It’s November, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Yes, it’s a balmy 45 degrees in Seattle, and yes the power keeps blinking in and out as wind storms blow through my backyard, but it’s almost Thanksgiving–my favorite holiday. In a family like mine, in which religious beliefs and practices vary both widely and often, I rather like a holiday that has comparatively little baggage. I’ve not yet met anyone who can’t get behind the idea of being thankful, whether to God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or an entity somewhere between.
I also love to cook. In fact, I worked as a personal chef before poetry, my first love, turned me back to grad school, writing, editing, and teaching. But just because I don’t cook for pay any longer doesn’t mean I don’t still get a kick out of baking a shocking number of pies in a single day, or wrangling a 20-pound turkey (despite last year’s incident with The Turkey that Would Not Cook). And we don’t joke around here at Davio Thanksgiving headquarters; everything, down to the challa that goes into the stuffing, is made from scratch. Okay, so my husband and I don’t grind our own yard-cultivated wheat into flour or weave the tablecloth by the light of a single candle, but we do pride ourselves in making our food with love and with no cut corners.
I even love the Thanksgiving menu-planning, ingredient-shopping and recipe testing (sweet potato fries are currently baking at 450. Which organic varietal will be the cure for the common yam-and-marshmallow offense against both God and man? We’ll know in about 20 minutes.) I find that cooking, and all the trappings of it, is a particularly good hobby for those of us who write. Writing a book is usually a years-long process. To be honest, it feels as though my current chapter is a years-long process. Then there’s the work of finding a publisher, waiting for publication, and marketing…making a book can sometimes seem as dedication-laden as raising a child.
But cooking is different. Any given meal delivers rapid results for our efforts. Even on a big cooking day, when you put in six or 8 hours of labor, at the end of your work, you have a gorgeous meal to enjoy and share. Sometimes, especially when we look at our writing toward these close-of-the-year-months and wonder what we have to show for ourselves, it can be good and rewarding to engage in an effort that can bring a great deal of joy in a compact timeframe. Yes, hobbies like cooking may take hours away from our chapters, or may distract us from our stories. But sometimes, that may be just what we need.
So I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and to those who are hosting dinners, a rewarding cooking experience. I leave you–lest you should consider splooping a gelatinous glob of cranberry “sauce” out of a can this holiday–a very quick, easy holiday recipe from me. I’ll warn you–it’s a little feisty!
Cranberry Sauce with Three Gingers
24 ounces of cranberries (washed, any suspicious berries picked out)
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cup of orange juice
1 cup of water
zest of one large orange
.5 tsp ground ginger
.5 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup crystalized ginger, minced
Combine the first seven ingredients in a large saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a slow boil. Stop stirring when the cranberries pop. Remove from heat, mix in the crystalized ginger. Allow the mixture to thicken at room temperature, then chill if not using immediately. Can be made up to three days ahead.