Friday, November 28, 2008

Why Food Writers Hate Thanksgiving

By Regina Schrambling

As a food writer, I should never admit this, but I really hate Thanksgiving. Not the day, not the food, not the cooking or the shopping, not even the sappy reason Americans ostensibly gather to gorge in late November. What makes me totally crazy is the persistent pressure to reinvent a wheel that has been going around quite nicely for more than 200 years. Every fall, writers and editors have to knock themselves out to come up with a gimmick—fast turkey, slow turkey, brined turkey, unbrined turkey—when the meal essentially has to stay the same. It's like redrawing the Kama Sutra when readers really only care about the missionary position. ...
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saying Thanks...Grace at the Dinner Table

There is something hollow and phony to me about going around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and telling what we're thankful for. If that is your tradition, that's fine for you and I am not belittling it. It is not my tradition as I strive to give my thanks to God every day or at least every week at church. Specific thanks for His general goodness and for instances where I believe I have seen His handiwork in my life, such as divine appointments and deliverances. When I am a guest somewhere and pressed to share what I'm grateful for, I usually say something flip but honest like "four-wheel-drive and coffee." But it is immensely important to me to be real (and I am thankful for go-in-the-snow ability and the caffeine that gets my motor running every day of the year.)

Being real is so important that when I hear children at my table singsong "God is great, God is good" seemingly without contemplating the words' meaning or, worse, rushing through it or purposely mispronouncing words, I halt them and make them do it right. I want them to give genuine thanks to God not merely mouth a rote recitation. So I was thrilled and touched to find a prayer book for children, "Peanut Butter and Jelly Prayers" by Julie B. Sevig (Morehouse Publishing, 2007). The author has written some graces for specific common meals like mac and cheese and Mexican, even leftovers. She has included in her compilation prayers for occasions such as Thanksgiving and other holidays and events like moving or going back to school. Also in the little book are graces from other countries. After most of the prayers are conversation starters: questions to get everyone at the table talking about their day, their favorite foods and deeper subjects like finding comfort.

I can't get through this one without crying:
Pizza
Bless the cheese,
Bless the meat,
Oh dear God, bless all who eat,
For those who hunger, those who shiver --
We thank you, God -- you, too, deliver.

I love that the prayers give not just due respect to God but foster consideration for other people. Like this one ...

Fast Food
We want it fast, we want it now.
Thank you God for the cow!
For burgers, fries and all we chew!
For all who work at this drive-thru!

Personally, I am especially touched when the person saying grace off-the-cuff asks God to bless the hands that prepared the food, particularly when I have cooked the meal.

This Thanksgiving I encourage you to be more mindful eaters ... I don't mean pay attention to what and how much you consume, pay attention to your attitude about gratitude.

Here is Sevig's Thanksgiving grace:

For all that you have made, we give you thanks gracious God.
For our homes, family and friends; for our country and its leaders; for freedom and for those who have sacrificed so much for that freedom; and for all that you give us to eat this day -- and always.
We remember those throughout the world and in our country who go hungry this day -- and many other days. Help us to share what we have: a harvest of blessings and goodness.
In the name of Jesus, who taught us about justice for all people, Amen.

A heartfelt Thank You and Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Smoky Corn and Potato Chowder

Some of the tried-and-true recipes in my personal cookbook come from the "back of the box." Those are the recipes companies put on products -- whether they come in boxes or cans -- to show consumers different ways to use them in hope that they buy more.
I found a variation of this recipe on the back of a can of Del Monte corn more than four years ago. I don't make it a lot but it is easy as in quick to make, inexpensive and good on cold fall evenings.



SMOKY CORN AND POTATO CHOWDER
1 1/2 cups milk
1 14-ounce can creamed corn
1 cup cubed cooked ham
1 14-ounce can diced new potatoes, drained
1 can golden sweet corn, drained
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar, Swiss or Gouda cheese

Stir milk into creamed corn in large saucepan. Add ham, potatoes and whole kernel corn. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted. Serves 4.
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