Holiday Food

Ah, the American Thanksgiving Day is only a few days away, along with all its turkey goodness.

In honor, here are some bits I like from an 1829 cookery book. (All odd spellings or punctuation are the cookbook author’s.)

These have gone down in France, but are just (like other fashions) coming into vogue among us. Tomatas are used both in sauces and soups, and are pickled.–See Tomato Catsup.

The French put grated nutmeg or minced parsley to stews of cucumber, and thicken the sauce with beat yolks of eggs. Nutmeg is indeed a very suitable condiment with this watery vegetable, so is cayenne.

So many fatal accidents happen every season from the use of poisonous mushrooms, and it is so difficult to distinguish between the edible kinds and those that are deleterious…

Those who are more solicitous about the appearance of their tables than the quality of the dishes, have their potatoes mashed, or boiled peeled, all the year round.

The French, among our other insular distinctions, speak of us as a nation “with twenty religions and only one sauce,”–parsley and butter, by the way, is this national relish,–and unquestionably English cookery, like English manners, has ever been much simpler than that of our neighbours.

For stuffing to fill the craw [of a turkey], take a breakfast cup full of stale bread finely grated, two ounces of minced beef-suet, or marrow, a little parsley parboiled and finely shred, a teaspoonful of lemon-peel grated, a few sprigs of lemon thyme, a little nutmeg, pepper, and salt. Mix the whole well in a mortar, with a couple of eggs.

So… What’s your favorite holiday food? And if someone offered you a dish of stewed cucumber with nutmeg, would you try it?

Cara King, author of My Lady Gamester, in which some jellies are eaten, but (luckily) no mushrooms

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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Christine Wells
14 years ago

Hi Cara, I love that reference to the 20 religions and only one sauce! One of the Two Fat Ladies riposted that English meat was of such good quality, they had no need of sauces to disguise the flavour. Not sure if that’s true, but highly entertaining, anyway. We don’t have Thanksgiving in Australia, where I live, and it’s hot at Christmas so the less traditional among us eat seafood rather than turkey. Yum! Have a great Thanksgiving!

14 years ago

Sweet Potatoes are my favorite holiday foods. Mashed. Candied. With marshmellows on top. Without mashed potatoes on top. Mashed Candied Sweet Potatoes with Marshmellows.

I adore them so, I’ve made them a proper noun.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

No stewed cucumbers for me, thankyouverymuch. Ew! Some things were never meant to be sauced. πŸ™‚

Sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce are two of my favorite T-day dishes, in addition, to the turkey, of course.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Christine I love that line, too! “20 religions and only one sauce.”

I think I might like that cucumber dish….

From my husband’s Italian family comes a holiday favorite. Green peas in tomato sauce. My version, naturally, is a cheat..brown a couple of cloves of garlic in a little olive oil, add a bag of frozen peas, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and chopped onion. Cook on the top of the stove a long time until it is done.


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I MIGHT try the cucumbers–I’ll try almost anything once, except for some of the stuff I see Anthony Bourdain eat on “No Reservations.” πŸ™‚

my holiday favorites are, well, everything! Turkey, stuffing, potatos, cranberries. And pies. My mom makes a delicious pecan/cranberry pie (pecan pies are usually too sweet for me, but the cranberries fix that)

Diane, I think even I could make the peas! I may have to try it…

Cara King
14 years ago

riposted that English meat was of such good quality, they had no need of sauces to disguise the flavour.

Yes, I’ve heard that argument, Christine! And my mother always did think that if one had a good cut of meat, it was a crime to put sauce on it…

(Personally, I’m not the biggest meat eater myself, so I don’t have much of an opinion here!) πŸ™‚

Seafood at Christmas, though — interesting! And it makes perfect sense. Todd and I were discussing a while ago about how so many of the traditional English Christmas foods are preserved foods — mincemeat, sausage, pudding, brandy sauce, preserved fruit, etc — merely because December in England didn’t provide much fresh food in the old days. So why not?

Santa, I think I will join your proper nouning of Sweet Potatoes. They are, indeed, Worthy of such an honor…

My holiday favorites are sweet potatoes, pumpkin and mincemeat pie, and stuffing.

And I’d try the cucumbers…though the stewingness would put me off much more than the nutmeg.

Diane, you’re a chef after my own heart. (And sounds like a good recipe!)


Megan Frampton
14 years ago

I would try those cucumbers, although I am less brave than Amanda, although No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain is to my taste: Tall, thin, acerbic. Yum!

My favorite food this holiday is, well, sleep, and not having to make dinner for just a few days. And the pie. I like pie.

14 years ago

We loooooooove the stuffing. It’s always the first thing that we go for. LOL πŸ™‚ It’s almost like the turkey’s just there so you can have the stuffing! πŸ™‚

But I’m not a fan of cucumbers, so anything with it, I’ll skip.

Lois, who hopes to get caught up on computer stuff on Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚

Cara King
14 years ago

It’s almost like the turkey’s just there so you can have the stuffing!

I’m with you there, Lois! Turkey’s there to make the stuffing taste better, or to give one something to put the gravy on. πŸ™‚

And the reason I feel this way may be because, when I was growing up, we hosted Thanksgiving for our whole extended family — which meant between 30 and 45 people for dinner.

Lots of turkey.

LOTS of leftover turkey.

For weeks.

Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I’m always rather ho-hum about it.

Pie rules! And stuffing. Stuffing and pie rule! And sweet potatoes.

Okay, better stop now.


Elena Greene
14 years ago

Yeah, I’m just OK with turkey but love everything else: the stuffing, any vegetable on the side (I’d even try that cucumber dish…at least once) and the desserts. Pecan-cranberry pie sounds divine, Amanda!

Sleep is great, too. πŸ™‚

14 years ago

Actually, I’d try anything Anthony Bourdain told me to try – there’s just something about that tall, lean form and cigarette and whiskey soaked voice of his….

14 years ago

Turkey and sleep go nicely together.

A giant slab of turkey breast with gravy is a great way to sedate one’s relations. ;-j

Me, I’m a cranberry girl.
And cucumbers should be cold and crisp.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Pie rules! And stuffing. Stuffing and pie rule!”

Yummmm, pie. Maybe that’s why I enjoy Pushing Daisies so much, I get to imagine there’s such a place as the Pie Hole. πŸ™‚

14 years ago

Stuffing for me–I always considered all the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes optional, but stuffing is a requirement.

Cara wrote:

Diane, you’re a chef after my own heart.

Wait a minute, your heart is a chef?? Sheesh! I wish I’d known that years ago…we should make it do all the cooking…