I love the food holidays of autumn in the United States.
Halloween kicks it all off, a decadent storm of over sweetened, artificially flavored candy that is suddenly on every horizontal surface both at home and at the office as the end of October approaches, lasting well into November. (American attempts to adopt Oktoberfest continue to fail.) That is followed in late November by Thanksgiving, the complicated general-gratitude and/or pre-secular-state-prayer-gratitude and/or historical-genocide-denial-and-prayer holiday, followed a month later by Christmas, with no real break in decorative cookie competitions and parties in between.
These food-centric holidays haven't always been pleasant for me. I am a vegan-leaning, California-raised vegetarian, one who generally chooses healthy (but often still decadent) vegan foods and fresh, lightly cooked, lightly dressed dishes over other types of foods. However, most of these holidays are associated with "traditions," defined here as, "even if no one in the family actually likes turkey, a turkey must be ritually served." It took YEARS for my parents to finally admit to each other that they have always, their entire lives, disliked turkey, yet they felt OBLIGATED to have one. That's how traditions work! (And this is west coast progress: if they still lived back east, they still wouldn't have had the confessional conversation.)
There are plenty of autumn foods I love, and enjoy preparing - autumn fruit pies, potato soups, pumpkin curries, mushroom & spinach tarts on thin pastry crusts with thyme - but have had to attend past "traditional" feasts with my the families of my male companions, where only turkey, meat-stuffing, potatoes, turkey-gravy, green beans, and a wilted iceberg lettuce salad were served. Because: tradition.
*Yawn*. It's hard to pretend to like iceberg lettuce salad. It really is.
My parents eventually admitted to each other that turkey is gross, and we, as a family, moved on to lasagnas. Once I was permitted to play the host role myself (which, inexplicably, required me to buy a house), I went even further, and now have feasts with companions and family that I face with excitement rather than dread.
This year, I planned several menus for the holidays, which should provide variety over several events. For Thanksgiving, I prepared the garlic and celery soup, baked & layered spaghetti squash dish, the kale with sesame seeds, the cornbread stuffing, AND the pumpkin pie. I'm cooking again next weekend, and will choose other options.
This set of options is easier if you can add breads, which (for health reasons) I can't eat myself, but can provide for others. It's also easier if you like some of the vegan specialties that are sold in stores during the holidays, because then you can just show up with those at someone else's party, or increase the options at your own. At each meal, I'm aiming for one soup, two to three hot dishes, as many room-temperature dishes as fit on the table, one dessert, and the full range of beverages.
images and text Copyright © 2014 A. E. Graves, other images copyright of their respective authors
(posted November 29, 2014)
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