A few weeks ago, I came across a story about a restaurant in Chicago that is offering a twist on a traditional Thanksgiving dish—the clear pumpkin pie. Perhaps you saw it too? I don’t know about you, but I want no part of this ugly pie.
Look at it. It’s a tiny, gelatinous, triangle of horror. Why is it so small? Would a larger slice induce mass hysteria? I suspect so.
In its proper form, pumpkin pie can be both decadent dessert and pseudo-healthy breakfast. You would not eat this clear pie for breakfast. This clear pie, my friends, is nothing but a fancy jello mold. Calling it pie and charging a fortune for it doesn’t make it any more special than your aunt’s annual lime-jello-with-marshmallows-and-pineapple Easter potluck monstrosity.
I don’t like food that pretends to be something it isn’t. I once worked late at a PBS fundraiser and missed the evening meal brought in by a local barbecue joint. By the time I was free to grab a bite, the only bites left were some sort of shredded tofu. It looked like pulled pork, but it tasted like wet sponge. No thank you. And I’m not anti-tofu. I like it just fine in my hot and sour soup, but don’t slop some sauce on it and call it meat.
Now with so many people eschewing carbs, there are all sorts of recipes that claim cauliflower can be a stand-in for bread or rice. It can’t. If you want to eat cheese on cauliflower, by all means go ahead. But don’t mash it into a pan and call it cheesy bread. And if you want to pour your stir fried beef over a pile of cauliflower, go nuts. It will not taste like rice. You can fool your eyes, but your tastebuds will know the difference. I like my food to look like the very best version of what it actually is, but I will forgive a homely cake that tastes like cake. I cannot forgive a seemingly perfect french fry that tastes like sliced zucchini. I love zucchini, but it’s not a potato.
As we head toward Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to live in a country where chefs can experiment with translucent pastry, foam infusions, sous vide, and freeze dried sugar concoctions, but I prefer simpler foods. In our house, we’ll be settling in for a traditional Thanksgiving meal—turkey, fresh cranberry sauce, sage dressing, and an assortment of side dishes and desserts. We’ll have fresh-baked dinner rolls and real whipped cream. We’ll have wine and coffee. We may break out the board games. We’ll have a full house. I’m looking forward to all of it. In preparation for the meal and the visit, I’m going to take a short break from writing in this space. I’ll be back.
Whether you’re digging into turkey or tofurkey, whether you’re baking up traditional or translucent pies, whether you’re skipping the overindulgence or pulling out your sweat pants, I hope you all have a joyful Thanksgiving.
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