Well, Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. I love everything about Thanksgiving…time spent with family, being grateful for what God has blessed us with, and, last but certainly not least, the food. A couple of weeks ago, Diane at White on Rice Couple (one of my favorite blogs), posted about Thanksgiving recipes, both old favorites and new interpretations. She got me to thinking about the most memorable dishes from throughout the years…both good and, well, not so good.
Several years ago, we decided that since we had all traditional Turkey Day dinners, we would try some twists on traditional dishes. We were inspired by recipes we found on FoodNetwork.com, like Giada’s Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus and Sweet Potato Gnocchi. Dad followed the recipe for the turkey pretty much to the letter, except he opted to grill the turkey on his trusty Weber kettle grill. It looked and smelled delicious! Right on schedule, Dad pulled the turkey in the roasting pan from the grill, and set it on his grill-side table. Now, I still don’t know how it exactly happened, but the next thing I know, the turkey and pan are on the driveway…breast side down. A few irritated words and stunned moments later, Dad picked up the turkey, brushed off the teensy bits of gravel and brought it inside. That was one of the tastiest birds I’ve ever had! It earned the moniker “Driveway Turkey”, which we still use to this day when referring to any turkey Dad grills. I’d say this is a dish that succeeded when it nearly failed!
That same year, I made the sweet potato gnocchi with maple cinnamon sage brown butter. I had never made gnocchi before, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to make. The brown butter sauce, on the other hand, was a little trickier, and I’m still not sure I got it quite right. We couldn’t find fresh sage at the grocery store, so we substituted basil…and boy, did it pop and sizzle when I added it the brown butter! It kind of caught me off guard, but it was really cool. Normally, we have leftovers of all the dishes we make, but the sweet potato gnocchi were gobbled up by everyone at dinner! Success! Hmmm…I think I need to make it again soon…
Before the Driveway Turkey and Sweet Potato Gnocchi, though, was the first dish we made that is not traditional for our family…the “fail” in this case. It has become the stuff of legend…Dad’s brother, Jerry, was joining us for Thanksgiving that year…and not a year goes by that he doesn’t mention this dish in some way. Let me turn this post over to Mom for more information…’cause I try not to think about it if I don’t have to…
But now, for the stuff of legend. Back in the 1990s…and I mean the entire decade… I worked for our local Head Start program. I made some good friends there and learned to appreciate diversity and family cultures different from my own.
One year we were all talking about our favorite foods for the holidays. My African-American friends said there are two soul foods that are must-haves for Thanksgiving: sweet potato pie and chitlins.
Now, I’d made sweet potato pie and it is delicious, but I didn’t even know what chitlins were. My friends went on and on about how good they are and how it wouldn’t be the holidays without them. So I thought maybe our family should also experience this ultimate soul food fare.
I got the recipe complete with extensive instructions about how to properly clean the chitlins before beginning the cooking process which, by the way, takes several hours. Yes, several hours of steamy goodness filling our home with chitlin anticipation.
According to Wikipedia.org, here’s what we’re talking about: “Chitterlings (sometimes spelled as pronounced: chitlins or chittlins) are the intestines of a pig, although cattle and other animals’ intestines are similarly used, that have been prepared as food. In various countries across the world, such food is prepared and eaten either as part of a daily diet, or at special events, holidays or religious festivities.”
Let me remind you, I didn’t know what chitlins were even when I was cleaning them. They were a little weird and slippery, but I kept thinking about how my friends’ eyes sparkled when they were talking about how good they are and so I moved on to the cooking stage. I followed the recipe exactly with every ingredient my friends used and turned on the stove. Soon this very, shall we say, “interesting” aroma filled the kitchen. I thought that maybe it had to cook out of the chitlins…surely it would taste better.
Well, long story short, my brother-in-law Jerry was with us that year for Thanksgiving, we did have chitlins on the dinner table and, in the spirit of friends, family and cultural diversity, we all did take a taste. Oh my word! Let’s just say, we decided chitlins must be an acquired taste that we really didn’t want to acquire!
Every Thanksgiving the legendary chitlins get talked about and remembered. I’m pretty sure they’ll be talking about them at my funeral and, who knows…maybe at the heavenly banquet table!
Even though chitlins may not be one of our cultural specialties, they are treasured and appreciated by many around the world! I encourage you and your family to try something new for the holidays or any day. You never know…it may become the stuff of legend!