Happy Thanksgiving! November 28, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders (Poor Richard), of Poor Richard’s Almanac, wish each and every one of you a joyous, blessed, and abundant Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
Thanksgiving gets no respect. November 23, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: gratitude, holiday commercialization, thanksgiving, true meaning of Thanksgiving
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Silence Dogood here. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Who doesn’t love Christmas, of course, but what makes Thanksgiving so special to me is that it combines the aspects of an old-time Harvest Home festival, celebrating the abundance and bounty of another harvest season, with the only holiday that is all about gratitude.
Gratitude. Giving thanks. Not about stuffing ourselves fuller than the iconic turkey and then collapsing in a stupor in front of the TV to watch football. Yes, Thanksgiving is about coming together with friends, family and neighbors for a joyous feast. But it’s also about giving thanks for the year’s many blessings, as well as for good companionship and good food.
So it distresses me to see Thanksgiving being obliterated between the ever-earlier “Black Friday” sales extravaganza and Christmas. Frantic shopping sprees, trying to grab the newest Xbox or latest iPhone before anyone else can get it, shoving people out of the way to get a discounted shirt or dress, a celebration of greed and materialism, strikes me as in direct opposition to the spirit of Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving holiday should be leisurely, giving everyone plenty of time to reflect on the many gifts that they’ve received during the past year and every year—and I’m not talking about Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthday presents here—and to enjoy time spent with those who mean most to us. It should be sacred.
But it seems to have now been totally lost. Yesterday, I went with a friend to a charming little town in Amish country for an open house by an artist we both know and admire. But even here, in the heartland of farms and agriculture, Thanksgiving was nowhere in sight. Instead, Christmas wreaths and Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments adorned every storefront and street corner. Christmas music played in every shop. Christmas stockings, ornaments, cards, and gifts were front-and-center everywhere.
I love Christmas. I love to celebrate Christmas. And I love to stretch the Christmas season from Advent to Sixth Night, playing beloved Christmas music, watching beloved Christmas DVDs, reading beloved Christmas books, enjoying treasured Christmas ornaments throughout the house, and eating favorite Christmas treats. (Our friend Ben is even worse. If I didn’t put my foot down by February, I hate to think when all the Christmas stuff would stop.)
But I don’t want Christmas to start before December. I want to have my Thanksgiving, and I don’t want it to be obliterated between the bizarre frenzy of Halloween, Black Friday, and too-early Christmas commercialism. I want to be able to take some calm, leisurely, unpressured time to simply feel grateful, to celebrate the opportunity to give thanks. To enjoy time spent with loved ones and friends. To avoid the pressure to do anything else, such as engage in manic shopping.
Please, people, let’s give Thanksgiving the respect, and space, it deserves. Of course, every day should be an opportunity for thanksgiving. But on our special holiday, let’s not give that precious opportunity up.
‘Til next time,
A secure investment. November 24, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: character, fiscal cliff, Henry David Thoreau, kindness, thanksgiving, the greatest virtues, Thoreau quotes
As we stare over the precipice of the so-called fiscal cliff, our friend Ben is reminded of a marvelous quote from Henry David Thoreau: “Goodness is the only investment which never fails.” (Okay, it should have been “that never fails,” but let’s give Thoreau a break.)
Goodness is a rare and underappreciated quality. My beloved Grandaddy was a good man, and my adored Mama, his daughter, who was incredibly bright, made a point of telling the youthful Ben that my intelligence rated a very low second compared to character and moral principle. “Lots of people are bright, but very few are good or kind,” she told me repeatedly. The lesson sank in.
I can’t say that I grew up to be a good person, but I did grow up to revere goodness above all other qualities. As my Mama pointed out, anybody can be intelligent, even brilliant. But it takes a truly special person to be good. This Thanksgiving weekend, let’s all make a point of celebrating the good people in our lives.
Vegetarians, hooray! No gelatin in Marshmallow Fluff! November 21, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: gelatin, Marshmallow Fluff, marshmallows gelatin, sweet potato casserole, sweet potatoes, thanksgiving, Thanksgiving recipes, vegetarians
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Silence Dogood here. If, like me, you grew up with peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches, and marshmallow cream on your hot fudge sundaes—or, say, marshmallow cream on the revered Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole—and became vegetarian at some point, you were probably horrified to learn that marshmallows, and marshmallow cream, contain gelatin.
Gelatin is made from calves’ feet, which means that Jell-O, marshmallows, and such unlikely products as Goo-Goo Clusters and Altoids are off-limits to vegetarians. Rats!
