Friday, November 28, 2008

Walk right in, it's around the back, just a half a mile from the railroad track...

"...we went back to the church, had another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, and didn't get up until the next morning, when we all had to go to court."

It was on the way home from BART last night, after delivering three pies and having 2 Thanksgiving dinners that couldn't be beat, that I realized what was missing. Arlo Guthrie! We had a fondness for some hippie folk music in my house growing up--Odetta, the Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary. I can remember my parents taking us to Pete Seeger concerts on the Clearwater, a sailing ship promoting awareness of the Hudson River ecosystem, which is a lot cleaner now than it was then, back in the 70s, when pollution and PCBs were killing the shad and the striped bass. Pete Seeger had, of course, been a pal of Woody Guthrie, and so Arlo used to play with him a lot. Every Thanksgiving, one of the public radio stations would play the entire 20-minute-long original version of Alice's Restaurant, and we'd sing along as my mom chopped celery and my sister Amy folded the napkins (remember? She's my middle sister, the one from Chicago who's good at ambiance).

So I sang the whole thing to myself in my head, and then watched part of it on YouTube.

Because I had promised pies to both Shifra & Stephen and Shar & Jackie, I did manage to sit down to 2 Thanksgiving dinners, one at 3pm and one at 7:30pm. Or, to quote Cheap Eats columnist Dani Leone, on her habit of following an omelette with a plate of ribs, "That was breakfast. This is lunch." Or lunch and dinner, in this case. Well, I did take dainty portions, or so I'd like to think.

Anyway, turkey, mmmm. I do love turkey, and don't know why it's so heartily maligned. These were some delicious birds--braised and moist at Shifra's, crispy-skinned and chestnut-brown at Shar's--with all the appropriately brown and white gravy vehicles, also known as stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed rutabagas, and sweet potatoes. Shannon, Shar's cousin, was there with his husband, and brought his Southern expertise to the perfect biscuits. Which I know are being sopped in leftover gravy for breakfast right as we speak. At both houses, it was a happy confluence of birth and chosen family--Shifra, Stephen, and Stephen's aunts, uncle, and cousin in Berkeley; and Shar, Jackie and a dozen assorted family, friends, spouses, and kids--a happy biscuit-, pie-, and Cool Whip-fueled chaos.

And special mention must be made of Omar's sweet-potato pie--his first, I believe, and absolutely delicious. Omar is the cool teenager of the household, keeping all the 40+ geezers up to date on Beyonce and Girlicious.

And except for me, and Jackie's sister and her husband, all the grownups there were married gay couples, almost all with children. There were kids eating cookies, kids playing kazoos, kids climbing up the back of the sofa, babies lolling half-asleep on shoulders. I could say "Look, gay families! Just like straight ones!" and on one hand, it would be true. On the other, I don't know that the goal is to be seen as "just like" straight families--that seems too much like whitewashing assimilation to me. And what's a straight family norm, anyway? There are many, many ways to be a family, and the genders of the parents is just one part. All I can say is that these were families, and every bit as married as anyone.

And the eggless pumpkin pie? A hit! It was a little soft, I think--more creamy than custardy, but rich in flavor. I would reduce the amount of evaporated milk, I think, and toss in a tablespoon of flour, and possibly chill it before serving. Overall, though, a treat, especially since for once, Shifra didn't have to bake her own desserts in order to enjoy them. Here's the revised recipe.

Eggless Pumpkin Pie
This pie does contain dairy. My neighbor Jen, however, had to cook up a dairy-free pumpkin pie, in order to accomodate her kosher sister. Her replacement? Vanilla hemp milk, richer and creamier than the usual rice/almond/soy milk options. So if you need to make a vegan or dairy-free pie, and can find hemp milk, give it a try.

2 cups mashed squash (I roasted one small butternut, one small kabocha squash, and one sweet potato)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu (or 2 eggs)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp flour

Whisk all ingredients well until thoroughly mixed. Pour into partially baked pie shell, and bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes, until well set. Let cool to room temperature. For a firmer set, chill for several hours before serving.


Anonymous said...

Pete Seeger needs to come back to the Hudson River and do another awareness concert.
The Hudson River maybe clean, but the shad have become almost an endagered species.
The shad, who endured unimaginable pollution for many years is now at it's lowest adult return rate since anyone has kept track.
They are apparently being fished out of the ocean by midwater and bottom trawlers.
Too many people think that just because the water is clean, there's plenty of fish. Wrong.
Your blog came up on my Google alerts for ' Hudson River Shad '.

You can email me back at if you desire.
I am pushing for trawler reform to try and bring back American Shad on the entire east coast. Most of our rivers are suffering from very low return numbers.

Take Care,
Bill McWha

Anonymous said...

KFOG (104.5 FM) plays "Alice's Restaurant" at noon every Thanksgiving which we put on right after watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ... because some traditions are totally worth keeping (and instilling in the next generation)!