HISTORIC CABBAGE SOUP

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Don’t worry; the soup in this picture was made just a few hours ago.  It’s the recipe that’s historic. I was aiming for the cabbage soup my Russian mother used to serve when I was a little girl. Since she probably learned how to make it from her mother, that would put the recipe back to the last years of the nineteenth century. (Whether or not my grandmother acquired it from my great-grandmother, thereby making the recipe even older, is purely speculative.)

Oddly, my mother always called this historic soup “borscht” even though there were no beets in it. Whatever. It tasted very good. Competitive to the end, she managed with sly evasions never to give me the recipe. Which may have been just as well, because I recall that what she did was a complicated all-day affair involving a huge pot and “goluptsi”  (little birds) cooked in the soup.  And complicated all-day cooking is not for me, irrespective of the taste thrill at the end.  What are “goluptsi?” Big cabbage leaves wrapped around a seasoned combination of chopped meat and rice.  The soup would be the opener, the little birds the main course.

So the recipe I’m referring to here is not exactly my mother’s (or grandmother’s).  However, something that looked as if it would taste very much like their soup eventually showed up in “EAT!” —  a cookbook published by the Parents and Teachers Association of Public School 166 (Manhattan) in March 1975.  I was a P.S. 199 parent of two boys at that time and therefore felt obliged to buy “EAT!” (Especially as I had two recipes included in it myself.)

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The soup in “EAT!” was called “Reena Kondo’s Cabbage Soup.” The contributor of this recipe, known to us all as Miss Kondo, had been my younger son’s kindergarten teacher the year before.  She was of Polish-Jewish descent, and I am quite certain the soup recipe had come to America one or two generations prior to reaching her, probably also through the maternal line, thus escaping annihilation in the Warsaw ghetto.

Instead of goluptsi, Miss Kondo’s mother and/or grandmother had added a few pieces of cut up beef and carrots. I have omitted them. I have no recollection of cooked carrots in any maternal soups of my childhood, and my mother would never have wasted a good piece of beef by boiling it in soup.  However, stripped of these decadent refinements, the following reconstructed recipe will taste remarkably similar to what I was lapping up at the kitchen table in Washington Heights in the 1930’s. It makes at least three suppers-in-a-bowl for two adults as a main course. Easy-peasy too. And remember: cruciferous vegetables are very good for you.

[P.S.  If you can’t find sour salt anywhere, squeeze four or five lemons, salt the lemon juice heavily, and add the salted juice to the pot.]

RECONSTRUCTED CABBAGE SOUP RECIPE, CIRCA 1900

1 head of white cabbage

2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes

handful (or several handfuls) of white raisins

several pieces of sour salt (to taste)

Regulär table salt (to taste)

Honey and/or brown sugar (to taste)

2 apples, peeled and cut into eighths

Cut the cabbage into small pieces or shred it.  In sizeable pot, cover the shredded cabbage with cold water and add all the remaining ingredients except the apples, which should be put in towards the end.  Cooking time is about two hours, but after an hour or so begin tasting and adjusting the salt, lemon juice (if you’re using it) and sweetener till you achieve a sweet/sour taste you like.

I don’t know about Reena Kondo, but my mother always served it with a big blob of sour cream on top.  I use yogurt. (Goat’s milk yogurt, to be precise, but we’re peculiar. My mother didn’t know about goat’s milk yogurt.)

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At the table, mix with your soup spoon. Serve with black bread, French bread, no bread.

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If you were to make it tomorrow (Thursday), you’d be all set through Saturday.  Who wants to be in the kitchen too often, now that it’s (nearly) spring?

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BIG POT COOKING RULES AGAIN!

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[One year ago, on December 5, 2013, I made a big pot of minestrone and blogged all the whys and hows behind this warming, labor-saving concoction. Now that icy winds are biting again, the gorgeous red leaves of autumn have fallen from the trees, we’ve begun sitting around the (gas) fire of an evening, and I’m still as lazy as last year, if not more so — why not reblog it? Why not indeed?]

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IN PRAISE OF BIG POT COOKING

I’ve never really liked to cook, although I used to pretend when I was younger. I didn’t want to humiliate my children by being the only mother who hadn’t contributed anything to the PTA cookbook. There was also all that social life involving other couples coming over for dinner. Which — it goes without saying — the hostess (i.e., me) had to have made.

Now there are no more PTAs in my life, and we socialize with surviving other couples by going out to restaurants so they don’t have to have us over for dinner in return. But whenever I do find myself in the kitchen, I rely heavily on big pot cooking.That means everything goes into one big pot, and then comes out of the same pot all ready to be eaten.

There are numerous advantages to this simplification of culinary life.

1. If you do have company over, you can be in the living room with the company until it’s time to eat. Supper’s all ready and kept warm in the pot. No more perspiring over a hot stove while politely rejecting insincere offers of assistance; no more hearing tantalizing bits of conversation that drift in from the other room but you can’t quite make them out; no more feeling like the hired help.

2. If the meal is just for you and your beloved, what’s in the pot is definitely going to last until tomorrow and probably the next day, too. Think of it: no cooking for two more days! You might even get a fourth day out of it, but I advise freezing that last bit until you’ve both forgotten about it. Then when you finally discover it, defrost it and heat it up, it will taste just like new. Better than new! (“This is great! Why didn’t we eat it earlier?”)

3. Washing up is a cinch. For the first two or three days, cram the whole pot back in the fridge after supper, so you only have a plate, glass and fork or spoon to deal with. When you finally do have to wash the pot, remember it’s just one pot! Also remember what a mess you used to make when you tried to master the art of French cooking with Julia Child. And be grateful.

A recipe? What a coincidence you should ask! Here’s what’s bubbling away on my stove at this very moment as I type! I had to make it, so I could photograph it, so you could see it. And want it. And make it for yourself.

MAJOR MINESTRONE

(Adapted from Mark Bittman, “How to Cook Everything.” His is good. Mine is better. I’ll put money on it.)

First you will need:

A POT

A 5 TO 8 QUART POT

and

A SOUP LADLE

A SOUP LADLE

You will also need:

  • A chopping block, sharp knife and can opener
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large chopped yellow onion
  • as much chopped garlic as you like (I like a lot)
  • 6 or more cups of your choice of chopped vegetables from the store, plus whatever is in the house. I use some, but not all, of the following: peeled potatoes (not yams!), carrots, zucchini, yellow summer squash, string beans, pea pods, red pepper, sometimes celery, sometimes grape or cherry tomatoes, sometimes cauliflower or broccoli florets, sometimes turnip, sometimes parsnip
  • frozen peas, at least a cup
  • handful of chopped parsley, kale, baby spinach, swiss chard, or even baby lettuce
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth, no-chicken broth, chicken broth — or a combination of any of the above plus enough water to get to the minimum 8 cups. (As you cook, you will probably want to add more fluid, so keep extra broth, tomato juice or vegetable juice on hand.)
  • 1 15-ounce can of well rinsed no-salt beans (pinto, white, black, or great Northern), but not garbanzos or kidney beans unless you really love them
  • 1 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • handful of brown rice if you have any (it’s optional)
  • handful of any kind of pasta, preferably gluten-free (If spaghetti, linguine, or fettucine, break into pieces)
  • shaved or grated Parmesan or combination of Italian cheeses

As you can see, this soup recipe is extremely fluid — no pun intended. In other words, you can put in just about anything but the kitchen sink or the Vitamix:

Everything but kitchen sink and Vitamix

EVERYTHING BUT KITCHEN SINK AND VITAMIX.

The only real work is cutting up the vegetables.

Veggies cut up and ready to go...

VEGGIES CUT UP AND READY TO GO.

Now we’re all set:

  • Heat olive oil in pot till it starts to smoke
  • Turn down heat and add chopped onion and garlic
  • Saute till onion is soft, then add all the rest of the chopped veggies
  • Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.
  • Add salt and pepper, the rinsed beans, the canned tomatoes and about 6 cups of the broth and/or water
  • Throw in rice (if you’re using it), pasta, and the chopped greens.

