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Thu Nov 24, 2016, 03:01 AM

Writing about food: Thanksgiving in Jane Smiley's "Moo"

"Thanksgiving was Helen's favorite holiday, and for at least five years Nils and Ivar had spent Thanksgiving with her, along with an assortment of lonely, overworked, or impecunious faculty members who she happened to run across in the course of the fall. ... This year, however ... she was preparing a rather small dinner for Ivar, Nils, Marly, and Father. Small didn't mean that she couldn't go all out, but it did mean that most of her kitchen equipment, from her Bosch food processor to her Calphalon turkey roaster to her Viking oven, was just too big. The ingredients she measured out seemed to sit in little puddles at the bottom of large vessels, and there were things she would never use again that she actually had to go out and buy -- an eight-inch pie plate, a three-quart casserole. Ah, but her yard, her root cellar, and her freezer were abundant with provisions.

"For Thanksgiving, Helen liked to pursue a western hemispherical theme. Banished from the table were some of the Italian and French flavors she loved -- truffles and tarragon and crusty bread, lamb and pork roast, olive oil, lemons, oranges with cloves, pears poached in wine ... . Everything about the preparations pleased her -- the setting out of ingredients, the measuring and mixing, the trips to the root cellar and the freezer, the view out the window of her frosted garden under its winter mulch and all of chill nature alive in the wind, the darkness that because of thick November clouds never really lifted. Around her, in the kitchen, the bowls and pans glowed and auspicious fragrances rose and mingled.

"Now this food, thought Father, was mighty strange. First there was some tomato soup, but it was cold and had green stuff floating in it. Then there were the sweet potatoes, but they turned out to be regular mashed potatoes, even though they were yellow. The beans he recognized, but then beans gave him gas, so he didn't have any. The turkey, which he thought he could rely on, was too rich-tasting, and the stuffing burned his mouth -- it had chili peppers in it, who'd ever heard of that? Then instead of a nice cool cylinder of jellied cranberry sauce sliced into disks, there was some sort of cranberry junket. Then there was blackberry sherbet -- that was okay -- but after that there were two more desserts, pumpkin pie, but with a strange cornmeal crust, and chocolate cake, but with cranberries in that, too. Frankly, there was hardly a bite of food at this table that Father recognized, and he knew that he was going to get up hungry."

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Reply Writing about food: Thanksgiving in Jane Smiley's "Moo" (Original post)
betsuni Nov 2016 OP
japple Nov 2016 #1
betsuni Nov 2016 #2

Response to betsuni (Original post)

Thu Nov 24, 2016, 09:15 AM

1. I LOVED that book when I read it many years ago. I've forgotten most

of it, though. Thank you for posting this snippet. Might have to go back and re-read the book.

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Response to japple (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 24, 2016, 10:03 AM

2. I've read it many times, I love it!

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