everything was delicious. Two turkeys—one heritage and one conventional—and a platter of duck breasts. My green bean casserole turned out great, as did my brother’s green beans with garlic and anchovies. (Between the two of we brought five pounds of green beans.) All the sides were fantastic. There were four pies, including Mary Logue’s impeccable pumpkin pie, which disappeared first. Charlie’s broccoli salad made a late appearance, so he’ll be eating it for the next couple days. There was wine, and an exceptional rye whiskey from Iowa of all places.

This was our first Thanksgiving without Elaine (my mom), so we talked about her a lot. There was some Roy Moore bashing, but most of us seem willing to grant Al Franken a pass—albeit with finger-wagging. There was no praying—I think the last time we prayed was back in 1969, and that didn’t go so well. Nobody watched football, or so much as turned on a television. Bill and Sherrie’s son Jake got trapped in Milla’s massage chair and as far as I know he’s still there, smiling vacantly.

Today I will be doing something I swore I would never do: visit a shopping mall on Black Friday. From noon to two I’ll be on display at a table at the Barnes & Noble in Minnetonka with a pile of books in front of me. 

If you are in the vicinity please stop by to say hello. If you want a book, I’ll have plenty, and I’ll sign it and inscribe it to anyone you name, along with a pretty illustration on the title page. There will be several Young Adult novels (ages 12 and up) and some Middle Grade novels (ages 9-13). Got any of those on your Christmas list?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pre-Thanksgiving Post: The GBC

Green Bean Casserole is a Minnesota Thanksgiving staple—as important as the turkey, the dressing, the mashed potatoes, the yams, and the pumpkin pie. Okay, maybe not as important as the pie.
A Lime Jello Salad. Yes, it's a thing.

Back in the 60s and 70s, the GBC was often the only green thing on the table—unless someone brought a lime jello salad.

As usually constructed, GBC is a super easy dish: Two cans of green beans, one can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, splash of milk. Mix in a baking dish, top with one can of “French fried onions,” bake.

I never much liked it.

These days we get all fancy-schmancy. Our extended family-and-friends potluck menu might include venison, goose, delicata squash, wild rice, and multiple leafy green salads. Cousin Charlie will want me to mention his broccoli salad here, and there will be at least one dish that I won’t be familiar with, and cannot identify even after eating some. It will contain cheese. There will be no candied yams with marshmallows, no cranberry sauce from a can, and no lime jello salad.

This year I decided to reintroduce the Green Bean Casserole. Or some fancy-schmancy version thereof. Naturally, I must make things as difficult as possible.

For the mushroom soup I will substitute home-made crème fraiche, cream, fresh thyme from the garden, and an assortment of foraged wild mushrooms.

For the green beans I will use fresh haricots vert—small, thin green beans that have French pretentions, but in truth, at this time of year, must be imported from Guatemala.

Instead of canned onions, I will fry some shallots, because shallots make me feel special.

It is quite possible that my fancy-schmancy GBC will be no tastier than the traditional version, but it doesn’t matter. People will scoop a small beany glob onto their plates between the mashed potatoes and the some fancy-schmancy cranberry chutney. Gravy will slop over onto everything, and we will all be talking with our mouths full, and no one will notice that I used shallots instead of onions, or that the mushrooms are wild, or that the Guatemalan beans have a French accent.

And that’s okay. Because we gather on this day to be together, to remind ourselves that we are not alone, to feed each other, to feed that which connects us. The whole point of making the food is to prove to ourselves that we care. Cooking for others is its own reward. The more effort that goes into it, the greater the love—even if the turkey is dry, even if the gravy is too salty, even if the fancy-schmancy green bean casserole tastes of gravy and cranberries.

Photo of the finished dish tomorrow. Have a lovely holiday!