Sorry that I had to make do with Norman Rockwell, to wish you a “Happy Thanksgiving.” The only other paintings I could find featured pilgrims in funny hats and the Canadian ones either had flag images with big red maple leaves or said “Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, eh?” (Does anyone actually ever say that?) If anybody knows of a Canadian painting that celebrates Thanksgiving, I would love to find out about it.
Rockwell’s American painting has become an iconic image for Thanksgiving Day, but, in fact, it is not really about that particular celebration, at all. Painted in 1943, it was part of a series of four paintings inspired by a speech given by Franklin D. Roosevelt who spoke of Americans deserving four freedoms; there was freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom from fear. (He didn’t mention freedom from any government, at all — but that’s another story …) This is the “freedom from want” example — but it seems very American to me, in that no one except the cook and her husband, really looks very interested in the offering of the turkey. The food itself is taken for granted and the guests all seem to be much more involved in chatting with each other, catching up with the family gossip and smirking at the person making the picture. I do love the feeling of spontaneity and the detail here — the painting gives the impression of a snapshot — taken with a box camera, well before Photoshop.
Anyway, I’m always grateful that we have our own Canadian Thanksgiving in October at what seems to me to be the proper time of year. The trees are splashed with bright colour, the weather is usually still warm and sunny and it’s harvest time, so all of the local fruit and vegetables are at their peak of flavour and beauty. I’ve always felt a certain amount of sympathy for the Americans who have to make do with the pewter skies and nippy winds of November.
Thanksgiving is, of course, all about gratitude and this year, I decided to make a quick list, ten things for which I truly am grateful, some trivial, some highly significant. So here they are:
1) I know that I won the lottery by being born in Canada. How I treasure that little black passport!
2) That first hit of strong black coffee that reawakens me every morning.
3) My dear, funny friends and widely scattered family. They keep me laughing and I know that they have always “got my back.”
4) My job which makes it possible for me to eat, to live and, occasionally, to travel.
5) And speaking of travel, I luvvvv the smell of jet fuel in the morning (or in the afternoon or evening, for that matter…)
7) And back at home, there is my cat, Ms Ozington Fluffypants, a.k.a. “the Fuzzbutt”, who acts as my faithful alarm clock and provides me with endless hours of entertainment.
8) My education in art history which has been like a portal opening out into a lifetime of fascinating exploration.
9) I can still see, hear, talk, walk, read and think. (I can so!)
10) Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major (Isaac Stern, of course). (Although, if I start to amble down that pathway, I will never get this finished.)
So along with the turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce, why don’t you make your own “gratitude list” for Thanksgiving?
Here’s a suggestion from Harvard Health Publications:
One of the other things that I’m grateful for is leftover turkey — yes, I really love it. I can make turkey sandwiches, turkey Tetrazzini, turkey noodle soup and I’ll leave you with a recipe for turkey pot pie. It’s so good, it’s worth buying a bigger bird so that you will have enough leftovers.
Turkey Pot Pie with Cheddar Bacon Biscuit Crust
loosely adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine, 1993
3 cups water
1 lb butternut squash cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup thawed frozen baby lima beans
3 tbsps. unsalted butter
3 tbsps. all-purpose flour
1 cup turkey or chicken broth
2 tbsps. minced fresh sage
5 oz. pearl onions blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, peeled
3 cups cubed cooked turkey
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsps. cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
5 oz. extra sharp cheddar, grated (1 1/2 cups)
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/2 to 2/3 cup milk
1) Bring water to boil, cook the squash with salt until tender, 6 -8 minutes. Transfer squash to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking. In the boiling water cook the lima beans for 3 minutes, transfer them to the ice water. Keep 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
2) In a large saucepan melt the butter over moderate heat, add the flour and cook the roux, whisking for 3 minutes. Add the broth and the reserved cooking liquid in a stream, whisking. Add the minced sage and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the sauce stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
3) Drain the squash and lima beans, stir them into the sauce with the onions and the turkey and pour the mixture into a 1 1/2 quart shallow baking dish. The potpie may be prepared up to this point one day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
For the Crust:
1) Preheat the oven to 425F. degrees.
2) Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder and the salt. Add the butter and blend the mixture until it resembles meal.
3) Stir in the cheddar and the bacon and stir in enough of the milk to form a soft sticky dough.
4) Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the turkey mixture.
5) Bake the potpie in the lower third of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
Serves 4 to 6 people.
The biscuit dough makes the crust so much easier than a fussy pastry crust. The bacon and cheddar is delicious. You could add other vegetables — cooked carrots, chopped celery, whatever.