Photo by Regina Charboneau
Thanksgiving to Americans is what a smorgasbord is to the Scandinavians: a buffet filled with an array of dishes. I think what makes everyone love Thanksgiving meal is the variety of choices we have to put on our plate. When I plan a holiday meal, I think of each category--main dishes of poultry and meat, starches, vegetables, salads, chutneys, gravies and sauces, breads, and desserts. Like everyone in America I start with turkey, and I add brisket for a variety. I don't do a fish because if someone is a non-meat eater there are so many vegetarian choices that there plate is easily filled.
There are never just mashed potatoes but always a cornbread dressing and I often prepare my wild mushroom brioche dressing. It is one of the few days in the South that everyone can look beyond green beans and prepare creamed spinach, yams, squash, asparagus, and many other side dishes. Salads are always more thought-out than usual and are needed to lighten the meal. It is the time of year for chutneys, brandied cranberries, and the rich gravy that comes with the roasting of the poultry or meat. There is never just one dessert--typically two or three. There has to be a pumpkin or sweet potato pie (never both) and pecan pie, a Southern staple. I always have to make something chocolate to balance the menu. There is something about pie and Thanksgiving that seems to be one and the same.