Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! I love the memories from my childhood. We would all pile into the station wagon and drive about an hour to my grandparents. We were very fortunate that they lived about five minutes from each other, so we could visit both sets of grandparents during each trip to Youngstown, Ohio. As soon as we stepped into each home, the magnificent smell of the meal would captivate our senses and make our stomachs growl. Instant hunger! I remember watching one of my grandmothers whip the potatoes in her standing mixers – two of them going at the same time – to a perfect consistency and one that I never am able to duplicate. From the homemade chicken soup, noodles and all, to the pastries for dessert, one thing is for sure, what made these foods so delicious and memorable was the love and time put into the preparation.
As a teenager, our family traditions evolved into Thanksgiving meals at our house. My dad and I would flip through the pages of Bon Appetit, hunting for a cozy soup or new appetizer recipe, something special to add to the meal. When I woke on Thanksgiving morning, I could hear the sounds of my parents in the kitchen and smell the familiar fragrances of the recipes handed down through generations. It was always exciting to see who would join us for Thanksgiving each year, and gradually our table grew as spouses and babies joined our family.
Since living in North Carolina, actually since moving away from my family years ago, I have spent many Thanksgivings away from home. I am thankful, that despite the distance, I still feel close to my parents and siblings and I can picture each of them running around their kitchens on this glorious day creating their own masterpieces. While I miss looking through cookbooks with my dad, I try to carry on that tradition here in my home. This year, I am planning on making a Holiday Bread Cornucopia filled with various roasted vegetables that I found on the Vegetarian Times website. Fingers crossed that it turns out just like the picture!
Thanksgiving is a day to remember and reflect upon our blessings. To say thank you to those who add so much to our lives. To thank God for, well, everything… struggles and all. Everyday is a gift, but this day, Thanksgiving, is special, like a gift with a big fancy bow.
Okay – so back to the food…
The star of the day seems to be the turkey. Whether it pleases our palate or not, it is usually part of the meal. Turkey is an excellent source of protein. In fact, according to the National Turkey Federation, a 3 ounce portion contains 26 grams of protein. All that protein and only 1 gram of fat, 0 saturated. What we probably associate turkey with the most is tryptophan, although gram for gram, there is more tryptophan in Swiss cheese and roasted pork loin. An essential amino acid, tryptophan is customarily blamed for how lethargic we feel after eating our bountiful Thanksgiving feast. However, our sleepiness is most likely due to the high amount of carbohydrates consumed. Carbohydrates stimulate serotonin synthesis, relaxing us even more until we eventually fall asleep on couch. If alcohol is served with the meal, that can contribute to our tiredness. It is also true that the more food we eat the more energy the body requires to digest. All of these things contribute to our post-Thanksgiving slumber, so don’t be too quick to blame the turkey.
Where To Buy Your Turkey:
There are plenty of places to buy your turkey: your local grocer, specialty food stores, butchers, and local farms.
I came across MAE Farm Meats at the Raleigh farmers market. They are taking pre-orders for turkeys in the 10 – 16 pound (lb) range. You can request the weight you would like and they will do their best to accommodate your preference. MAE Farm Meats is the distributer for Oak Ridge Farms, a small poultry farm in Franklin County, NC. The turkey is farm raised, fresh, not frozen and will be available for pick up the week before Thanksgiving (November 20 – 25). The turkeys are $7.50/pound. Obviously, they cost a bit more, but it will be fresh and from a farm down the road!
Whole Foods offers a variety of turkeys: natural, organic, and brined. While the turkeys are from the northern part of the country, you can still get them fresh, not frozen. Place your orders now through the week of Thanksgiving. Natural turkeys are available from 10 – 30 lbs and priced at $2.69/lb. Organic turkeys are up to 20 lbs and are $3.99/lb. Brined turkeys are $2.99/lb. (If you are local, the Cary Whole Foods, is nearly out of frozen turkeys.)
Earth Fare also offers fresh turkeys, including organic. All ordering is done online at www.earthfare.com and click on Holiday Orders. Organic turkeys range from 10 – 20 lbs and are priced at 4.29/lb. Their natural turkeys range from 10 – 24 lbs and are $2.69/lb. Again, local shoppers, Earth Fare Cary/Morrisville is pretty much out of frozen turkeys.
At Fresh Market you can order a fresh turkey online or in the store. Their turkeys range from 10 – 24 lbs and cost $2.49 a pound.
Have fun getting ready for your Thanksgiving!
Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay Pretty in the Peak
Marianne Lindgren, MS, RD
Resources and further reading:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org
Quick cheat sheet of Turkey Safety Tips from www.homefoodsafety.org