Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 4, 2015

No turbaconducken, piecaken or cherpumple for us!

Regardless of the holiday, food seems to play an important part. And for each special occasion, there are some requirements. Everything from birthdays - cake - to Valentine's Day - candy - brings to mind a certain food or at least a small selection of foods.

Our Thanksgiving meal is pretty typical in this regard and has not varied much over the past 24 years. Husband Art's favorites are turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans mixed with mushroom soup and cashews, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Since he makes the meal, those staples remain the same. Even when daughter Katie offered this year to make the green beans with French-fried onions instead of cashews, he said she shouldn't bother because he had that under control.

Variations come in the form of side dishes supplied by others. This year, Katie's boyfriend Matt brought a sweet potato casserole with a brown sugar and oatmeal topping. It was one of our desserts. We also had pumpkin, apple and mincemeat pies, but they went uncut as people were anxious to get home to avoid the freezing rain predicted to start by 4 p.m.

For many years, sister-in-law Linda's specialty was a Pink Fluffy Salad. But she didn't bring it this year, opting instead to contribute pumpkin muffins and a chocolate cake with chocolate pudding and whipped cream on top. The cake was an extra dessert to help celebrate my brother Dave's 68th birthday.

Daughter Mariya's girlfriend Miriam brought rice and salsa last year. For several years, Costa Rican friend Lorena brought flan, a typical Latin American custard.

When Art is making a meal, I also qualify as an "other." I often make bread, as I did this year. But one year, I tried a recipe with white potatoes and sweet potatoes. I cooked and mashed them separately and put the white potatoes onto a cookie sheet as the recipe called for. Then I "piped" sweet potatoes on top and baked the combination. The concoction tasted fine, but the appearance caused Art to dub it "Gloria's cow pie recipe." Considering his name for it and that same flavors could be made by mixing the separately-served white potatoes and sweet potatoes, it was a "one and done" experience.

Although Art is fine with people bringing side dishes, I know he wouldn't be tolerant of any experiments with his main course. So the latest craze - turbaconducken - would be out of the question. It's a deboned chicken inside a deboned duck inside a deboned turkey with bacon wrapped around the whole thing. It sounds to me like a "heart-attack-waiting-to-happen."

The jury is out on piecaken - a pie baked inside a cake - or cherpumple - cherry, pumpkin and apple pies baked into different layers. According to CNN, piecaken got a lot of publicity this year because Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan sampled a version of it on their television show. Art likes pies, so he'd probably try those if someone else made them, although he prefers a plain pumpkin, apple, rhubarb or blackberry pie.

It's not that Art is averse to experimenting with recipes. In fact, it is rare he follows any recipe for the things he cooks. Perhaps there's that thing called control that plays a part. Art is an engineer, after all, and he likes things to fit into certain patterns. Once the pattern is established, he doesn't want to mess with it.

But it may come down to something Katie has mentioned before. She is someone who likes tradition. Our Thanksgiving meal of old favorites brings a sense of continuity and comfort that makes it more than just a meal.

And Katie may particularly like what we have because she was the start of that tradition. She was born the Tuesday before Thanksgiving 23 years ago. So we knew we wouldn't be traveling to a relative's home as we had in previous years. Art's mom always made chicken for Thanksgiving, so turkey was not the traditional meal in his home. But Art has always been fond of surprises and so he decided I might like a traditional Thanksgiving meal as a surprise. I was to be released from the hospital with two-day-old Katie at about 10 a.m. Art popped the turkey in the oven just before he and Mariya headed over to the hospital to pick up what was then the other half of the family. It smelled so good when we came through the front door at about 11.

And his sticking to the traditional elements has seemed to work pretty well. Matt said he was impressed with Art's meal. Mariya and Katie both asked for portions to take home with them. Mom was happy to receive leftovers the following day. Dave said the meal was worth the hour-long trip he and Linda made from Salina to Manhattan on a cold, slushy day when the weather was threatening every minute.

So, even though no turbaconducken, piecaken or cherpumple graced our Thanksgiving table, the traditional foods of the holiday delivered a real abundance of comfort and enjoyment.

Upper-left: Art removing stuffing from the turkey; lower-left: Katie "photo-bombing" while Matt looks over Dave's shoulder as Art enjoys some wine; upper-center: Mom and her friend Stan aren't waiting; lower-center: Linda with a pumpkin muffin on her plate; right: the "kids" mugging for the camera - l-r: Miriam, Mariya, Larisa, and Katie with her hands on Matt's shoulders.

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Earlier columns from 2015 may be found at: 2015 Index.
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