Grace builds upon nature. Or as we classically educated Latin teachers would construe,
Gratia Supponit Naturam
or even “Gratia aedificat super naturam”?
In any case, whether George Washington was stirred by the Holy Ghost, when he rendered his first Thanksgiving Proclamation, or whether he was simply following right reason and the natural law – none of this matters insofar as the effect is in profound sympathy with the spirit of Christianity.
The central attitude of the Christian is one of thanksgiving. After all, isn’t that what the very word “Eucharist” means? Those who follow nature and show gratitude, by setting aside time from work for resting and for communal feasting, are essentially driven by a primordial impulse which has its ultimate completion in Holy Mass. As Saint Paul says,
For now we see now through a glass, darkly
And Thanksgiving Day is just such a glass- although I would include it among the clearer glasses through which we might gain a glimpse of the Divine.
I certainly gained a glimpse of the divine when I beheld the morning preparations for the feast. We traditionally eat a bit later- about 7pm. This is a tradition that developed because of the limited capacity of our dual fuel oven.
For all its virtues, the problem with this oven is that the narrow electric side oven is incapable of holding any ordinary baking or roasting dish- except for perhaps those who cook lots of meatloaves. Consequently, the main gas oven is the only thing workable for cooking pies and of course the turkey. But with a 30lb Turkey roasting for at least 4.5-5 hours, the pies and anything else that needs to be baked necessarily monopolized the oven for the greater part of the morning. Hence, we generally eat on the later side.
And so while the bakers inserted a succession of what turned out to be ten pies into the oven, the chefs commenced to build the assortment of necessary side dishes on the stovetop. First, they began with a spinach-beet-feta cheese concoction.
After the cranberries had simmered down to a jelly-like consistency they were cooled and garnished with orange shavings.
Third, the stuffing – an assortment of celery and onions were cooked until tender and subsequently mixed with sourdough bread crumbs and a special mix of savory herbs!
Even when a bit blurry, these buttery caramelized shallots are one of my favorites.
Meanwhile, as an aperitif, I uncorked a bottle of Vouvray and served it with a small army of cheeses to keep the chefs (and hangers-around) energized.
This little dish- cranberry, celery, and a little lemon zest provided a cold chutney of sorts to provide a cooling contrast to the other dishes.
Not pictured are the creamed peas and pearl onions nor the beets and spinach inebriated with a balsamic reduction, not to mention the traditional sides of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, and, of course, the turkey!
Finally, dinner was served…children and cousins first!
Then the adults.
In addition to other sparkling beverages, for the wine, we decided on a couple bottles of Cotes du Rhone thinking that these would make the best stand against the cranberry sauce.
Finally the pies! My favorite-the pecan! But I always try to hide a piece of apple for breakfast.