Not Green Beans – A Thanksgiving Experiment

November 24, 2009 at 8:14 am

Brad Moldofsky

For Thanksgiving at my parents, we were requested to bring green beans. Typically baked to a mush in a casserole dish blended in cream of mushroom soup and crowned with onion strings, this dish screams “I came from a can” nearly as loud as the can-shaped cranberry sauce mould.

Little about the dish bespeaks Pilgrims, autumn or gratitude. True, both beans and onions might have been on the first Thanksgiving menu. But the onions are now battered, dried and fried beyond recognition and the beans are concealed by the mushroom sauce to the point where most kids will happily eat them.

I’m not ragging on the green bean casserole. It’s a reliable stand-by. However, as the black sheep of the family, I am breaking with tradition to bring an underground dish I’ve never before seen served at our November holiday (or made before). I will roast an array of root vegetables (few of which come from my garden) but all of which might have been stowed in a cellar or beneath the earth by our foredads and foremoms at some point in the past, to be dug up as needed.

An Internet search pulled up several recipes with squash and peppers as the central ingredients. While not a root, the squash is permitted in the dish because of its historical authenticity. Peppers, a Central American, heat-loving fruit neither the British nor the Wampanoag would likely have eaten, have no place at the table this week. And so, roasting along with generous heaps of onions and garlic will be carrots, parsnip, turnips, taters, rutabaga and whatever root vegetables I find at the produce store tomorrow. Some sage and marjoram have survived in my herb spiral until now, so I’ll throw them in as well. Pretty much whatever’s fresh and available and fits in the theme goes in the casserole dish. (Yes, this is how I cook. My wife covers her face in shame at the thought of me serving untried recipes to other people).

Which brings me to my thoughts of gratitude. When I talk with people whose parents and siblings reside in another state or are no longer with us, I feel so blessed to still be surrounded by family in northern Illinois. Family who will forgive my culinary experiments and humor my agricultural obsession.

To live in a region not ravaged by war, famine, flood or fire. To have the freedom to pursue my passions. To watch my children grow and stay healthy. Despite this miserable financial crisis, to enjoy a prosperity unseen by hardly anyone before us in history. To have access to open land, fresh food and clean water. We may choose to take these for granted, or we may choose to see them as precious gifts. I am grateful for the luxury of having that choice. Have a joyous Thanksgiving and enjoy the bounty before us.