Adventures in History and Romance

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

“He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast...” (Proverbs 15:15)

“In every thing give thanks...” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

I love Thanksgiving, not only for the yummy food and the time off from work (which, by the way, “Yay!” to both) but also because it’s a wonderful holiday on which pretty much everyone can agree. No matter one’s religious views (or lack thereof), most people generally think it a healthy thing to pause and reflect on the good things in our lives, whether or not we call them “blessings” by name.

This year I’m especially thankful for the many things that have happened in my life professionally. I acquired a wonderful new day job AND a burgeoning career as a novel writer.

I’m also very thankful for my family. For years I’ve kept a copy of a cartoon that I love: a college-age woman is seated in a window seat, a cup of tea at her side, writing a letter to her parents. According to the caption the letter says, “Dear Mom and Dad: Thanks for the happy childhood. You’ve destroyed any chance I had of becoming a writer.”

Thankfully, despite my happy childhood, I’ve managed to embark on a career as a writer after all. Perhaps it’s because my family had enough interesting quirks to season my life in unusual ways. (But that would be the subject of another blog post.)

Speaking of seasoning, I’m also thankful for Cherokee Publishing Company, a small press in Marietta, Georgia that has reprinted “Savannah Sampler,” a collection of fantastic southern recipes assembled by my mother, Margaret Wayt DeBolt.

Although my mom passed away in 2009, this wonderful treasure continues on. Following are two of my favorite recipes from the book. (They make great hostess gifts too!)

If you want to add a little something unexpected into the traditional turkey day, try this recipe for cranberry chutney in place of the canned goo called cranberry sauce:

Famous Cranberry Chutney
Yield: 3 or 4 cups

1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries
Rind of 2 limes, slivered
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup plain red wine vinegar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp mustard seed
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup dried black currents
1 3-oz package crystallized ginger, snipped into small pieces

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over moderate heat until berries pop, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking gently, stirring often, to desired degree of thickness. (This also thickens on standing.) Store in covered jar in refrigerator to preserve the color.

Or if you’d like a real change of pace, try this apricot chutney, which is also an excellent side dish for ham or pork:

Apricot Chutney
Yield: about 3 cups

1 6-ounce package dried apricots, diced
2 tbl finely diced crystallized ginger, packed
1 cup halved seedless golden raisins
1/2 lemon, finely diced
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plain white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice

Mix all ingredients together. Bring to a boil; lower heat and cook gently to desired thickness. (This also thickens as it cools.)

These are just 2 of the wonderful recipes in the book, which covers everything from cocktails (Chatham Artillery Punch, anyone?) to desserts (Lemon Charlotte -- to die for). There is also a recipe for chicken pie that I always make around New Year’s. In the cookbook it is noted that in the book "Gone With the Wind," Scarlett and Rhett enjoyed chicken pie and champagne on their wedding night. Can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

And one of these days I’m going to actually make that recipe for Chatham Artillery Punch...

Wishing you a fantastic Thanksgiving!

PS: The Savannah Sampler can be ordered by phone from Books on Bay, 224 W. Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31401 (phone: 912-236-7115) or from Cherokee Publishing Co. (800-653-3952).