The Day Before Thanksgiving is the real holiday, the day you’ve been smart enough to get off from work. Hopefully you did all the shopping yesterday, so you get to go for a really long run, and not shower until you feel like it, and then spend the day in the kitchen, your shirt covered in flour, listening to great radio. Relatives call to check in on what everyone’s bringing; the ones who can’t make it call to compare menus, and say how much they wish they could be there. The pressure isn’t on yet. There’s still all day to get it done. Dinner tonight is salad and bread.
That’s where I am right now, about to finish the lobster and corn chowder with which we’ll begin Thanksgiving dinner. I’m throwing a little Folly Cove seawater in there, too.
I have this glorious crate of Appleton Farm vegetables, a “yahoo!” gift from my Nicie Panetta, which I will address with knives and peelers this afternoon, some of which is too beautiful not to end up as centerpiece.
Then, with some teenage help, we’ll begin to make pies with the mincemeat my mother had made last December. We’re not only a fruitcake family; we’re a mincemeat family. (And for my friend, Irena, we’re a wassail family, too!)
Here’s the short history of mincemeat from the blog What’s cooking in America : mincemeat originated in 11th century Europe as a means of preserving meat, and was in fact mostly meat and the newly discovered spices the Crusaders had just scored in The Holy Land. Apparently, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, symbols of the wisemen’s gifts, were required mincemeat ingredients.
Lest you think hating mincemeat is modern, Oliver Cromwell banned it – and all things Christmas – as tokens of paganism in 1657. New England Puritans weren’t to be caught eating desecrated pies, and fined anyone for eating mincemeat from 1659 – 1681.
In 1861 a man named James Swan documented serving a bunch of traders on the Makeh Indian reservation in the Washington Territory a mincemeat made with whale meat.
Would the traditional mince pie, he worried, be welcomed if the diners learned it was made from whale? Yankee mincemeat was made from domestic animals or venison. His fears were soon dispelled. The small portions he had cautiously served were quickly downed and second helpings demanded by all.
Another surprise mincemeat success. I promise to share my mother’s mincemeat recipe when I find it, but right now I have too much to do. Not only that, you probably don’t have the time to make it for Thanksgiving Day anyway, but I’ll have it up in time for that Christmas pie; I promise, no whale meat.
Here is a poem to read, not exactly a Thanksgiving poem, but it speaks of hunger and love, both of which we’re all about to celebrate.
At a Window
By Carl Sandburg
Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!
But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.