You Are What You Eat

This week’s column is a longer rendition of my last post (with some changes)–so if you read it–skip on to half way through–

I am feeling a bit uneasy and cannibalistic discussing this but did you know that how you eat gingerbread boy tells a lot about you? There are so many ways we can self-analyze ourselves, but I found this one particularly entertaining and seasonally on target. How often do we get to analyze our holiday selves?

Apparently if you eat the head of your gingerbread boy first, says Dr. Alan Hirsch, you are a natural born leader. I always eat the head first. For some reason it just makes sense to me. As for the natural born leader stuff, well, maybe—because I am not a very good follower. Just ask any man with whom I have ever slow danced.

Dr. Hirsch is the neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. One would think he had better things to do than analyze how we eat our gingerbread—but apparently not. Personally I think he may have just made up this seasonal anecdote, but I am a bit sceptical by nature (except of course when it comes to Santa Claus whom I wholeheartedly believe in, but that is another column). If his analysis is true, then I wish that I ate the left arm of my gingerbread boy/girl first because that would mean that I am creative. So I may just start rethinking the way I eat my gingerbread.

I am going to stay away from the right arm altogether. Eating it first according to the good doctor means you are pessimistic. I do not need any more pessimism in my life, so if you see a trail of gingerbread right arms anywhere, you will know I have been there, and rejected the right arms for fear that their pessimism will rub off on me. Eating the legs is a whole different ball game though. If you prefer to start at the extremities, it means you are sensitive. I do not start with the legs, but my husband often says I have “delicate sensibilities” which translated means of course that I am a pain in the neck, so it is somewhat surprising that I do not eat the legs first given my propensities.

The article from which I gleaned these fascinating facts was written by an unknown editor in the December Food Network magazine. It was accompanied by a picture of a gingerbread boy with his mouth likened to the famous “Scream” painting, and there was a bite out of his head. A little unsettling to say the least—maybe I will forego eating any gingerbread boys this season.

Now, I am sure we could extend this type of self-analyzation a bit further. What does it mean if you love Christmas fruitcake? If you listen to all the negative chatter about the luscious cakes you might be tempted to buy into the negativity about them. But not me. I love fruitcake and though I am not sure what that may mean, I think that it can only be good. Perhaps I am a non-conformist. Perhaps I am nostalgic—because my mom always made fruitcake at Christmas. Or, and this could quite possibly the case—I am a bit of a fruitcake myself.

I have many favourite Christmas foods that could be dissected successfully for personality traits. Take turkey stuffing: ostensibly (yes, I used the thesaurus to find this word—having used apparently already a couple of times) you are a risk-taker if you stuff your turkey as (some) experts advise you to cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole to avoid any chance of food poisoning. A culinary note for you: once stuffing is cooked outside the turkey, it is no longer stuffing, but dressing—this is an important distinction among foodies.

My favourite holiday cookie is one that even I dare to make—it is so good that the trouble of actually making it from scratch is worth it. It is the raspberry thumbprint cookie. It too can be analyzed—and I am afraid that the jury would name me as a glutton as I have been known to shove the whole cookie in my mouth at once (I tend to make them on the smaller size so this can be done without danger of choking). Slovenly though my method may be, it is gastronomical nirvana.

I am not sure that how I eat my food really is a window into my soul, but I do know that I enjoy all the Christmas delights the holiday has to offer, and whether that makes me a leader or slovenly is up for debate.

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 10:29 am  Comments (18)  
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T ~ is for Turkey Day

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a tur...

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a turkey and football player. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turkey Day is a term coined by my youngest son, Tyler, referring of course to Thanksgiving Day—but it really does synthesize what the day means to him. He has used this term for about twelve years now, first utilizing it one Thanksgiving weekend when he was about nine. We decided to go apple picking on this now infamous Thanksgiving Day twelve years ago for a “fun family outing”.  (For those of you who are not Canadian, and from the looks of my stats—that is many of you, Thanksgiving is the second Monday of October in our country.)

For some reason, many Canadians have their Thanksgiving meal on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which leaves us time to do other things on Thanksgiving Day besides eat leftovers (which in my books is one of the most wonderful meals there is ~ I think I like noshing on Thanksgiving leftovers as much as the original meal.)

So, on this day in the year 2000, we decided to go apple picking, and while we were there we picked up a few pumpkins from the orange grove (just seeing if you are paying attention—of course it was a pumpkin patch, and no we did not see Linus there looking for the Great Pumpkin—it was too early).

Since it was late in the apple season, our wagon ride to the apple trees that still had apples was rather lengthy—and Tyler, in great spirits that day, kept wishing everyone a Happy Turkey Day. This garnered all kinds of interest, which he just ate up. He was a pixyish looking little guy, so he got a lot of waves and smiles with his exuberance.

To this day, he loves turkey—and Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without turkey at our house. Before he grew to realize his love for the big bird, I would serve other meals I was just as thankful for (like prime rib or lamb or ham) and were much easier to contend with. Since he has made this realization, we serve turkey every Thanksgiving.