Here at Hawk’s Haven, our friend Ben and I grew up with Thanksgiving sweet potatoes roasted and served with butter, salt, and black pepper, so we never had to contend with the iconic marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole. But those peanut butter sandwiches and sundaes were favorite treats, even if we don’t really eat them now. So I was thrilled to read in today’s Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) that Marshmallow Fluff doesn’t contain gelatin. Vegetarians, rejoice! Nobody’s going to say the stuff is good for you. But at least you can enjoy it on Thanksgiving or when you’re craving a peanut butter sandwich or sundae, and not have to worry about gelatin.
‘Til next time,
The perfect Thanksgiving salad. November 16, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: easy Thanksgiving salads, iceberg lettuce, thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Dinner, Thanksgiving salad recipes, Wedge salad
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Silence Dogood here. As every cook knows, Thanksgiving dinner is a rush. And not in a good way. You’re racing like a thoroughbred in the Derby, but while they only run for a couple of minutes, you’re zigging and zagging through the kitchen for hours. True, you can make some things ahead, like your cranberry sauce, roasted veggies, casseroles, and dressing. You can buy desserts and dinner rolls and hold them. But some things have to be made last-minute, and one of them is salad.
It takes me a good half-hour to make a yummy salad, combining greens and chopping all the veggies, adding nuts or pepitas (roasted pumpkinseeds) and shredded or crumbled cheese, dicing apples or pears and sprinkling on golden raisins if I go that route or mixed olives if I don’t, adding herbs, making a quick, delicious dressing. Normally, I don’t mind: I’ll make the salad while the pasta water comes to a boil or the veggies cook or whatever, while I’d be standing around in the kitchen anyway.
But that’s not the case on Thanksgiving. The last thing I have time for is spending a half-hour making a salad while I’m trying to pull Thanksgiving dinner together. But fortunately, there’s a can’t-miss salad that you can put together in less than five minutes, and it’s so luscious that it might be the dish your family and friends can’t stop talking about after the meal. It’s the Wedge.
The Wedge is a retro salad. It’s based on a wedge of—gasp!!!—iceberg lettuce. Its return to fame began in steakhouses and has spread like wildfire. Iceberg lettuce has been dissed by chefs, nutritionists and foodies for decades as the salad equivalent of white balloon bread (think squishy Wonder bread). And it’s certainly true that iceberg can’t compete for flavor with arugula, radicchio, frisee, mustard greens, kale, and the like. It also can’t compete for nutritive value with darker greens like spinach, Romaine, or, say, a mesclun mix. Nutritionists are correct when they note that iceberg is lacking in vitamins. But they always fail to point out that iceberg is high in fiber.
If you happen to be eating a Thanksgiving spread including broccoli or green beans, sweet potatoes, some form of corn, and cranberries, you’ll be getting plenty of vitamins. Fiber-rich iceberg lettuce is exactly what you need to top off your meal. And you’ll be getting the flavor and nutritional goodness of onions, tomatoes, and blue cheese on top of it.
Making a Wedge couldn’t be easier. Take a head of iceberg lettuce, wash it, dry it, and then cut it in wedges. I’ve been served whole fourths to thirds of a head of iceberg when ordering the Wedge at restaurants, far more than anyone could eat. I suggest that you cut a head in sixths. Put each iceberg wedge on a salad plate, add diced red onion, followed by sliced cherry and/or grape tomatoes (I like to mix yellow, orange and red tomatoes for drama and flavor).
To finish the salad, crumble blue cheese over the lettuce wedge. Grind on fresh-cracked black pepper. In every restaurant where I’ve ordered a Wedge, it’s come with blue cheese dressing over the crumbled blue cheese. I myself prefer extra-virgin olive oil and a little fresh-squeezed lemon juice over the crumbled cheese, but it’s your choice. Some restaurants add crumbled bacon as well; as a vegetarian, I obviously skip that part, but your guests might find it rave-worthy.
That’s all there is to it. You cut iceberg wedges, add onion, tomato, blue cheese, and (if you want) bacon, pour on some dressing, the end. Your guests get a luscious, crunchy, creamy, flavorful salad. Retro chic and super easy. Serve with hot, soft breadsticks and dipping sauce or hand around the hot dinner rolls and butter, and your Thanksgiving dinner will be the talk of the town.
‘Til next time,
Vegan Thanksgiving: A pro’s menu. November 15, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Balasia, endive boat recipe, thanksgiving, vegan Thanksgiving, vegetarian Thanksgiving, Wendy Landiak
What does a vegan Thanksgiving menu look like? Silence Dogood here. I don’t know about you, but when someone says “Vegan Thanksgiving,” the image that always comes to mind is a revolting Tofurky with an edamame appetizer. (Mind you, I’ve never tried Tofurky, since I don’t do pseudomeat; maybe it’s delicious.)
