New traditions for a new time

Family feasts and simple suppers are, at their core, about nourishment – and I don’t just mean feeding our bodies. Food is far more than calories. Recipes sustain traditions and tell the stories of who we are and what matters to us. What we cook holds our past, informs our present and aims the direction of our future. Food comforts, connects and heals.

The nourishment food provides is perhaps more meaningful this year than in year’s past. Exponentially rising numbers of neighbors both local and around the globe are experiencing food insecurities as a result of Covid-19. Families throughout America are asked to consider what traditions should be altered or skipped this year to prevent the spread of the virus. While these facts are cause for collective grief, concern and disappointment, we have an opportunity to think and act with great compassion toward others and ourselves. This Thanksgiving can be about more than gratitude. We can make the holiday about the stuff that fosters gratitude – generosity, empathy and care.

Lend a hand

While we may not see family and friends the way we would in other years, we are thinking of new ways to connect. I know our menu will be more modest than in years past as we eat with a smaller crowd. That said, we can extend the meaning of the holiday beyond our home, by donating to local food bank, Second Harvest, and meal services program, Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen

In addition, we'll email neighbors to let them know what pantry items we have in excess. Sharing cans of cranberry sauce or flour and sugar will be a way to safely connect to friends on our street while possibly easing their list of errands.

If you're looking to get a hand with cooking this year, look no further than Taste Catering and Event Planning. The Milbrae-based catering company is offering their Gratitude Box, which includes a gourmet dinner for four. What's more, with every Gratitude Box purchased, a second local family of four that are in need will receive a Thanksgiving meal through the company's Hospitatlity Helps initiative.  

Message in a bottle

Though we might not be sitting across the table from many of our loved ones, we can still fill glasses with the same wine. Have a bottle of the wine you’ll be drinking sent to far-flung family and friends. Then Zoom together for a toast. The ability to order great wines from small producers, all online, makes uniting via the wine glass and the web simple.

Cary Q Wines, with a urban crush facility in Berkley, has an ideal-for-turkey-dinner GSM blend available on their website – 2018 CARY Q GSM, Shake Ridge Ranch ($44). Winemaker, Cary Quintana, of Cuban descent and originally from Miami, sources her grapes for this stunning Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre blend from Amador Valley. Super small production, at just 90 cases, Quintana makes her wines with exacting focus and evident joy in her work.

Located in the town of Sonoma, BUMP Wines has a zinfandel with all the right stuff for the flavors of a holiday meal. The wine’s black pepper and cherry flavors will pair with the variety of dishes that will be on plates in your home and your family’s.

My family's winery, Teac Mor Vineyards, has a Thanksgiving Wine Set available for shipping. The set includes one bottle of our estate grown Chardonnay and two different estate grown Pinot Noir vintages. These wines will be ideal paired with all manner of Thanksgiving dishes. 

Take a breath

Perhaps you are a family that has Thanksgiving Day down to a science: same place, same time, same meal. While repeating the meal and time may give you comfort even if the place isn’t the same, maybe change things up this time. Give yourself and those you live with loads of space to chill and even try some new flavors.

Swap a long drive in the car for a lazy morning in PJs and serve up my super easy pie-spice Dutch pancake. Usually visit family in snowy parts of the country? Take advantage of our mild weather with a long morning walk. Maybe this year instead of serving foods that challenge the waistband, try a healthy swap or two that amps up the flavors while dialing down the indulgence. Sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans roasted with olive oil and Moroccan spice mix could easily replace yams laden with butter and maple syrup or marshmallows.

This year is unlike any other. We can return to old traditions in years to come, and perhaps bring with us a few alterations to the holiday that nourish body and soul. 

Pie Spice Pear Dutch Pancake

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • Zest of small orange or lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon pie spice (a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, clove available in spice aisle this time of year)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large, ripe Bartlett pear, peeled, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat oven to 425F. Whisk eggs, milk, flour, extracts, zest and salt together. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a cast-iron skillet and melt over low heat. Once butter is melted, add the pears then the pie spice and brown sugar and stir to coat all the pears evenly – cook for 5 minutes.

Remove pears from the skillet, wipe clean and place skillet in the oven for 8 minutes – or until very hot. Carefully remove skillet from oven and add the last 2 tablespoons of butter. Use a wooden spoon to make sure the butter melts evenly around the pan. Add the pears then pour the batter mixture over the top. Return to oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. Serve with walnuts and warm maple syrup or powdered sugar.


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