It should look like this:

Nothing more to do but wait...

NOTHING MORE TO DO BUT WAIT…

Partially cover, let cook on low heat for about two hours, adding more liquid as needed. If you use up all your broth/water, even adding plain water is okay.

Does it now look like this?

Does yours look like this?

ALMOST DONE!

Time to:

  • Set the table
  • Adjust the seasonings
  • Ladle into soup plates
  • Dribble olive oil over the surface of each plate
  • Add generous helping of shaved cheese
  • Eat!
BON APPETIT!

BON APPETIT!

P.S. Vegan if you omit the chicken broth and cheese. I don’t.

P.P.S. Fresh fruit and a square of 70% chocolate for dessert. On a napkin!

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Afterwards: One spoon, one plate, one glass in the sink. [Per person. ]

Told you so.

EATS FROM THE MAD MEN ERA

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[This one’s for you, Liz.]

An acquaintance who’s a fly on the wall of this blog  — she’s posted only one comment since she began following it and has no gravatar — recently let it be known over lunch that what she likes best are the pieces about literature and food.

The literature I understand. She teaches literature courses.   I met her in a writing group.  She writes.  She’s invited to read aloud what she writes in public places where people buy drinks in order to listen.

But food pieces?  In my blog? There have been just three in the nearly eighty posts I’ve done so far.  One —  about big pot minestrone — was because I really do often make minestrone in a big pot when it’s cold out, since it’s good, good for you, and lasts at least three days.  The second food piece came about because, as a promise to Bill, I was making something for the first time and thought, “Why not two birds with one stone?”  That one,  Brisket for Thanksgiving, I can’t even take credit for.  The recipe came from The Jewish Festival Cookbook. However, it did turn out to be quite tasty, if you’re as fond of onions and garlic as we are. The third was the upside-down roast chicken piece, which even I thought unmemorable when it came out of the oven onto our plates and then online. But I’d been stuck for something to write about, went to the kitchen to console myself, and found in the fridge both leftover roast chicken and a blog idea.

In short, a blogosphere cook I’m not.  So when I asked myself what I could do for my food-loving follower, I knew I needed help from a friend. In this case, the friend was old, and spotted with grease.

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Here’s the first page, just so you understand we’re talking about a very old friend indeed.

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In 1975, I was a P.S. 166 mother twice over.  [“P.S.” is the acronym for “Public School” in the New York City school system.] I had an eight-year old in Mrs. Koch’s third grade class and a six-year old in Miss Wishny’s first grade class. (Don’t ask who Tanya Kaufman was. If I ever knew, I’ve forgotten.)  It behooved me to contribute at least one recipe to this fund-raiser of a PTA cookbook.

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My kitchen repertoire wasn’t much to talk about even in those days.  To make my contribution  — and not shame my children by absence from this important Parent-Teacher effort — I had to look still deeper into the past, to that halcyon period between husbands one and two when I worked as an advertising copywriter in New York. (Although only once at an agency actually on Madison Avenue.) In that capacity I wrote snappy headlines and body copy for products to be advertised in glossy women’s magazines: clothing, shoes, lingerie, perfume, shampoo, furs.  [Never cars, refrigerators, butter, bread: back then you needed a Y chromosome to write about those things.]

One year I shared an office with a person even younger than myself.  Her name was Gina.  What I chiefly remembered about her by the time of the P.S. 166 cookbook, other than her quick-and-easy college girl’s recipe for spaghetti sauce, was that the summer we sat together in our two-desk office under our one giant ceiling fan, she wore a lightweight summer suit in dark blue without a blouse. That’s right:  just bra, panties and Gina underneath. No panty hose either; bare feet in high heels — a very European look in those days. It was probably a money thing; she had only the one suit to wear to work all summer because she was saving furiously to get herself to Europe, which she did the following year.  But it seemed sexy and daring at the time, even if she could never unbutton her jacket when the fan stopped working.