So I was thrilled to read in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, that Chef Wendy Landiak was providing a Thanksgiving feast for vegans and the parents/friends/etc. of vegans who had no clue what to cook them. Chef Wendy is locally renowned for her pop-up vegan restaurant, Balasia (www.balasia.net, www.thehoneyunderground.com). Since the article didn’t say what she’d be serving, I Googled the menu and here’s what I found:
Lucky vegans who chose to go with Chef Wendy’s pick-up dinner (or whose families had pity on them and ordered one) would be treated to their choice of homemade seitan with baby bella mushroom gravy (seitan is “wheat meat”), coriander mustard baked tofu, or seasonal vegetable-stuffed pumpkin. (No Tofurky!) The entree would be accompanied by homemade whole-grain bread with rosemary and garlic, parsley and garlic mashed potatoes, butternut squash soup with ginger, homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest, roasted sweet potatoes with caramelized walnuts, and roasted vegetables with soy butter and herbs. For dessert, you can choose from three pumpkin-themed specialties: pie, cake, or cheesecake.
At $45 a person, this is obviously not your all-you-can-eat-for-$16.99 Thanksgiving buffet. But Chef Wendy’s reputation is stellar, so you know you’ll be getting fresh, local, seasonal, from-scratch fare. Should you wish to take advantage of Chef Wendy’s talents, and assuming you live close enough to pick up your order in scenic Hereford, PA from noon to 6 p.m. this coming Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, you can place your order at 484-330-6405 or by e-mail at email@example.com. But you must order today, November 15. Last call!
For the rest of us, I enjoyed perusing the menu options and hope you did, too. Food for thought! Chef Wendy’s choices are a far cry from my own Thanksgiving meal: endive boats and curried pumpkin soup; a huge, hearty salad and hot rolls; my famous crunchy baked dressing, cranberry sauce with marmalade and Grand Marnier, corn pudding, winter slaw, green beans amondine, and roasted winter veggies (sweet potatoes, sweet onions, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts). Followed by pumpkin roll, pecan pie, bourbon-pecan fudge, and marbled pumpkin cheesecake.
Needless to say, there’s always plenty of food left over, which provides a fun challenge of its own. I like to make creamy pasta to serve with the leftovers through the weekend. The curried pumpkin soup makes a great lunch served with the slaw and hot-from-the-oven cornbread. And the roasted winter veggies are yummy over rice, assuming you have any leftover roasted veggies (we never do). Our friend Ben, our resident sweet tooth, complains vigorously about an excess of desserts, but seems strangely reluctant when I suggest sharing leftovers with neighbors and friends.
Point being, whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, it’s fun to think through the Thanksgiving menu and try something new each year. It may or may not make it onto the must-have list for following years, but it will probably be good, and provide a talking point for your guests. My easy endive boat appetizers are a case in point, so simple to prepare, so quickly gobbled up by guests (warning: not vegan): Buy a couple of Belgian endive heads, cut off the base and separate the leaves (wash and dry them, please). Fill each leaf (the “endive boat”) with a mixture of crumbled pecans, dried cranberries (aka “craisins”), crumbled blue or feta cheese or a combination, and fresh-cracked black pepper. Serve. Watch guests fight over the last ones.
What do you like to serve for Thanksgiving?
‘Til next time,
What’s the most popular Thanksgiving side? November 24, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: best Thanksgiving sides, mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes and winter squash, popular Thanksgiving side dishes, thanksgiving
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Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac!!!
Silence Dogood wanted to point out that Yahoo had just done a survey of the most popular Thanksgiving side dish, asking vistors to vote for green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, or sweet potato casserole. We love green beans and roasted or baked sweet potatoes, but ix-nay on the nasty canned-soup-based green bean casserole and ooey, gooey marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole.
So Silence hit the button for mashed potatoes to see how everybody else had voted. She was sure that one of the casseroles would win, and was stunned to see that 52% of voters sided with her for the mashed potatoes, a big winner over the 20-something votes for the green bean and sweet potato casseroles. Apparently Americans aren’t as taste-challenged as many might believe.
Mind you, Silence and I both think that the most popular sides should be delicious dressing and dressed-up mashed potatoes, so we’re not sure why dressing/stuffing didn’t figure on the Yahoo list. All you fellow mashed potato fans, enjoy your celebration with a big side of luscious dressing! And enjoy your green beans boiled, then tossed with butter, cracked black pepper, and RealSalt or Trocomare, and your sweet potatoes sliced and roasted with olive oil, cracked black pepper, rosemary, basil, and thyme.
Whatever. We plan to offer our own selection of appetizers and sides: endive boats, dinner rolls, tossed salad, coleslaw, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and Butternut squash, green beans, dressing, cranberry sauce, roasted veggies. Followed by pumpkin, pecan, and cherry pie.
But yes, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for us without mashed potatoes. We’re delighted to find out that 52% of the rest of us feel the same.
Happy, happy, happy day!!!!
Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders