A Thanksgiving miracle, I now love scalloped potatoes
Monday, November 26, 2012 8:39 AM
By the time you read this, the turkey will have been carved, sliced, diced, shredded, torn apart, ripped and devoured with about as much decorum as hyenas fighting over a carcass.
And that's as it should be. Making sure your turkey meter is on "full" after the annual Thanksgiving feast is an American tradition. It's the one day of the year when overindulgence at the dinner table is not only accepted, it's expected. To do otherwise - to consume the bountiful fare in moderation - borders on insulting. And nobody wants his wife, mother-in-law or granny mad at him. There's no quicker way to spoil a holiday.
I've always looked forward to Thanksgiving and the ensuing feast. Yes, I also appreciate gathering with family and friends to celebrate the season and express sincere gratitude for the countless blessings bestowed upon us, but let's be honest, it's the meal that everyone looks forward to.
One of the more interesting aspects of Thanksgiving I've observed over the years is how we eventually learn to like the foods that originally made us gag. And don't pretend it hasn't happened to you ... because you know it has. Call it age, call it the maturing of the taste buds or call it whatever you want, but the evolution of our dining desires is a truism that inevitably occurs.
As a boy, the only thing I wanted from the cornucopia of Thanksgiving offerings was turkey (preferably dark meat), mashed potatoes and gravy. Everything else was pretty much pushed aside. Normally, I'd grab the biggest drumstick, pile the mashed potatoes four inches high and then drown them in gravy ... lots of gravy. Smother me in gravy. To this very day I have a tendency to treat gravy as a beverage. I know it's wrong, but a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do.
As time and Thanksgivings passed, I suddenly found myself enjoying many of the other offerings. Not all at once mind you, but slowly, over the decades, I discovered the joys of other fare.
The famous green-bean casserole that seems to be a turkey-day requirement, used to make me cringe at the mere sight of it, but not any more. In fact, if it's made with French-style beans, I can pretty much put away my own body weight of the stuff. Of course it has to have onion rings sprinkled on top. Duh.
Cranberries were never my thing until just a few years ago when I forced myself to take a bite and discovered true bliss. Yummo. Same deal with stuffing -- moist stuffing that is.
Mixed vegetables cooked in a creamy cheese sauce were quickly passed on to the diner sitting next to me, but not any more. Even the cauliflower and broccoli taste delicious when swimming in a pool of melted cheese.
And, since I'm baring my soul here, the thought of eating a piece of pumpkin pie made me want to hurl. No way - I'd take cherry, apple, peach or blueberry but pumpkin? Forget about it. But that changed dramatically in the mid-1970s when I reached full maturity (no comments please). Now I'm a two-piece pumpkin pie guy ... with the obligatory homemade whipped cream on top.
However, the most noteworthy metamorphosis in my preferred Thanksgiving meal choices came about some 20-25 years ago when I finally summoned the nerve to sample my mom's famous scalloped oysters. While the vast majority politely declined or put a dollop on their plate the size of a quarter, I actually began to crave the evil-looking stuff. Big time.
Thanksgiving was the only time all year my beloved mom would make the dish - primarily because my father loved it - and now that she lives over 1,000 miles away in Georgia it won't be part of our 2012 feast. More's the pity. I miss those damn oysters desperately. What I wouldn't give for a pound of them right now. Priceless indeed.
Before I sign off by wishing everyone had a safe and tranquil Thanksgiving, I have to confess there is one item I've never gotten used to and doubt I ever will: sweet potatoes. I don't care if they're covered with brown sugar, melted marshmallows or pecans, sweet potatoes and I remain bitter enemies.
So when I pass the orange spuds along, don't think ill of me. On second thought, just to be nice to the person who made them, perhaps I'll help myself to a small spoonful. About the size of a quarter.