Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


"Big Night" Thanksgiving

We've all been thinking about Thanksgiving, haven't we? -- pondering how to make a very special meal without succumbing to the national passion for roasting birds. Among the vegetarian cooks I know, hosting Thanksgiving dinner is an enjoyable challenge. It's a great time to pull out those complex recipes we've always wanted to try and pull off a fabulous non-traditional feast that will impress even die-hard carnivore uncle Hank (or aunt Louise or brother Bill -- doesn't every family have at least one member for whom meat is a must?).

I've been known to make autumn vegetable "lasagna" on Thanksgiving, using thin layers of polenta in place of noodles. One year I made a lovely veggie-filled roulade from Anna Thomas's classic, The Vegetarian Epicure. Anything labor-intensive, even downright difficult, will do.

This year I'm contemplating making my first giant timbale. I've made small ones in the past (a corn timbale with blackberry sauce comes to mind) but never the big Sicilian pasta-filled pastry traditionally stuffed with meatballs and diced salami and veggies, all bound together in a rich bechamel sauce before being wrapped in a piece of pastry dough and shoved in the oven. I'm thinking a vegetarian version could be very nice, with artichoke hearts, cubes of roasted eggplant, green beans, cauliflower, dried tomatoes, baby mozzarella balls, etc. Just thinking about it puts me in the cooking mood.

If you're having a hard time picturing such a thing, you must rent the movie Big Night, which is one of the best food movies ever made. The little photo (which I borrowed from lex culinaria) will give you the idea -- keep in mind that that beehive-shaped thing is the size of a large inverted salad bowl.

On the side, a spinach salad with dried cranberries, maybe, and toasted walnuts, and pears or persimmons -- like the one I made last night. It's wearing honey mustard vinaigrette. And I'll serve pumpkin pie for dessert. That's one part of the all-American menu I always include, because I love it so, but maybe for a little twist I'll make cinnamon and orange zest-laced whipped cream to go on top.

In my mind's eye, it's a beautiful spread and delicious repast. HOWEVER, let's not lose perspective during this time of feasting. Eating very simply when the rest of the country is gorging would be a fine Thanksgiving tradition. We could even try not eating at all -- taking a healthy break from our patterns of over-consumption.

Whatever we eat or don't eat this Thanksgiving, let's take a long moment to really be quiet and consider how interdependent we are with all the plants and animals (including, of course, people) that share this planet. Are we not blessed to have plenty of nourishment in our lives -- especially that heart food called love?

Blessings and bon appetit!


At 2:23 AM, Blogger Sean Carter said...

These sound pretty interesting...this is something new on Thanksgiving...and hey for some more info and ideas on Thanksgiving drop by my Thanksgiving Blog sometime and finf out an array of ideas and suggestions....have a great Thanksgiving!!!

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Vanessa (of vanesscipes) said...

Big Night is one my fav movies. It's beautiful to sympathise with someone who just wants things RIGHT. I'm sure you've seen Tampopo too, but if not be sure to check it out!


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