A Foodie Thanksgiving


Normally, there are a variety of Thanksgiving foods that I feel “meh” about – I’m not crazy about the jellied cranberry sauce, wobbling gently on its plate, or plain corn or beans. However, this year, the family outdid themselves, and all kinds of food perfection made it to my plate:

  • The turkey was good, juicy and flavorful, but also had a crispy coat of bacon put on it before being set in the grill to cook.
  • The salad was all picked fresh from my brother-in-law’s garden, and those carrots, radishes, and greens were life-giving in an otherwise heavy meal.
  • The mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole got mixed up on my plate, and I have no regrets: everything was creamy and delicious and spiced with simple pepper, salt, and garlic.
  • The sweet potatoes didn’t have extra sugar on them, but they had butter and cinnamon which brought out all the best flavors of sweet potatoes.
  • The pecan pie was almost entirely pecans, with just enough of the sugary binder to hold it all together, and a homemade crust that just tasted like flaky layers of butter… mmmm. We ate at 3pm and so this was also my “dinner” at 9.
  • Treats like homemade chex mix, chocolate toffee, and thumbprint cookies abounded.

One of the cousins, K, talked about how much she’s enjoyed eating on Whole30, a program I’ve heard about and have considered trying. Husband and I are now resolved that January will be our Whole30 month, which will not be particularly easy but we think it could be good for some of our least healthy cravings to die down (many friends have said they just don’t want cheese and grains as much after the experience). Anyone know and like Whole30? Anyone know it and think it isn’t so great? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

You Can Do it, Dinner Party Newbie.

There are so many easy reasons not to have dinner parties. Restaurants are prettier, cooking by yourself is cheaper, seeing your friends when you see them is more convenient, planning nothing at all is less stressful, but let me tell you: I’m ready to advocate the dinner party, even after the messiness, the expense, the lack of convenience, and the stress. I have good reasons too.

  1. Doing hard things builds character

I have now had three dinner parties this year, but at least two other potential parties I chickened out of throwing because I worried the people wouldn’t get along or wouldn’t like the food. Every time I go through with it, though, I think I get a little more convinced that it’s worth it to try something a little against-the-grain and have people into your home. It’s quite the act of trust, but it seems to pay such good dividends.

2. If you love cooking, you will never have a better excuse to make LOTS of food

3. People you would never imagine liking each other will manage to make it work over a big plate of food.

4. People feel more connected to you, even if they don’t know you well, if they’ve spent the evening sitting by your fireplace and chatting.

5. We’ve lost the art of in-person conversation as a main form of entertainment, and it needs to come back: it’s free, it’s fascinating, and it makes us better at all kinds of other things!

6. People notice so many fewer of the things you see as imperfect in your house and notice so much more of the detailed touches of architecture or decoration than you’d expect – they take in the good and tend to ignore the bad (we all have it, so it’s less interesting!).

7. Your board games need a chance to come out and play.

I know I won’t convince everyone, but I think trying it once is worth it – if you discover I’m wrong on every count, at least now you have the worst-dinner-party-ever story to tell at… well, some event. I don’t think you’ll regret it though!

Making Dinners Out Special

I’ve been trying something new: when Husband and I go out, I am trying harder than before to get something that I have never tried. For instance, last night we got dinner because I was going away for a few days, and I got a grilled pear and goat cheese salad – so delicious and I’ve never had it before. I wanted to remember how nice it was to have dinner with Husband, chatting about our mutually crazy days at work and feeling like we really were getting the chance to unwind.

I’ve now eaten at a lot of restaurants with Husband, to the point where they often blend together. Part of my goal in eating a different thing whenever I go out is to try to “fix” it in my memory: I want to remember really valuable nights out. I remember eating a really amazing burger when visiting Husband in Baltimore, back before we were sure if our long-distance relationship would work. I remember drinking a slushie from a gas station right after we got engaged, when each of us would look at each other and giggle a little, not quite believing  we were getting married. I remember the plate of Indian food (let’s be real… there have been so many plates of Indian food) that I ate after our best date ever, a night at an astronomy observatory looking at stars.

If I can have a memorable meal or a meal that I have had a million times, I want to be the person who chooses a memorable one (I don’t always, though. I’m pretty likely to make a beeline for whatever has avocado on it, if I’m being realistic). These meals help me keep track of all the places we’ve been together, and all the people we’ve shared time with along the way.

Dinner Party 2 and Daydreaming of Spain


It doesn’t come up as often now, but when I first moved back to the United States after living in Spain, I think I annoyed the people around me with how much I talked about it. Just like that friend you have who lived in Colorado or the Finger Lakes or some other ridiculously spectacular place, I felt myself saying “oh that reminds me of…” all the time and connecting back to a place that, for all the memories, was now very far away.

Lately, I’ve been daydreaming specifically about the flavors of spain: the combination, for instance, of crusty bread toasted and layered with olive oil, crushed tomatoes, and just the lightest sprinkling of salt. I’ve been daydreaming of the overwhelming freshness and cheapness of veggies and fruits, of sangria made from overnight-soaking sliced fruits in red wine, of slices of spanish omelette with firm egg on the outside and a gooey wad of potato and oil in the center, nearly liquid. When I look at my fridge in the United States, so many of these flavors are still possible, still right there: I eat eggs and potatoes in so many forms here. However, there is something about the combinations, about eating them under a beating mediterranean sun by a plaza in Cadiz, or of leaning back in the metal-framed chairs that most terrace restaurants had, and just oozing into my meal. I don’t think I’ve been relaxed since I’ve moved back, not really, and it has been years.

So the second dinner party (coming up soon!) carries a tapas theme – I will tell my invitees to bring any food that would be reasonably easy to cut down to tiny portions, but it was my chance to try some of my favorite flavor combinations again, to make a true Spanish tapas feast. It looks like turn-out will be low (I am friends with lots of teachers, and they travel elsewhere on spring break), but so many of the best times in Spain were with only a few others, sharing many foods that came in portions. This style of eating, dubbed “para picar” in Spanish, or “to nibble,” instead of ordering an individual meal for each person you order many different things and everyone tries a bit of each. It is pretty much the definition of a potluck, even if it is more common as a snack-type meal in Spain, and I’m pretty excited to see what tapas-like foods my friends bring.

I will be making (unless my ambition outpaces my ability/time), tomato toasts and spanish omelette, as well as a simple chicken and veggie paella (not traditional; more like a paella-flavoring chicken and rice dish); I’m also going to attempt a fried eggplant with honey and goat cheese that was hands-down my favorite tapa in Madrid, but I have never tried it before. When I write about these recipes, they will be connected to people I shared them with (S, and L, and A, and E are sure to make appearances) not with the people who gave me the recipes, but in my effort to look further and farther with this project, I think this will still be in the spirit of how food and cooking connect people.