Steak and champagne

We all have our special traditions at this time of the year. Our family always held hands to say a benediction and then each told what they were most thankful for.

One year, when the boys were young, Dean said he was most thankful for his mommy.

This was even though she’d just hollered at him for trying to steal a cookie from the cookie jar. If I think about it, I guess I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the food at Thanksgiving. Cooks have their particular way of doing a turkey. I like to give it a good rub with butter, salt and pepper, roast 20 minutes a pound on a rack, and then make giblet gravy.

Mashed white potatoes and candied sweets are a must, and while the new fad of a green bean casserole is fine, roasted Brussels sprouts are on my menu. And, of course we must have stuffing which my grandmother Hoffman taught me how to make. Everybody has his or her own idea of “stuffing.” I’m no different, I follow grandma’s teachings. If you want to add oysters or nuts, be my guest, they aren’t for me.

Cooking onions and celery in butter along with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, I add the cut up bread, beaten eggs and chicken broth as needed into a casserole and bake. Since it’s just my son Doug and I most years, it’s canned, not homemade cranberry sauce. Of course we need yeast rolls and a pumpkin pie. This last month or so, you we’ve been inundated on TV with how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

Being no exception, one cooking show really caught my eye. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief. This young lady is new to cooking shows. She’s a country singer you’d recognize, and a few of her cooking shows have been fine. However, this one — all about how her mother cooked a turkey dinner — was eye opening.

Here’s what she did. A turkey was placed on a rack in a large roasting pan with two or so inches of water in the bottom. It was seasoned with salt and pepper and covered with a lid to make it air tight; then placed in a pre-heated 500 degree oven for one hour. The oven was then turned off and the turkey left to cook until they were ready to eat.

Watching as the turkey was removed from the pan was painful. It was a pale color, just a little brown. The cook then made what she called her mother’s stuffing, consisting of cut up bread, corn bread and a bunch of ground up saltines. Pepper, salt , fried onions and some of the water from the bottom of the turkey pan were added before the whole thing was baked.

The only other thing I watched during that show was the addition of a sweet potato dish that did look appetizing. Then the cook made cranberry sauce by taking raw cranberries, added oranges, ground them together and that was it; no cooking the sauce. I cringed; however, the Thanksgiving I remember the most is one that happened when my husband Van and I lived up in the wilds of Idaho.

Our plans were to travel to visit friends in Boise, leaving early and spending the day. Weather reports said there was only a slight chance of showers, so we went to bed the night before certain that all would be just fine. It wasn’t. We woke to find that overnight it had snowed at least a foot or more, and there were huge drifts up against the house.

Van had gone outside to make a path for our puppy Trinket, to feed our horse and check to see that she had water. I’d turned on the television and began making coffee. Suddenly the TV went off. We weren’t going to have any coffee, the electricity had failed. We were all electric, except for our Earth stove that efficiently heated our home

Finally, after hours of card games it was time to eat.

Knowing I had to get busy if we were going to have any Thanksgiving dinner, I got a steak out of the freezer, cut up some potatoes, made a salad and did what I’d done before — I cooked on that Earth stove. Van opened a bottle of the bubbly, we enjoyed a really fine but unusual thanksgiving meal. Who could complain? What could be finer than steak and champagne!

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at


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