Oh, the Holidays…
It always seems to creep up on you and, before you know it, it’s that time of the year. It’s a couple months before the next year and you keep thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, this year flew by. It felt like summer just ended.’ …Which may resonate more so if you live in areas where there’s a definite difference between the four seasons. I always have a little bit of a mourning period when I’m lamenting about the last of the warm weather and marvel at how I survive each oncoming New England winter. This has become my pre-holiday transition period. It’s how I ready myself for the coming winter by welcoming in some holiday cheer. 🙂
Though with the holiday season, there comes with it a certain pressure and expectations about what to cook and eat (and drink). And if you have family visiting from out of state or out of town, then you stress about dividing your time with family and friends. Though there is the pressure of making an impression with food on a day that seems centered on doing nothing but eating, I do love thinking about what I’d like to eat and what I want to contribute to the holiday meal.
I remember growing up and hearing about all these very “All-American” holiday traditions of serving turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving meal. While growing up, these items weren’t in my family’s food vocabulary… I didn’t really know what these foods were or tasted like. At that time, my closest experience with turkey was the turkey ham in sandwiches. I also vaguely knew what they looked like from having had drawn many hand turkeys in grade school (you trace your hand, the thumb becomes the head and the rest of your fingers are the feathers). I don’t think it was until my sisters and I were old enough to care or consider what these Thanksgiving traditions were and meant to the experience of growing up in the states, I suppose one year we all thought it would be nice to try it out, and my mom was willing to be adventurous and expand her cooking repertoire. So one year there was a whole turkey (basted in soy sauce, fish sauce, and oil), mashed potatoes (a bit on the dry side), and my mom’s idea of stuffing (her versatile ground meat stuffing used in Southeast Asian egg rolls or turned into meatballs for some of her Chinese soups).
I definitely appreciate my mom’s willingness to try to cook foods she was unfamiliar with because it meant we got to experience it, too. It didn’t matter the turkey was too dry and too subtle in flavor for us to appreciate; the mashed potatoes too dry and lacking in butter, cream, or gravy; that stuffing is actually comprised of bread cubes… there was no other standard of measurement to which we could compare it. But as I’ve come to learn that this, indeed, was part of the experience 🙂 … there will be cooking fumbles (at least for those of us fortunate enough to have the privilege to worry about such things). Though years from that moment, after I learned how to cook, spent time watching cooking shows, and browsed recipes did I learn more about how to cook such a meal more flavorfully. Now we’ve come to create our own traditions, my mom’s meat “stuffing” became a family favorite not limited to just the holidays. And with family being scattered around the country, our Thanksgiving meals tend to vary in food items from year to year. Depending on our moods and cravings, we embrace the traditional turkey with the trimmings, or request my mom’s home cooking of Cambodian or Chinese recipes, or a combination of it all!
Thanksgiving Hors d’oeuvres / Snacks
A prime example of the medley of food genres my family enjoys: fried egg rolls, brie, a pork terrine (an edible souvenir from a France trip), and toast. Also pictured are some well appreciated empty plates and dipping sauce bowls (from the egg rolls).
My Thanksgiving Meal:
Cambodian Vermicelli Noodles (Banh Heo)
This noodle dish is comprised of vermicelli noodles flavored with a fried garlic and scallion oil; assorted fresh veggies like bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, mints and other herbs for texture and flavor contrast (as well as being a filler); a beef onion sauté mixture flavored with a puree of dried Anaheim chilies and lemongrass, dried crushed peanuts, and a sweet fish sauce dip to round it all out. I had about three bowls. It was very yummy.
The cold day was warmed up with some wine drinking and full bellies. 🙂 Hope your holiday was just as satisfying.
(**Wines of the day: a Cotes du Rhone cuvée, Benziger 2004 Petite Sirah–an edible souvenir from Sonoma California which I probably held onto a little too long before drinking, Mercier Brut Champagne–another edible souvenir from France)