Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Family Feast, Food Network!

Back in June, I was laid off suddenly. I was told on Friday not to come back to work on Monday and in the frenzy of feared unemployment, I got online to look for anything I could possibly do (within reason) to make money. I stumbled on a posting for Food Network Challenge. They were looking for interesting Thanksgiving stories. I sent them the following email, and the rest is history:

Hello, Food Network Challenge! (I'm a big fan! The worst part, by far, is having to move those gigantic cakes to that darn judging table. Sheesh.) Here's my Thanksgiving story (pictures attached) :

When I was a kid, I remember getting into the car and trucking up to Culpeper or Flint Hill or Front Royal, Virginia to have Thanksgiving dinner with my great aunts and uncles on my Dad’s side, The Cooks. These dinners are all kind of a blur of Uncle Bob, who had a glass eye, several small dogs and cousins, and my Grandma & Granddaddy, whom I adored. There is a ‘famous’ picture of me as a tiny girl, sound asleep down my Granddaddy’s chest, while he’s reclined in a Lazyboy, watching the TV at one of these get-togethers.

As we grew older, we had Thanksgivings with my Mom’s side of the family and at our own home. We always ate at 2pm, sharp. I remember my brothers and sisters, disappearing every year to nap, leaving me to do the dishes. In the early 90’s, my parent’s divorced. From that point on, my siblings and I spent Thanksgivings mostly with Mom. One year we had a huge shrimp feast to break up the monotony.

I went off to college in Syracuse, New York, and made the trip home for Thanksgiving every year, driving 8 hours down Interstate 81 to eat with the fam. In 2001, I moved to New York City. I literally have not been home for Thanksgiving since. I have spent the holiday with friends, as we city-dwellers do, eating someone else’s version of turkey dinner. I have cooked for myself, my roommate at the time and her boyfriend, dinner for 3. (I think I cheated and made a chicken that year instead of attempting a turkey in our tiny 6 floor walk-up, where the kitchen, living room, and dining room were one in the same.) I spent a few with a long-time boyfriend’s family, eating Swedish variations on traditional T-day foods.

Two years ago, I moved to sunny Los Angeles with my younger sister, Becca. Thus began the Sisters Cook Thanksgiving Tradition. So far, Thanksgiving for us means green bean casserole (with the French’s Onions on top. Once, Becca ate half a can that I had reserved for the topping while I wasn’t looking.), mashed potatoes and gravy from scratch, and sweet potato soufflĂ©. Our first year in LA, I made an herbed turkey breast. I have since become a vegetarian and my focus has shifted to the all important side dishes, attempting cornbread, homemade stuffing, salads, etc. And of course, we make pumpkin pie for dessert.

I make the green bean casserole, usually from canned green beans and canned mushroom soup. This year, I made Alton Brown’s AMAZING Best Ever Green Bean Caserole, and I will never go back! (It was a big hit.) I also make the mashed potatoes and gravy, using real butter, roasted garlic, and ‘no-chicken’ broth. Becca is in charge of sweet potatoes. She is the queen. It is her signature dish, one of the only things she can cook, and she always knocks it out of the park. The secret is in the whipping of the sweet potatoes (and in the enormous amount of marshmallows on top). We top it all off with canned cranberry sauce. I am fully capable of making the real deal, but Becca loves the shape and the amazing ‘Schlllllup’ sound it makes when it’s released from the can onto the plate. Who am I to deprive her of that?

Our first year in LA, it was just the two of us. Last year, we ate with our dear friends, the Caskeys. The point for us, food aside, is to be together. We are a little satellite branch of our big family, all the way out here in California. It can be very lonely to be so far from home, especially on holidays. But, we have each other, and that has proved to be our biggest blessing. One tradition we keep from our childhood Thanksgivings is to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. I’ll tell you now, I am thankful for my sister and her willingness to jump in with me and create our own story, our own traditions. I’m also thankful that she’s around to eat the leftovers. Trust me, thanksgiving recipes don’t come small, we cook for two and eat for ten. Thank heavens, I don’t have to face it alone.

Thanks for your consideration!


Sarah Cook, Older sister - The Sisters Cook

***The recipes from our episode will be posted this week.  Check back!

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