Turkey Day, south of the border style

Friday, November 29, 2002

For the first time in either of our lives, my wife and I spent Thanksgiving Day by ourselves.

Wait.

Don't feel sorry for us.

We chose to be alone.

That's just the way things worked out this year.

Without holiday guests and without joining the festivities at someone else's house, we saw no need for turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, yeast rolls, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy or pumpkin pie.

OK. Pumpkin pie would have been good.

Instead, we feasted, much as the Pilgrims did, on the bounty provided by others.

"Others" in this case turns out to be you.

This is a dandy way to plan your holiday meals. Read on, because you too may want to become a Pilgrim. Here's how it works:

Breakfast:

Instead of the customary raisin bran or bagels, we slathered artificial butter-flavored spread made from chemicals we can't pronounce on thick toasted slices of scrumptious homemade pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin bread went on the menu when Jodi Thompson of Jackson showed up with generous loaves for me and for Heidi Hall. I managed to point out several times to Heidi that my loaf of pumpkin bread was larger -- I'd say at least twice as large -- as hers, which is exactly how it's supposed to be.

Jodi apologized she made pumpkin bread instead of fruitcake, since everyone knows I think fruitcake is delicious and ought to be required at every holiday gathering.

Not to worry, Jodi. The pumpkin bread was a great way to start Thanksgiving Day. And if you won't tell anybody, I'll confess that your pumpkin bread is as good as any fruitcake I've ever tasted. But please don't repeat that. Let's just keep it between us.

Lunch:

We sampled pralines made by Victoria Scherer, also of Jackson. Victoria entered her pralines in the Southeast Missourian's Holiday Best baking contest. Winners were announced Wednesday, and all the recipes were published in a special section that I'm sure will be treasured by a lot of good cooks.

The pralines were as close to the Texas pralines I remember from the 1960s as any I've ever eaten. They were creamy, sugary and nutty. What more could anyone want? Thank goodness features editor Laura Johnston saved a couple for me after last weekend's judging.

My only complaint is that these pralines were semifinalists in the baking contest. What were the judges thinking? They were certainly winners at our house.

For our Thanksgiving dinner, my wife and I continued the Mex-Tex theme that started with the pralines at lunch. We made ourselves a Mexican feast, starting with guacamole, hot corn tortillas with cheese and salsa, tacos stuffed with beef seasoned with special spices and a pecan pie hand-delivered recently from deep in the heart of Texas by none other than Heidi Hall.

Pecan trees grow just about everywhere in Texas, so it's not a surprise that some of the best pecan treats come from the Lone Star State. Heidi and her Better Half recently spent a few days in Texas and promised to keep an eye out for the pralines I have so often talked about. Unable to find a suitable praline, Heidi brought us a small pecan pie guaranteed to stay fresh until sometime in December. We'll never know if would really have lasted that long, because it's all gone.

So there your are. Thanks to the generosity and kindness of others, we had ourselves a Thanksgiving to remember. And we are thankful.


By the way, I am forgoing my annual appeal for free fruitcakes this year.

No, I have not abandoned my exalted position as chief barker for the Candied Fruit and Raisin Merchandising Association. Fruitcakes are still king.

But by now you know who likes fruitcake and who doesn't. I'm sure you'll act accordingly.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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