How do you celebrate a holiday during a pandemic? How do you maintain rituals and traditions when you can’t safely be at the same table with the friends and family you traditionally celebrate with?
2020 is the year of thinking outside the box. We need to reinvent the holidays, focusing on safety and health. But how do we safely find the pleasures that so many of us look forward to each holiday season?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends very strict guidelines.
Although the guidelines vary from state by state, it’s fair to say that if you’re planning a holiday that includes more than just a few people in your immediate household or “pod” you are putting yourself and others at risk.
The key is to keep your holiday small. Very small. Forget normal and create the new normal.
I’ve been reading obsessively and talking to everyone I encounter about how they plan on celebrating Thanksgiving this year. And I’ve heard a wide range of responses. Some say: Just forget 2020, no holiday. Others tell me they will create an entirely new menu that has nothing to do with traditional foods like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie. (One friend is having lobster. Another is making dumplings and stir-fried noodles. And another will be creating a vegetable lasagna.)
Some people I spoke with told me they plan on eating alone or with one other household member and Zooming with loved ones, each at their own table in different houses, different cities, different states. And then there were those who told me they are cooking one dish and dropping off portions for each member of their extended Thanksgiving table. One person makes the mashed potatoes, another makes the turkey and stuffing, etc. Then they plan on Zooming and eating separately, but they will share the same food, experience the same tastes. And then a few friends reported: Forget it, I’m not cooking. We’ll be ordering take out, trying to support our local restaurants.
There is no one right way to celebrate this very unusual holiday, in this very difficult year. The key is to find something that feels special to you and your family. Creativity. Inventiveness. Thinking outside the box.
I plan on creating a highly scaled-down Thanksgiving. I love cooking and eating the foods of this holiday: from roasting a turkey and mashing potatoes, to making creamed spinach and my annual batch of cranberry sauce. Even though there will traditional foods on my table, it won’t look like a normal Thanksgiving. I will not make multiple types of potatoes, or two types of stuffing, or bake four desserts. My table this year will be very small and very simple.
My wish is that next year I am seated at a long table with my daughters (and their husband/partners) and extended family and friends. My wish is that we all get through this holiday time finding some spark of joy, some way to express gratitude and thanks.
These are tough times. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to sit down and share a meal with whoever we live with and set out a special dish or two.
What follows are some new recipes—as well as old favorites– and tips for scaling down the traditional Thanksgiving feast:
Don’t be deceived by the simplicity of this recipe. The sweet, earthy squash, with a maple syrup, ginger, and apple cider glaze is a perfect accompaniment to turkey, chicken, or any other vegetable dishes. Prepare the squash ahead of time and pop it in the oven as soon as you take out the turkey. Any leftover squash makes a great base for a seasonal salad.
Serves 2 to 4.
Many cooks won’t bother with a whole turkey this year. You can buy a turkey breast or turkey thigh to serve a smaller gathering, but you won’t have the traditional turkey cavity for your beloved stuffing. This savory bread pudding is a rich, gooey casserole of comfort. Let’s call it the 2020 version of stuffing.
Here cubes of leftover bread—use a combination of whatever you have on hand—are tossed with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and kale (or Swiss Chard or spinach) and tossed with an egg-cream-cheese batter. You could also add 1/2 to 1 pound spicy or sweet sausage (out of the casing) and sauté it with the onion to make a more substantial main course dish. The pudding should sit for at least 45 minutes to an hour to soak up all the custard so plan your time accordingly.
Serves 4 to 8.
Cynthia Graubart is an award-winning cookbook author based in Atlanta who has just published an ebook specifically for pandemic holiday cooking. This recipe comes from her book “Thanksgiving for Two (or Four).” Copywright © Cynthia Graubart.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Start to Finish Time: 2 hours
Serves 2 (or 4).
This satisfying dish works any time of year, but is lovely during the holidays with its luscious, meaty gravy. Thighs can be quite large, so one large thigh may serve two people.
More Thanksgiving favorites that can be reduced by half:
Vegetarian And Vegan Ideas:
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.