As I’ve gotten older, Thanksgiving has become a problematic holiday. When I was a kid, the holiday meal rotated through the families annually, meaning one year at Aunt Nancy’s, one year at Aunt Patty’s, one year at Aunt Connie’s, etc. This tradition started to come apart late in my college years, as my generation of the family got older and started their own traditions, and the various jobs I had kept me tethered to the city for both work on Thanksgiving and its evil sister, Black Friday. So most of the family still gathered in one way or another, but I was mostly with one or two members of my little corner of the immediate family.
It’s not that it’s been bad times. Far from it. But I’ve missed the big sit-down dinners from Thanksgivings of my youth. Last year at Aunt Nancy’s, half the guests didn’t even eat because they were going to my cousin’s dinner a few hours later in the day. I hate to deride a family get together because everyone didn’t eat together… but come on, it’s freaking Thanksgiving. We can’t all sit down and eat? What’s the point of having a big meal then? Why not just everyone agree to show up already having eaten dinner and just enjoy some pie together?
Scheduling-wise, it just can’t seem to work out smoothly with family. Leading up to Thanksgiving, a thought occurred to me: the best sit-down big dinners I’ve been a part of this year have not been family gatherings (sad to say) but get togethers among friends. Keeping that in mind, myself and a bunch of friends decided to plan our own dinner, a few days before Thanksgiving, and dubbed it Friendsgiving. Having the nicest dining room (as those who looked at her Harry Potter setup can see), Jackie agreed to host, as well as tackle the key elements of the Thankgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots. It would be an almost formal potluck. Everyone invited was asked to bring something, whether it was an entrée or side dish, dessert or beverage.
I admit, I was excited. So excited that I kept track of everyone contacted through a subgroup listing in my email. For a few weeks prior, everyone in attendance circulated emails of who was coming, what was being brought, what times, etc. I even made up a spreadsheet. The count of people swelled to 15, then dropped down to a perfect dozen.
Friendsgiving 2010 ended up being a terrific success. I will go into more of the actual dinner in a follow-up post, but I wanted to share my offerings to the meal in this first post. Our hosts, Jackie and Bill, would be tackling the meat end of the dinner, but a few of us were going to need a solid veg option. Knowing that there would be more than enough vegetarian and vegan side dishes to keep everyone full to the point of bursting, I wasn’t so sure how important it would be to have a big meatless offering. Then I came across a recipe for a gluten roast, and… I couldn’t resist.
Looks like a pot roast! When I make it again (and I will make this again) I would probably make a few changes to the cooking method of this roast, but you can’t really argue with results. I substituted sweet potatoes and cut the amount of onion by half (I was worried they would overwhelm the other veggies) and changed up a few of the seasonings, but otherwise, I made it pretty much according to recipe.
The finished roast was gluten-y, but not without a crispness on the outside cooked edges. It had a nice, mild flavor that was augmented by the roasted vegetables. It made a pretty handy protein substitute for turkey, and even better, it’s made a couple of days’ worth of sandwich leftovers. (My favorite combo so far? Sliced roast, sautéed onions, kale, vegan mayo, and barbecue sauce.)
Jackie had mentioned a desire for cookies, and looking over the guest/food list, I realized there were more than enough sweet potato options, so I skipped the planned sweet potato pie and opted to repeat a recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies out of the amazing The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
Once baked, the little pecan droplets of cookies are rolled in powdered sugar. I’ve made them once before and loved loved loved them, as they are sweet and have a fantastic textural crunch thanks to the chopped nuts. For this festive Friendsgiving batch, I added a few teaspoons of cinnamon and nutmeg to the powdered sugar.
The end result was like a hybrid Mexican Wedding Cookie and a pecan pie. Yum. And did I mention how easy they are to make?
Coming up in part two: food porn, food porn, food porn.