Although it was not until 1975 that Gina’s Spaghetti Sauce made its appearance in EAT! — Section VII, Dishes From Around the World —  the recipe for it was therefore really from the Mad Men era, dating back to the late 1950s or early 1960s.  I can’t guarantee that those folks from the television series ate this in between their cigarettes, triple martinis and double scotches. But it was exactly the kind of food all the rest of us were then chowing down:  heavy, caloric, not at all healthy, and delicious.  However, I can guarantee that Gina’s recipe did not come from Italy, despite the “From Around the World” come-on.  She was pure WASP on both sides at least four generations back, with a last name to go with her genealogy.  [Perhaps the casting aside of blouse, slip and stockings and the subsequent flight to Europe was an act of rebellion?]

You will need a couple of proactive atonement days of salad and broiled salmon before you do this thing. So you can dig into it without guilt when it’s done.  But it really is very easy.  You could make it with just one onion, three cans of tomato paste, and a pound of ground beef, plus water and seasonings.  But to gussy it up a bit, I’ve added garlic, parsley and wine.

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Ingredients:

1 lb. extra lean ground round.  (You could also use ground sirloin, or even buffalo, which is leaner.)

1 large onion, roughly chopped.

Lots of chopped garlic.

Three cans of tomato paste.

Chopped parsley, as much as you want.

At least 1 heaping tsp.each of dried basil, oregano, cumin.

Salt, pepper, pinch of dried fennel, pinch of sugar and red wine. (None of these are in the photo.) The wine and fennel are optional. The salt and pepper are not.

Instructions:

1.  Brown meat on one side in large frying pan (cast iron, if you have one), together with the chopped onion and chopped garlic.

2.  When one side is done, turn and crumble meat with wooden spoon. Continue until thoroughly cooked.

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3.  Empty the three cans of tomato paste on top of the meat, add an equal amount of water (three cans full) and mix. You could substitute red wine for half the water.

4.  Add some of the chopped parsley, all the seasonings, and salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Throw in a pinch of sugar.

6.  Stir thoroughly.

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6.  Adjust heat to a simmer and go away.

7.  Return to kitchen every twenty minutes or so to stir, so that meat doesn’t stick to the bottom of pan.  Add more water and/or wine as needed.

8.  After an hour, it should be thick and savory.  Stir in more chopped parsley.

9.  Turn off heat and leave in pan for at least two more hours.

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10.  Reheat (with addition of water or wine if necessary) before serving on spaghetti, linguine or fettucine. A generous sprinkling of grated or shaved parmigiano cheese on top is a good idea, unless you’re dairy intolerant.

Note: Some people have also used this sauce for lasagna.  That’s more work though.  And more fattening.

Second Note:  When after thirty-nine years I made it again yesterday so as to have some photos to show you, I used gluten-free pasta. That’s not part of the recipe (and wasn’t even around when Gina was wearing her suit), but does help assuage subsequent remorse.

Third Note:  In EAT!, I estimated this much sauce would serve two people “opulently,” three “adequately.”  Those two or three people would have had to eat like pigs.  This much sauce is more than sufficient to serve two people generously for two days, with enough left over for them to have a modest portion one more time on a third day. Alternatively, you could go on stretching it ad infinitum, as long as there’s wine left in the bottle.

Fourth Note:  If you double the recipe (using a bigger pot) because you’re going to serve it to guests, call it Sauce Bolognese, or Beef Ragout.  It’s the same thing, but sounds fancier.

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ENJOY!

IN PRAISE OF BIG POT COOKING

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I’ve never really liked to cook, although I used to pretend when I was younger. I didn’t want to humiliate my children by being the only mother who hadn’t contributed anything to the PTA cookbook. There was also all that social life involving other couples coming over for dinner. Which — it goes without saying — the hostess (i.e., me) had to have made.

Now there are no more PTAs in my life, and we socialize with surviving other couples by going out to restaurants so they don’t have to have us over for dinner in return. But whenever I do find myself in the kitchen, I rely heavily on big pot cooking.

That means everything goes into one big pot, and then comes out of the same pot all ready to be eaten.  There are numerous advantages to this simplification of  culinary life.

