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Food Gone Crazy
What people put in their mouths during the holidays
by Suzi Steffen
We don’t know where it all began. Was it the general craziness of the traditional Thanksgiving feast? Turkey. Gravy. Potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Stuffing. Cranberry sauce, cranberries from a can, cheesy cauliflower (we mean cheese-sauced cauliflower), that awesome (or horrifying) green-bean-mushroom-soup casserole (don’t forget the crunchy “onion” topping!), maybe a Jell-O salad with pecans and cream cheese in it … and then some pie, or rather pies, with whipped cream?
Then there’s the vegetarian Thanks-giving. We’re not going to talk Tofurkey, though that’s weird enough (even if it’s tasty and some of us have eaten a fair amount of it and probably will again), but everyone from Mark Bittman at the New York Times to (of course) Vegetarian Times provides 20-step recipes for complex traditional-like options made without meat, or sometimes without any animal products at all (check out GentleThanksgiving.org for recipes, turkey exposés and some photos of smiley people with happy, long-lived turkeys). And of course there’s deep-fried turkey, which can burn houses or garages down but apparently tastes a lot better than the regular stuff.
But the weirdest things lately are the “things in a thing.” There’s turducken, deboned chicken in a deboned duck in a turkey, but we’ve all gotten used to that, or at least the idea of it (I’m waiting for vegan chicken inside of vegan duck inside of a Tofurkey, myself), but other people have ideas that go even farther into the uncharted depths of weird.
We first heard of the cherpumple on Facebook and quickly looked it up. Hey, it was featured in the Wall Street Journal last January, so it’s not exactly a new thing. Created by kitschy chef Charles Phoenix, the cherpumple, technically speaking, is a cherry pie, a pumpkin pie and an apple pie each baked inside a different sort of cake (Phoenix uses white cake for the cherry, yellow cake for the pumpkin and spice cake for the apple) and then glued together with nothing else but cream cheese frosting. You can find the original cherpumple video at http://wkly.ws/wo and it’s inspired many a knock-off video, recipe and article.
We couldn’t resist either, and when we started spreading the word on Facebook that we were asking Sweet Life to cook us a cherpumple (ours is actually a pumpcherple, all in a white cake for Sweet Life’s sanity), we heard from our friends and fans about other weird Thanksgiving food as well.
Some people mentioned local ideas like spinach casserole with Yumm! sauce (thanks, Debbie Williamson-Smith; we might use that one). And many of us enjoy “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish” recipe, which you can find at http://wkly.ws/wr and which includes, yes, horseradish and onions alongside the cranberries.
Then there’s the turkey cake, which might not properly be called a cake it’s ground turkey breasts, yams and other T-day treats like sausage stuffing and cranberry all held together with mashed potatoes. We’re not kidding you, and if you’d like to make it in lieu of the usual dishes, find the recipe(s) at http://wkly.ws/wq
Thanksgiving’s one of those holidays about whose food U.S. families have something approaching a holy passion — it’s sacred. Until it’s not, when Grandma Josephine gets into the Wild Turkey a little early or parents start planning the menu from things they got off the internet or from the Eugene Weekly. Our advice is to sit back, relax, eat moderately if you can (it’s more fun that way, tastier and such) — and watch the turkey cakes fly.