If it wasn’t for carbohydrates, I would be dead. I looove carbs. This is what’s great about any holiday involving food. I’m not all into the “meal” part where you have to eat something proper. A “meal” is the necessary evil on the way to a dessert. This was true even as a child (so I blame it on my genes). I hated Thanksgiving. My mom’s side of the family was from North Carolina–farmers who grew their own food, canned it, and stored it in the cellar. So it’s no wonder as a child I despised vegetables–everything from collard greens to carrots had been cooked beyond recognition into a bland mess more suited for folks with dentures. The only thing that was good about the “meal” part was the macaroni and cheese and rolls (the carbs, see?).
At the end of that awful meal was my great-grandmom’s apple pie. And cherry pie. And ice cream made in one of those old fashioned (though, to her, state-of-the-art I’m sure) ice cream doohickeys where you add salt and churn by hand. I lived for this.
I never was much of a cook (still not for the meal part) until I moved to Africa for the Peace Corps. In Kenya I had no choice. My host family taught me how to cook on a jiko (a charcoal or paraffin stove).
What was local to my village (and most villages) was potatoes, cabbage, onion, tomato, and sukuma wiki (like collard greens). This combination gets old fast but you eventually get used to it. Then I discovered a nearby town had green peppers. It took half a day to get there and back but so what? I needed variety. Then, out of desperation, I started to bake on a jiko by converting some large pots, a lid, and an upside-down metal plate to serve as the rack. I made banana bread like nobody’s business (probably why I won’t touch it now). Then it expanded to pizza, calzones, brownies, foccacia, and eventually bagels.Yes, homemade bagels in the African bush. When you finish reading all of the English-language books in town you will be driven to something as crazy as making your own bagels.
So I can thank the Peace Corps for many things: my love of vegetables, baking, and my ability to pour safe drinking water into containers with very small openings (and not losing a drop).
For this Thanksgiving I am going to the in-laws. There will be the veggies cooked to near mush, and some kind of macaroni since I am the vegetarian in the family. I am bringing the dessert: Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cupcakes. Here they are, waiting to cool down for the frosting.
What are you cooking for Thanksgiving? Or are you giving thanks that you don’t have to?