Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Catered In, or It’s All About the Salt.

My date and I headed to our local on-site diner for Thanksgiving dinner.  It promised to be a classy affair, with doting waitstaff, a sophisticated menu, and atmosphere.

We reserved a table for two days ahead of time.  We pulled out our holiday finery from our closets.  We polished our shoes.  And the day came.

We were seated on the tavern side, for it appeared that the fireplace dining room was filled.  The tables were covered with black tablecloths, salt and pepper shakers, and a small bowls of canned cranberries.  Hanging on the corners were television sets playing an endless loop of snowfalls.  Christmas carols played over the speakers.

Our first course was a starter of a shrimp and spinach stuffed portobello mushroom topped with a questionable white clump of what looked like cheese.  I think.

Next came the Tossed Thanksgiving Salad, a concoction of arugala and what looked like dandelion leaves.  On the side was a plastic container filled with Apple Cider Viniagrette, and a once-frozen baked bread roll.

My date and I decided to order an Old Fashioned cocktail.  After all, it was Thanksgiving, and a cocktail would fit the bill.

Then came what the diner touted as the accoutrements:  Traditional Stuffing, Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  Each to me was overly salted, as if the cook was hiding something.  I did not eat the Sweet Potato Casserole because of the (bleh) marshmallows in it, and the obviously ton of brown sugar mixed in.

On the same plate was what was called “The Feast.”  Roasted Free Range Turkey, and Brown Sugar and Bourbon Glazed Ham.  Again, both meats were heavily salted, and the turkey definitely was processed, pressed meat.

Dessert was Homemade Apple Cobbler, super sugary and topped with a squirt of canned whipped cream.  I ate a few of the apple slices that I could find under the whipped dairy product and sugar-flour crumb topping.

The funniest part of this event is that the diner touts a chef – a real live, honest-to-goodness chef who brings out all the guns on his menu-planning and originality.  I am convinced the diner uses a catering company and short order cook to warm it up, as I wrote about in “Chez Erstatz.”/

I do believe that next year we will either dine at a better restaurant, or just cook at home, which will give us a less processed, less salty, and less sugary dining encounter.

Happy Thanksgiving, and save me the wishbone!

©2022 excerpt from “A Turkey for Thanksgiving”

Party with Friends.

Fourteen people.  One turkey, two ducks, and all the accompaniments, desserts, and Mogen David wine.  Add five dogs and an elusive cat (who all thankfully get along), and my friends’ home was alive and merry.  Thank goodness for their outside kitchen and grill to help with the cooking.  And somehow, in all the organized chaos and merry making, we managed to fit all fourteen of us in the dining room!

What fun it was to catch up with each other’s lives, reminisce about the Old Neighborhood (for some of us) and relate stories of new neighborhoods, our jobs, hobbies, travels, books, this year’s movies, and almost unbelievable current events.

After dinner, a few of the fellas watched the Bears-Lions game or compared car engines in the driveway, while the rest of us either played backgammon, Scrabble, or just floated in the pool and kibitzed.  One interesting thing I noticed was that no one was glued to their devices, just an occasional FaceTime hello or an answer to a text or two.  Otherwise, everyone was engaged without that distraction.

As evening approached, out came the card tables, poolside, and all the leftovers were available for us grazers.  This is when we all exchanged our Christmas grab bag gifts.  Entertaining!  (Can you blame me for being overly excited to get that vintage edition of the Ben Hecht book I’ve eyed for months?)  Next door neighbors walked over to say hello just as the sun set.

It’s back to the party now; Gene’s 3-Piece Jazz Combo is getting ready to play (Gene on bass, Willie Cole on drums, and Sebastian Stuart (a.k.a. Stuart Sebastian) on keyboard.  Yeah, I forgot to bring my mandolin (there’s always *something* I forget, you know!)  The colorful electric Chinese lanterns are lit, and we’re reveling in the starlit sky and gentile undulating sounds of the water.

There’s a Yiddish saying that one good friend is better than ten relatives.  Sometimes, that is truer than not.  Though I wouldn’t give up on a few of my relatives, my friends are my precious choices. 

Happy Thanksgiving and save me the wishbone!

©2022 excerpt from “A Turkey for Thanksgiving”

Dining at Chez Ersatz

One finds it amusing that the local diner touts a “chef.”

The powers-that-be promote that “chef” as working hard at developing menus and special holiday dinners, intimating that he is pouring over his collected notes and recipes from Le Cordon Bleu.  One gets the idea that “Chef” hand cuts his own sides of beef, pulls fresh green beans from the back garden, and uses his mandolin to prepare Potatoes Charlotte.

It is further amusing that when one discovers that other comparable restaurants and country clubs in the area have very similar everyday and holiday menus.

Is it really more of the truth that the “chef” at the diner is no more than a short order cook who orders from caterers and warms up most foods?

Hence, when “Chef” is swooned over and bragged about by the Saturday night diehard patrons, do those patrons know that they are really complimenting the food service company?  I further opine that Cookie Jowls at Camp Swampy is more of a chef than that diner’s kitchen.

Upon further ponderings, I then chuckle at the drooling going on for “Chef” by the Saturday Night Crowd.  I suppose with some people it doesn’t take much to fool them into thinking they moved up from a mundane, average existence to such a weak imitation of a lofty and pseudo sophisticated Camelot.

©2022, excerpt from “Letters from the Ridge”