Comfort Food to Soothe the Soul

It’s pretty much a well-known fact that whenever life starts to get out of hand (either from a personal or world perspective) people turn to the traditions of their youth for a little comfort. And what exemplifies “getting out of hand” more than the holiday season hot on the heels of a political election?

Holiday Pre-Stress

Fortunately for those of us who are already suffering holiday pre-traumatic stress disorder, Thanksgiving is tailor-made for traditions. There are some good ones—like my Mother’s pie crust cinnamon/sugar roll-ups made and consumed during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and her “dry” stuffing made outside the turkey (as opposed to that which has been jammed up the bird’s backside). Conversely, there are some not-so-good traditions such as Mom’s insistence on making “fake” dried corn (whatever that means), and the yearly flop sweat-inducing fear over whether my Mother-in-law’s turkey will still be pink when it reaches the table.

Comfort Holiday

Thanksgiving is the ultimate comfort holiday, and we want the same foods we had when we were kids. And because we haven’t been subjected to an excess of family members since Easter, we want to revel in the whole family togetherness thing. Well, we’ll revel until approximately 5:48 p.m. It’s usually at that point when it becomes sadly apparent that dinner is still an hour-and-a-half away because someone’s Mother-in-law tends to fiddle fart around too long doing needless chores when she should have been cooking. Oh, crap. Is this microphone on?

So all this hide-bound food tradition presents something of a problem when you’re writing a recipe post. What can you possibly suggest to people at this time of year? I was going to offer up a nice sausage stuffing recipe for the turkey, but I figured that stuffing, like religion and politics, is far too touchy a subject. I will instead proffer two side dish recipes that you might be able to slip in under the tradition radar. Both are simple, good, go well with turkey, and will play nicely with the other older side dishes. They’ll still probably have to sit at the kids’ table, though.


 

This first recipe comes from my Mom and is something she used to make when I was a kid: a simple cranberry relish. Mind you; I didn’t care for it much when I was little—too bitter tasting, I thought. I always preferred cranberry jelly out of the can. But in my later years, my palate has become more sophisticated, and I really can appreciate the combination of flavors. It also tastes better if you let it sit for a few days before serving thus leaving you more time on the big day for other cooking chores. Or napping.

The second is my Aunt May’s recipe for sherried onions and is an old favorite. The quantities of both recipes can be adjusted to fit the number of gaping maws you’ve got to feed.

Mom’s Cranberry Relish

  • 12 oz. package fresh cranberries
  • 1 medium orange, quartered
  • 1 large peeled apple
  • ¼ cup sugar

Chop cranberries in blender. Place chopped cranberries in a bowl. Add quartered orange (rind and all) to the blender and chop fine. Place chopped orange in with cranberries. Chop apple and add to cranberries and orange. Add sugar and stir. More sugar may be added if necessary. Refrigerate until served.

Aunt May’s Sherried Onions

  • 2 jars pearl onions
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons sherry
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Drain onions and rinse with cold water. Place in baking dish. Pour half-and-half and sherry over onions. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake at 325º for 25 minutes. This can be assembled early and reheated at dinner time.

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