1.  If you do have company over, you can be in the living room with the company until it’s time to eat.  Supper’s all ready and kept warm in the pot.  No more perspiring over a hot stove while politely rejecting insincere offers of assistance; no more hearing tantalizing bits of conversation that drift in from the other room but you can’t quite make them out; no more feeling like the hired help.

2.  If the meal is just for you and your beloved, what’s in the pot is definitely going to last until tomorrow and probably the next day, too. Think of it: no cooking for two more days!  You might even get a fourth day out of it, but I advise freezing that last bit until you’ve both forgotten about it. Then when you finally discover it, defrost it and heat it up, it will taste just like new.  Better than new!  (“This is great! Why didn’t we eat it earlier?”)

3.  Washing up is a cinch.  For the first two or three days, cram the whole pot back in the fridge after supper, so you only have a plate, glass and fork or spoon to deal with. When you finally do have to wash the pot, remember it’s just one pot!  Also remember what a mess you used to make when you tried to master the art of French cooking with Julia Child. And be grateful.

4.  Unless you’re making pork stewed in the milk of its mother — as the French sometimes do, only they call it something else — what comes out of the big pot is likely to be healthy.  Okay, somewhat healthy. At least it won’t be deep fat-fried. (It needn’t violate any rules of kashruth either, if that’s a concern.)

A recipe?  What a coincidence you should ask!  Here’s what’s bubbling away on my stove at this very moment as I type! I had to make it, so I could photograph it, so you could see it.  And want it.  And make it for yourself.

 MAJOR MINESTRONE

(Adapted from Mark Bittman, “How to Cook Everything.”  His is good. Mine is better. I’ll put money on it.)

First you will need:

A POT
5 to 8 quart pot

Soup Ladle

You will also need:

  • A chopping block, sharp knife and can opener
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large chopped yellow onion
  • as much chopped garlic as you like (I like a lot)
  • 6 or more cups of your choice of chopped vegetables from the store, plus whatever is in the house. I use some, but not all, of the following: peeled potatoes (not yams!), carrots, zucchini, yellow summer squash, string beans, pea pods, red pepper, sometimes celery, sometimes grape or cherry tomatoes, sometimes cauliflower or broccoli florets, sometimes turnip, sometimes parsnip
  • frozen peas, at least a cup
  • handful of chopped parsley, kale, baby spinach, swiss chard, or even baby lettuce
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth, no-chicken broth, chicken broth — or a combination of any of the above plus enough water to get to the minimum 8 cups.  (As you cook, you will probably want to add more fluid, so keep extra broth, tomato juice or vegetable juice on hand.)
  • 1 15-ounce can of well rinsed no-salt beans (pinto, white, black, or great Northern), but not garbanzos or kidney beans unless you really love them
  • 1 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • handful of brown rice if you have any (it’s optional)
  • handful of any kind of pasta, preferably gluten-free  (If spaghetti, linguine, or fettucine, break into pieces)
  • shaved or grated Parmesan or combination of Italian cheeses

(As you can see, this soup recipe is extremely fluid — no pun intended.  In other words, you can put in just about anything but the kitchen sink or the Vitamix.)

Everything but kitchen sink and Vitamix

Everything but kitchen sink and Vitamix

The only real work is cutting up the vegetables.

Veggies cut up and ready to go...

Veggies cut up and ready …

Now we’re all set:

  • Heat olive oil in pot till it starts to smoke
  • Turn down heat and add chopped onion and garlic
  • Saute till onion is soft, then add all the rest of the chopped veggies
  • Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.  Add salt and pepper, the rinsed beans, the canned tomatoes and about 6 cups of the broth and/or water
  • Throw in rice (if you’re using it), pasta, and the chopped greens.

It should look like this:

Nothing more to do but wait...

Nothing more to do but wait…

Partially cover, let cook on low heat for about two hours, adding more liquid as needed.  If you use up all your broth/water, even adding plain water is okay.

Does it now look like this?

Does yours look like this?

Almost done!

Time to:

  • Set the table
  • Adjust the seasonings
  • Ladle into soup plates
  • Dribble olive oil over the surface of each plate
  • Add generous helping of shaved cheese
  • Eat!
BON APPETIT!

BON APPETIT!