After lo these many years of thawing turkeys, stuffing turkeys, and complaining about thawing and stuffing turkeys, I have come upon a foolproof  Thanksgiving meal. I get one of those turkeys that come already stuffed and that you can take out of the freezer and stick into your oven with just some minor preparations.  I stumbled upon this solution at the advice of a friend who I think may have been tired of me complaining about the thawing and stuffing of the bird that stars in a proper Thanksgiving meal. And to that end the search for the perfect turkey commences today.

The search  entails buying one of these guys on sale. They are an arm and a leg if not on sale. As we speak, they are purported to be on sale at my local grocery store—so as soon as I get this post done, I shall be hightailing it out of here to get one that is affordable. Last time they were on sale (a couple of weeks ago) they had all been scooped up and only the regular turkeys were there biding their time in the frozen food bins.

I know that some people are suspicious of these already stuffed birds, but I cook mine until there is no mistaking that it is done—and truly the stuffing is delicious and there is a generous amount. And I do not have to thaw the dumb thing. In the past, I have taken turkeys out of my freezer and crowded my fridge for a full seven days and still the thing wasn’t completely thawed out.

Turkey Day is only a couple of weeks away, but I will not be satisfied until I have one nestled in my freezer among the corn and peas, and ready to be taken out just before I have to throw him in the oven (or place him ever so gently, let’s not get violent here.)

O happy day—this is me doing the Snoopy dance—Turkey Day is going to be easy peasy this year and every year hereafter.

Thanksgiving at the Trolls

Tradition: A good thing for Thanksgiving

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Who needs tradition? We need institutions, habits, customs, and rituals to mark our important occasions. And we need the tradition of Thanksgiving to mark and celebrate our harvest and give thanks. But more than that—we need some things to remain the same. Year after year. Year in and year out. I do not need to “change up” Thanksgiving. Admit it, how many times do you have turkey and stuffing and all the fixings during the year? Why would we want to “change up” Thanksgiving if we hardly ever celebrate and eat and give thanks for the things that compose this fine holiday?

For years I have fought against tradition—mainly because I found the turkey a difficult thing to wrangle. But last year, after  telling my tale of woe to a friend of mine in an email, she wrote back and told me what to do.  Her knowledge and wisdom have changed my life forever. It is a small thing—but one that makes my family’s wish for turkey dinners a dream come true. “Why don’t you,” she wrote, “do what I do and buy one of those turkeys that are already stuffed and frozen? They do not need to be defrosted—you just take them out of the freezer and put them in the oven.” Now, preparing the turkey is not quite as simple as she said. You still have to take the plastic wrapping off, and remove the plastic bag of innards (which is placed in a conspicuous spot for easy removal). I do plaster my turkey generously in butter—but that is it! Okay, I  peer at it from time to time and baste it, just to do my part—but I don’t think it even needs that.

The best part? The stuffing is good. The turkey comes out brown and crispy and tasty, and I do not have a major meltdown. I also have one of those meat thermometers now that helps me judge when meat is done by the temperature gauge so I do not kill my family. I do have a suggestion for the meat thermometer people though. They need to invent a thermometer for paranoid cooks that indicates clearly that “this is the temperature you need to reach in order not to poison your family.” I would find that immensely comforting, but until then I will cook everything to a temperature of 360 degrees (yes, I am kidding, even I know I would be serving a big lump of coal at this temp).

What got me thinking about tradition was an article in the Saturday National Post. On the front page of the Food, Book, and Entertainment Section was a story called “Your Complete Visual Shopping List for Thanksgiving.” The food writer suggested that you take the page to the  grocery store, buy the food shown and use Bonnie Stern’s “delicious updates of next weekend’s classic dishes”.

I then turned to page WP13 of the Toronto newspaper as instructed and lo and behold, Bonnie Stern provided a menu and recipes for a Nordic Thanksgiving! In her little blurb before she got into the actual recipe accounting, Ms. Stern admitted to just returning from recent travels in Scandinavia where she was inspired to (and these are my words) ruin Canadian Thanksgiving by suggesting that we have roast celeriac with herb crumbs, rye berry salad, roast turkey breast with dill and lemon and marzipan kuchen with peaches and plums! Has the woman no shame? These recipes on their own for other occasions are probably wonderful, but I say uncategorically and with great righteousness—do not sully the traditional turkey and stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole, cranberries and pickle platter, coleslaw and Jell-O salads, and pumpkin pie with the requisite whipped cream!

Ms. Stern says that Denmark and Sweden do not have big Thanksgiving celebrations—so why then is she taking a page out of their book? I say, stick with the tried and true (now that I have become an aficionado of the tried and true) and forget “changing up Thanksgiving”. No lamb or ham or prime rib or roast pork or turkey breast with dill and lemon for me. Let tradition live on with those staples of turkey and stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm  Comments (9)  
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