Forget about the hormone injected turkey and the Stovetop stuffing. I don’t need the boxed mashed potatoes, canned green bean casserole with fried onion rings, or the gooey sweet potatoes topped with multi-colored marshmallows. And please do not serve another jell-o salad with canned diced pineapple and cottage cheese. I don’t like it and I don’t want to eat it again. This is the same menu my family has been making every year for Thanksgiving since I was a child and even before. And I’m sure I’m not the only one in America who had to eat the exact same menu every forth Thursday in November. It’s not that I don’t like these things when they’re made from scratch, but when the definition of scratch means opening up cans of one thing and dumping it into a casserole dish with a packet of this and another can of that–I find it just plain wrong. The food the pilgrims ate did not come from cans, packets, and boxes, so why do Americans believe that by eating this processed food we are honoring the American settlers?
I’m sure I have already offended over half of my family for my blatant dislike for this so-called food. And if the choice is to eat processed food just to visit with family or not go home for Thanksgiving, I would choose to visit with family and eat what is available without a word of disrespect, but why does there have to be a choice? Why not choose to prepare items from their most natural state possible first before grabbing the can opener, or the box? Is it really that much harder to peel some potatoes, put them in a pot of boiling water until tender, drain them and then mash all together with butter, milk, salt & pepper?
I know that we are all busy this year and times are tough all around. We want to save time to be with our family, but also save some money. This Thanksgiving, I propose instead of going for the conveyance of the box, we learn to think outside of it. Only shop the perimeter of the grocery store, leaving the middle lanes alone, and if possible just the vegetable section. Selecting an organic Turkey and making the stuffing using bread from a bakery makes for a fine first step. Try sautéing some Brussels sprouts in brown butter and serving both sweet potatoes and russet potatoes mashed separately. No need to add tons of brown sugar and a bag of mini marshmallow to make the sweet tubers edible. And, let’s forget about the jell-o salad altogether. Why not a nice radicchio and apple salad with a warm apple cider vinaigrette, topped with bleu cheese and candied walnuts? To me that just sounds closer to what our ancestors ate, and probably was (minus the bleu cheese).
What ever your Thanksgiving menu will be there’s one thing that even I agree should come out of a can. No, it’s not cranberries. Anyone who buys the canned cranberries and prefers them to fresh needs to have their head examined. It takes a whole five minutes to throw a bag of fresh cranberries into a pan with a little sugar, or honey, some cinnamon, a little citrus peel and some water. Crank up the heat until it bubbles, cook for 5 minutes and then let cool. That’s it. I’m a fan of canned pumpkin. I’m all for picking up a sugar pumpkin and roasting it, but if you’ve already made everything else from scratch, give yourself a break. The crust, however, should not come from the freezer section of a supermarket. If you haven’t made a crust before now is the best time to learn. Martha Stewart has videos and recipes galore for any training you may need. During the holidays your family members are going to appreciate the effort even more, so give it a try. Not only will you be amazed by how wonderful everything tastes, you’ll also appreciate that the food you’re eating is healthier for you, and that should give you another reason to be thankful.