P.S.  Vegan if you omit the chicken broth and cheese.   I don’t.

P.P.S. Fresh fruit and a square of 70% chocolate for dessert.  On a napkin!

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Afterwards:  One spoon, one plate, one glass in the sink.  [Per person. ]

Told you so.

TRY THIS WHEN YOU’RE TIRED OF TURKEY!

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Brisket for Thanksgiving!

(One-third eaten, two-thirds to go.)

SUPERCALLIFRAGILISTIC BRISKET RECIPE

from The Jewish Festival Cookbook by Fannie Engle and Gertrude Blair

(as modified by me)

What you need:

  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds beef brisket, first-cut
  • salt and pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 to 4 large yellow onions, sliced thin
  • chopped garlic, as much as you like (out of a jar is fine)
  • 2 cups of canned diced tomatoes

What you do:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Brown meat in half the olive oil in heavy roasting pot or cast-iron pan, four minutes each side
  • Remove meat to platter and brown garlic and sliced onions in same pan with rest of olive oil for about fifteen minutes
  • Return meat to pot, cover with sliced onions, season with salt and pepper
  • Pour diced tomatoes over everything
  • Cover pot and bake for three to three and half hours, until fork tender
  • Let cool, remove meat and sauce, refrigerate both overnight
  • The next day, slice meat, add three tablespoons of water to sauce, and pour sauce over the slices
  • Heat at 350 degrees for about half an hour
  • Serve and enjoy

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Six servings for hearty eaters, eight servings for picky eaters.

Good with garlicky mashed potatoes and haricots verts (very thin green beans).

Also good with anything you come up with.  Let us know.

I GIVE THANKS FOR BRISKET!

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Turkey Day is nearly upon us!

Everyone in the States will know what I mean.  This coming Thursday, the entire country is going to stop everything, jam the trains, planes, buses and highways, sit down with family, loved or otherwise, and eat roast turkey with all its trimmings.  (We also get Friday off to deal with the leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches, anyone? Turkey hash?  Turkey soup?)

Why are we doing this?  Because the Pilgrims survived their first year of hardship in the New World.  At least, that’s what the kiddies learn in school, beginning with kindergarten.

It’s also a wonderful annual opportunity for aging parents to make adult children feel guilty if they don’t try to surmount all obstacles, gather up their own little children, and come. In order properly to appreciate the trouble and aggravation involved, you should bear in mind that the adult children, if married, have at least two sets of aging parents to placate. Divorced and remarried aging parents make the calculus even more complicated:  “Mom, we’re going there this year.  We came to you last year, remember?”

Poultry farmers and other representatives of the food industry also have a heavy burden of responsibility here, but that’s another kind of post, so I ‘m not getting into it.  (Not today, anyway.)

A few words of explanation are in order for friends in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and everywhere else where English is spoken (and therefore read).  I omit Canadians because they’re our neighbors, and surely know.

In 1620, members of a radical Puritan faction that had separated from the Church of England and were seeking religious freedom set sail for America in a ship called the Mayflower — a replica of which you can visit if you ever come to Plymouth, Massachusetts. It had room for only 120 passengers in its unheated hold. No bunks, no toilets. And you thought flying coach was hard!

We now call them the Pilgrims. They were aiming for Virginia, where a first English colony had been established.  (That would be Jamestown, remembered today chiefly for an Indian maiden named Pocohontas who saved the life of one John Smith by placing her head upon his when her father raised his war club to do him in. She was all of twelve.  But I digress.)

Our Pilgrims got lost.  They landed at the tip of Cape Cod, in what is now Massachusetts. Then in mid-December, they moved on to the western side of Cape Cod Bay, where they eventually built a fort, watchtower and living quarters — in what they named Plimouth Colony.

But first they had to get through the rest of the winter on the Mayflower. Half of them died.  Harsh weather, not enough to eat.  Whoever said becoming part of a nation’s mythology is easy?

