An appreciation of the worst Thanksgiving of my life

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copyright the Chronicle November 23, 2016

by Elizabeth Trail

 

The worst Thanksgiving of my life was probably the year when, as a young wife, it was my turn to put on the holiday meal for my husband’s family.

My own family was 3,000 miles away in California.

The other day on the radio, a commentator talking about regional holiday menus said, more or less, “Well, let’s just not talk about California.”

The implication was that California Thanksgivings are all about exotic side dishes and getting the right wine.

Maybe there was a little bit of that, especially after my grandparents were gone. We’re a food curious lot. But whatever was on the table, the holiday was definitely about good food, family, and conversation.

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Holiday food

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Haitian Independence Day soup.  Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Haitian Independence Day soup. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle January 6, 2016

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

Eating is a huge part of the holidays. People get together to be merry around a heavily laden table.

And every year, people stuff their faces before adopting New Year’s resolutions to shed pounds.

The holidays are about traditions, too, and there are many. In my family, turkey is reserved for Thanksgiving, so we have lamb or ham at our Christmas meal.

For me, Christmas is also about lack of sleep, and running on adrenaline. I do as much cooking as I can on Christmas Eve, then drive to my cousin’s house, where my Haitian family meets to start the holiday season by celebrating my little cousin’s birthday.

I leave early to sing at church for midnight Mass, then race home to finish cooking… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather

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WEB Ruminatioins fruitcake

Three kinds of fruitcake were once the centerpiece of our holiday dessert table. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle December 22, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

There is a persistent rumor that there’s only one fruitcake in the world. It just keeps getting rewrapped and passed along.

Generally speaking, people either love fruitcake or they hate it. And after a lifetime of trying to talk people around on the subject of fruitcake, my research suggests that there are more people in the hate it than love it camp.

Blame it on the Claxtons. They’ve been making fruitcake since 1910. Selling Claxton fruitcakes used to be a popular fund-raiser for bands and churches around Christmas time, and they’re still available at Walmart and other outlets.

A Claxton fruitcake is the size and consistency of a doorstop, and devoid of flavor.

I suspect that people buy Claxton… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Entertaining the baby with gnocchi

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This set up is the baby’s eye view of making gnocchi as seen from a front carrier.  Photos by Natalie Hormilla

This set up is the baby’s eye view of making gnocchi as seen from a front carrier. Photos by Natalie Hormilla

copyright the Chronicle November 25, 2015

by Natalie Hormilla

When I became pregnant with my second child, an ugly fear lurked along the margins of my mind: How could I possibly love another child as much as the daughter I already had? Was it possible? Did all mothers secretly prefer one of their children? Grimly fantasize about what to do if forced to choose one child just before fleeing a burning building?

No. That plain absence of comprehension is now, of course, replaced with the deep knowing that you love each of your kids differently and yet the same. I had heard that thought from other mothers in the past, and its clichéd ring made it hard for me to accept as a complete answer. The satisfaction I now derive… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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What to do with all those plums?

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WEB Ruminations plums cmykcopyright the Chronicle August 19, 2015

by Tena Starr  

This is the time of year when we have what we call “summer food” dinners. Mainly those dinners are about the vegetables. It’s a time of year when it’s a pleasure to cook.

People often talk about having to sneak vegetables into their children’s food. With two children and three grandchildren who have rarely refused a vegetable, who snack on vegetables, it seems to me that kids do not have an inherent dislike of them — they somehow learn it.

Maybe they were fed too many canned green beans, maybe they think of vegetables as overcooked mush instead of crisp and crunchy. Maybe they developed a taste, along the way, for…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Ruminations: On the historic rise of the birthday cake

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Photo by Lara Starr

Photo by Lara Starr

copyright the Chronicle March 4, 2015

by Tena Starr

My family isn’t overly fond of cake, which got me to wondering about the history of the ritual. How is it that cake and candles are such an entrenched tradition that people who don’t even really like cake still have it at a birthday celebration?

(To be honest here, Chris at Parker Pie made this year’s birthday cake, and most of us confessed that we did, indeed, like it. So maybe it’s just the cakes we make ourselves that we’re not so fond of.)

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Ruminations on apples: the good, the bad, the useless

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The cover of Apples of Uncommon Character.

The cover of Apples of Uncommon Character.

copyright the Chronicle October 8, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics & Little-Known Wonders, by Rowan Jacobsen. Published by Bloomsbury, New York City, 2014. 311 pages. Hardbound. $35.

At this time of year, even a short walk along any back road will reveal the remains of a long-passed way of life. At intervals, forlorn apple trees, still bearing after years of neglect, will offer their meager , or occasionally abundant, fall harvest.

With the advent of grocery stores and the availability of any fruit or vegetable we might desire regardless of the season, we have moved away from the world where apple trees were a necessary luxury.

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Ruminations: on dumpster diving, or clearing out the garden

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WEB rumination curious harvestcopyright the Chronicle September 10, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything, by Maximus Thaler and Dayna Safferstein; published by Quarry Books, Beverly, Massachusetts, 2014; 160 pages, softbound, $24.99.

There is hardly any point in searching for a topic for this column. Like a cow grazing in the field, the writer is best off using what he finds before him.

In this case it is A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything. Elka Schumann handed a copy of the book to me a week or so ago while we stood talking in the kitchen at the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover.

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Ruminations: On seasonal cooking in northern Vermont

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web ruminations cookbookcopyright the Chronicle August 6, 2014

by Tena Starr

Marcie Kaufman is a professionally trained chef who lives in Jay. She graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier in 1992, but began her career earlier, in 1987, as an apprentice boulanger and patissier.

To translate broadly, that means she is a very good baker and pastry maker.

Ms. Kaufman has now written a cookbook called Seasonal Appetite, a Chef’s Celebration of Vermont’s Seasons. She says the solitude of her own kitchen has replaced the restaurant’s “animated discourse.”

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