First Person, Thanksgiving TM_TK_HOTLINE_FI_001

I was just about to roll out my homemade pie crust when I encountered my first problem. As I reached for a rolling pin from my cabinet, I realized I didn’t own one.

Normally, I’d just grab my shiny laptop and search for how to solve my cooking conundrum online. But the countertops in my kitchen were buried beneath a bed of flour and my fingers were heavily caked with sticky dough. It was not a very laptop-friendly environment. So instead of darting off to Google or shouting out to the social media universe for an answer, I went old-school and reached for my phone. With my cleanest knuckle, I swiped the screen to unlock it, then tapped to re-dial my most recent call: 1-877-367-7538, the Crisco Pie Hotline.

Yes, in a digital world full of Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, and email inquiries, I chose to call a hotline and speak to an actual human for baking advice. And instead of listening to a recorded message with answers to frequently asked questions, I was connected with a cooking expert that gave me the personal attention I needed to deal with my crisis.

Thanksgiving TM_CU_TURKEY_FI_002

Pity the turkey. Capons are sauced, cranes are lifted, partridges are allayed, geese are reared. Turkeys are, to use the proper historical carving vocabulary, simply cut up. The ritual carving of the turkey is one of the few vestiges of a past, glorious tradition that once wowed diners at spectacular feasts, and yet, the prosaic words for slicing up the turkey do not seem to match the grandeur of the deed.

Once, carving was held in high esteem. It was less about serving base bodily needs for nourishment and more concerned with spectacle and performance. Those who carved (and those who had carving done for them) were not concerned with where their next meal was coming from. It was a demonstration of power: the ability to muster a bountiful feast and an exhibition of control of the body (both that of the carver and of the animal carcass to be consumed). In full view of the diners assembled at the table, the carver hoisted the bird aloft with one hand, while wielding a razor-sharp knife in the other. Slices from the cooked carcass floated down to the plate. MORE


Out to Lunch

Conquering the packed lunch with Beating the Lunchbox Blues


Whether you’re sending kids off to school or toting your own midday meal, packing lunches is one of more relentless kitchen tasks. It’s a constant struggle to find items that travel well, stay fresh, and also manage to be appealing.

My own mother was an incredible lunch packer during the years that my sister and I were in school. She made sandwiches, filled thermoses, and invented all manner of room-temperature friendly dishes that would inspire us to eat to the bottom of the container.

Years later, when I asked her about it, she confessed that it had been one of her least favorite parenting activities (right up there with helping with math homework) and that while she missed having young kids, she does not ever miss the daily lunch packing chore.

While I don’t have kids yet, I still find myself frequently packing lunches for my husband to take to work and I’m always on the lookout for ways to make those meals a little bit more interesting. MORE

The Larder TM_TL_BURGR_FI_001

For the last 11 years, I’ve lived in an apartment without a single square inch of outdoor space to call my own. Most of the time, this isn’t a hardship, as it means no leaves to rake in the fall and no snow to shovel in the winter.

Really, there’s just one thing I miss about having a patch of the outdoors and that’s having the space in which to set up a grill. However, I’ve found that there are even ways to work around my lack of outdoor space. Thanks to a sturdy grill pan, a countertop griddle, and generous friends with backyard Webers, I always manage to get my warm-weather grilling fix.

Food Culture, Thanksgiving TM_FC_TURKEY_FI_001

When I set out to learn more about the source of the word turkey and some of its idiomatic variants, I had no idea that the research would lead me, well, on a wild goose chase.

Let’s start with the word for the bird. Turkeys are North American in origin; the domesticated fowl we raise today is the descendent of a slightly smaller wild bird found throughout the continent, though a cousin of this bird was domesticated in Mesoamerica long before Spanish explorers arrived. The Spanish called Mexican bird pavo, or peacock, after another fowl with spectacular plumage. Further north, English colonists thought the wild turkeys looked more like guineafowl, a small African bird that was imported to England through Turkey. Due to their trade origin, the guineafowl were sometimes called turkeys—and thereafter, so was the wild North American bird. In the nation of Turkey, as it happens, the bird is referred to as hindi, or from the country of India; in India, the bird is called peru, after the South American country; elsewhere in Europe, the turkey is known most commonly as “French chicken” and or “Indian chicken”—the latter generally refers to continental India. MORE


Turducken, Meet Your Match

A vegetarian alternative to the ultimate Thanksgiving centerpiece


The Ethiopian cooks had two antelopes brought in from the zoo. They gutted, skinned, and roasted them in spices and butter. Twenty turkeys — stuffed with herbs and bread — were thrust into the antelopes and the empty crevasses filled with hundreds of hardboiled eggs. A bleating camel, feeling something sinister in the room, was soon slaughtered as well, his innards replaced with the antelopes, whose innards had been replaced with the turkeys and eggs, whose innards had been replaced with breads, spices, herbs, and fish. And the Emperor of Ethiopia ate only just a little.

Bawdy, exorbitant, unethical. In the most mythic banquets, everything is permitted, nothing impossible. Mile-high desserts carved to resemble palaces, grapes served upon platters of young boys, vomit buckets. But aside from the slaves, drunkenness, and orgies, it is perhaps the dining upon outrageously prepared animals — much like the stuffed camel Bohumil Hrabel describes in I Served the King of England — that is most…indelible. Heliogabalus enjoyed ostrich brains and eels fattened with Christians. The Emperor Vitellius once served a dish including flamingo tongues and lamprey milt in the name of Minerva. Hampton Court under Henry VIII was often the stage for feasts of whale, peacock beaks, and the ever-popular flaming boar’s head. No organ was left unturned. MORE