A year after landing, on the last Thursday in November 1621, the sixty survivors gave thanks with a feast. They gratefully ate tough stringy wild fowl which they had shot — a distant progenitor of today’s over-plump turkeys.  They ate pre-GMO corn, which the local Wampanoag Indians had taught them to grow.  They had carrots, from seed brought from England.  I think they had wormy apples. And maybe they had nuts, berries, and cranberries from the bog.  Pumpkins — also part of the tradition — I don’t know about.

And now here we are, 392 years later, with supermarket flyers clogging our mailboxes, and then our garbage cans, clamoring for us to come get one, get one now!  Before they’re all gone!  Choose frozen turkey, fresh turkey, free-range turkey, honey-basted turkey.  There are twelve-pounders, sixteen-pounders, twenty-pounders. [Try staggering out to your car with a couple of those if you’ve been so foolish as to invite the entire extended family!]  There’s even vegan “turkey” — made of soy or textured vegetable protein or some such substance — for the pure of soul and body.

I hate turkey.  And I hate all that goes with it, starting with the moist bread (or cornbread) stuffing that’s held together with more melted butter than I consume in a year, plus all the turkey fat that’s dripped into it during four or more hours in the oven. I hate thick grayish-brown gravy,  even when laced with cooking sherry.  I hate glisteningly sticky-sweet potatoes, and also hate your great-grandmother’s special whipped sweet potato fluff.  I hate creamed onions, puffy white rolls, jellied cranberry sauce that slides out of a can.  (Sugared cranberries swimming in a dish get no kudos from me, either.) I’m not overly fond of brussels sprouts, that time-honored Thanksgiving vegetable. (String beans, if you’re having them, are all right.) And I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or apple pie a la mode —  especially not when all three are lined up next to each other on the groaning board and I have to choose a slice of at least one so as not to offend the hostess.

It wasn’t always thus. On my first Thanksgiving as my second husband’s bride, I brought home fresh oysters to make a New York Times Cookbook stuffing. I clarified the drippings from the pan for gravy.  Eschewing bakeries, I made my own pumpkin pie (in a purchased crust), laboring over a real pumpkin, not canned pumpkin puree.

Then came the children.  And twenty-five years of it.

  • Twenty-five years of stuffing turkeys.
  • Twenty-five years of unstuffing them again. (Leaving uneaten stuffing in the turkey is a no-no.)
  • Twenty-five years of dirty dishes and greasy pans. Help from the family?  Are you kidding?  The football game is on!
  • Twenty-five years of Tupperware containers full of leftovers in the fridge.
  • Twenty-five years of “Turkey again?”

Enough!

One son — with wife and little ones — is in Florida, where they are wisely not flying anywhere and making do with a chicken which the children will probably not eat.  (They are pastaholics.)

The other son — also with wife and little ones — is in New York City, where they usually go to her family. Which we eventually got used to.  And then this year they didn’t.  They invited us.  Consternation!  We are too old for Penn Station at Thanksgiving.  They said they forgave us. But did they? We’re going to see them on Saturday instead.  Maybe they’ll have disposed of the turkey by then.  Given the leftovers to a lonely doorman?

Bill hates eating turkey, too.  (He’s never had to deal with the cooking and cleaning up, so his hate is entirely taste-driven.) Actually, he used to hate eating everything with a face and feet, but over the years we have met half way.  Turkey is still on his kill list, though.

So what, in God’s name, are we going to eat on Thursday?  I have been asking myself this question for a couple of days.  Last night, God answered.  Bill asked me sweetly:  “How about brisket for Thanksgiving?”

Last spring, Bill discovered brisket at Bon Appetit, our local purveyor of fine cooked foods, foreign delicacies, cold cuts and cheese. He really liked it. Liked it so much, he went back the next day to buy more. Then — Passover being over — brisket disappeared from Bon Appetit.

Bon Appetit probably won’t be doing brisket for Thanksgiving.  But I have a worn copy of The Jewish Festival Cookbook. I have access to Epicurious. I have the butcher at Whole Foods.  (He must have a nice piece of beef brisket hidden away in his freezer, just for me.) Then all I need is lots of onions and garlic and tomatoes and time.

This Thursday, I ‘m giving thanks to brisket.  You can come for dinner if you like.