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A week of giving thanks

November 24, 2009
Well, it’s Tuesday and I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving since Friday afternoon. Our annual Thanksgiving meal at work is something that we all look forward to. Held the Friday before Thanksgiving, at an organization essentially devoted to food, we take this holiday seriously. The turkey roasts all afternoon. We have cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed and roasted potatoes, Molly Wizenberg’s bread pudding (my new favorite recipe), roasted roots, mac and cheese, two kinds of pie. It was lovely. 

The next morning, I flew to Newark where Hubby and his father picked me up and we drove to Vineland, NJ, home of Hubby’s family on both sides. Along the way, we drove through the pine barrens, a beautiful, stark landscape that I would have loved to spend time in. Signs of a recent burn were all over, the streams flowing through were dark brown with tannins; this landscape is so dissimilar to my northern hardwood home.  It was hard to pass through so quickly.


We stopped for lunch at the Columbus Farmers Market, a beast of a market that sprawls out over what feels like acres of parking lot. The vegetables there were beautiful, especially the pears, and we took our time taking photos and searching out the best looking escarole for that night’s escarole soup.

And then 36 hours of making food, eating food, talking about food. We stayed in the home of Hubby’s maternal grandmother, the house she’s lived in since 1947. And I watched the house full of people gathered for an early Thanksgiving, revolving around Grandmom in her chair. This woman who was so accustomed to taking care of people, now cared for by everyone else as she nears the end of her life. And how she chafes at this care- just as my Grandmother did when she could no longer care for herself. 
The meal was held at Hubby’s Aunt and Uncle’s house- and I realized I’d never spent Thanksgiving with his family before.  We’ve been together nearly a decade, and we’ve always spent this holiday with friends, avoiding the chaos of holiday travel. So it was a process of learning a new set of family traditions and catching up with a side of the family we don’t see often.
When the actual holiday finally arrives, Hubby and I will not be eating a third turkey. We’ll maybe roast a chicken or make tamales, maybe eat that bread pudding recipe again. But a third meal with mashed potatoes and gravy and all the other stuff, well, I don’t think so. Though I did just see a recipe for gluten free pie crust that actually looks like real pie crust, so we’ll see. Perhaps we’ll have some pie.

(My Adaptation of) Grandmom’s Escarole Soup
As usual with my recipes, all measurements are estimates. I really do this by look and feel. If it seems like you’ll need more or less chicken stock, be my guest. If you’d rather season your meatballs some other way, not a problem. I can’t remember whether I use two or three eggs, so use your judgment there. I know this is anathema to recipe writers, but honestly, it’s the way I cook. Let me know how it goes. 

1 med. onion, sliced thinly

2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1# ground pork
handful chopped parsley
8 c. chicken broth
1 lg. head escarole, washed and coarsely chopped
2-3 eggs
handful of grated Parmesan cheese

Saute sliced onion, carrots, garlic and a bit of salt in olive oil until soft. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. 

Using your hands, gently mix ground pork with salt, pepper, and parsley. (Sometimes, we add garlic powder, too.) Again, using your hands, pinch off small meatballs, about the size of the end of your thumb, until you’ve used up all the ground meat. Add these to the broth. Allow to simmer a bit until you feel like they’re almost done. Then add escarole. Simmer until the greens are wilted. 

Whisk together eggs and cheese and add to soup. Simmer for another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot and raise a toast to Grandmoms.  

Pear photograph is Hubby’s. All others are mine.

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