Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010: Musings, Tips and Advice for the Wary

Last week, President Obama used a term to describe his impression of the outcome of the mid-term elections.  He said the Dems took a "shellacking" (personally, I liked Baby Bush's description in '06- "We took a thumpin'!"- better).  I thought immediately of the type of photo above and how much disdain I have for food magazines that depict the stereotypical, impossibly glassy roast bird on their November covers when there are so many other non-literal and beautiful foods that make the holiday memorable.  But, hey- sex sells.  More apropos would be a king-sized bottle of Xanax next to some cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  So, irrespective of my pet peeves, I've decided to lead off my holiday post anyway with the Turkey as imagined by Rustoleum.

Here are some thoughts on the upcoming holiday.

Today, I read an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times about how food affects moods, notably, the chemical reactions that take place in the brain- and which ones are real and which are myth.  Among the ones that didn't surprise me (coffee improves energy and mental performance- um, duh.), there were a couple that did.  Eating turkey, for example, it is shown does not induce sleepiness.  
"...each molecule of tryptophan has to compete with many other amino acids to get into the brain, says Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. A Thanksgiving feast will make you groggy, but tryptophan isn't the reason..." 

Or how about chocolate as the cure-all, aphrodisiac, natural-high?  Not so much.
"...chocolate contains many components with the potential to enhance mood, but the chemical effect of each of them is small. It does have low levels of stimulants, but you can get a lot more from other substances," she says. The caffeine content is very low, so coffee is better for that kind of kick (see?). The sugar might give a temporary lift, but it's subtle. And the phenylethylamine that people say is supposed to make you feel in love — well, many foods, including salami, are much higher in phenylethylamine." 

Got that?  Salami, folks.

While we're on the subject of turkey, one of the age-old Autumn quandaries is, "When is the bird done?"  I can tell you that any turkey that comes with a pre-inserted pop-up belly-button is going to be drier than Regis Philbin's jokes.  It's set to pop at 170 F.  This relieves the producer of anyone getting sick if they may have pulled it early.  But, in reality, you can pull it at 160 F and it'll carry over a few degrees, be safe, tender and moist.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. You don't want to know what temp I pull it at.  And, all my family is still aliveDo yourself a favor: get yourself a probe- instant read-out, easy to clean, digital thermometer:  they're twenty bucks. 

Are you cooking for 10 or more?  Just as prized as the second dishwasher has to be the second microwave.  Think about it.  You get everything together early, seasoned and ready to rock- and it's time to pull the trigger on dinner.  You actually have more plates than people, and by the time you get them all to the table some are warm, none are hot.  Letdown.  Load 'em on, zap 'em up, send 'em OUT! Yahhh!!

We're approaching Beaujolais Nouveau time, that third Thursday in November when we're treated to one month-old wine which is usually drunk within two.  I like to think of it as headache in a bottle.  Because it's only barely been fermented 6-8 weeks, comes from the lowest quality vineyards in Beaujolais and is produced in excess of 49 million liters each year.  With Thanksgiving falling so close to the release, consumers typically pay $1-2 more a bottle because stores know they need to have it, and the French know it.  JUST SAY "NO".  

Gamay, on the other hand, the principal grape producing the historic crus of Beaujolais as well as the swill in clown-colored bottles, is ideal for the multi-flavored meal in mid-November because of its versatility.  This isn't really to get you away from drinking other suitable wines for Turkey Day, as much as it is to say- "Hey, if you're gonna drink gamay, why not drink a good one?" The Domaine Ricard Le Clos de Vauriou from the Touraine is one I'll be sipping- or I should say, one I have been sipping for the last six months. Always served with a slight chill on it, it was a great red for a grilled Tuna Nicoise salad in the heat of summer, not to mention a nice bridge to the heartier and earthier foods of Fall.  And now, with everything from pumpkins, mushrooms and turnips on the buffet, to Turkey, salmon, apples and sage- gamay, especially this one, is my choice for Turkey Wine 2010.  And, how does $12 a bottle sound?

The next part is...uncomfortable.  It involves the subject of multiple desserts. 

I enjoy desserts just as much as the next person.  I appreciate the time and effort put into a nice homemade pie or torte, or miniature cakes and cookies.  But, I gotta tell ya' when there are six or more choices for dessert, I can only eat one, maybe two of those choices after all that other food before I approach hemorrhage stage.  And I FEEL BAD for those people who made them when only one piece is taken or, God forbid- NO ONE has touched them because they lost the popularity contest or simply because the desserts have outnumbered the guests.  HOST and HOSTESSES this falls squarely on you Now, I know you're going to say that everyone gets to take them home- yadda, yadda, yadda.  Yes, this is true; but, perhaps part of the overindulgence we experience from Thanksgiving is perpetuated by the "more is more" maxim.  We can break the chain now!

Or, maybe I just feel bad about the uneaten desserts.  Pass the Xanax, please.

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