Most Americans will be pulling up a chair to a heavily laden table this Thursday in celebration of Thanksgiving. If your own family drama isn't enough for you, check out one of these tension-laden reads set during the holiday season—they'll make the relationship between the pilgrims and the Native Americans seem downright functional.
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
George Silver, a widely loathed television executive, flies off the handle after a deadly car accident. Harry Silver, a Nixon scholar with less money and success than his brother, finds himself not only embroiled in the drama, but also entwined emotionally and sexually with George’s gorgeous wife, Jane—that is, until George comes home and bludgeons her to death with a table lamp.
And that’s when things really get crazy.
Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes
The richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling make Strangers at the Feast a must-read study of the lengths to which families will go in the face of unimaginable threats.
The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne
A thoroughly engrossing story of a woman's search for family and self, vaguely reminiscent of an Anne Tyler tale, The Ghost at the Table plays out over the course of a holiday weekend.
The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford
Apart from the humor and pathos revealed in these sometimes bizarre and inexplicable incidents, what makes this such a compelling read is Ford's skillful channeling of the voice of the narrator he's shaped over the course of three books and 20 years.
Anyone have a favorite novel with a Thanksgiving setting?
Happy Thanksgiving, readers! Our Cookbook of the Month, naturally, is Sam Sifton's "charming, absolutely essential manual," Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well.
If, by chance, your preparations aren't going very well—or if you simply need a great last-minute recipe for cranberry sauce—here's a little help from Sam Sifton.
Science! Sometimes it’s helpful. So is spice. Some like a clove or two added to their cranberry sauce. (I am not one of them.) Others, a whisper of ginger and a small handful of nuts, for texture. Of this, I approve.
2. Cook until sugar is entirely melted and cranberries begin to burst in the heat, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir again, add zest, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer, turn off heat, cover pan, and allow to cool.
3. Put cranberry mixture in a serving bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours, or until you need it.
Our Top Pick in Cookbooks for November is Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well by Sam Sifton, an essential guide whether you're hosting this year or simply wish to bring a flawless dish.
2. Meanwhile, prepare bread crumbs. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan set over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add the anchovies, garlic, shallot, and bread crumbs. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden.
3. In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower and bread crumbs and serve on a warmed platter.
The recipes in David Venable's debut cookbook, In the Kitchen with David, promise to "warm your heart, stir your soul, and happily fill your stomach." Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt found it to be "warm, chatty" and defined by its devotion to comfort.
According to the publisher, this is David's all-time favorite, and he serves it at every Thanksgiving.
My ultimate macaroni and cheese
While the pasta is cooking, heat the half-and-half in a large saucepan over medium heat. Just before the mixture starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in 2 cups of the warm half-and-half. (This will keep the eggs from scrambling.)
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Stir 1 cup of the Cheddar, all the mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Velveeta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the milk into the saucepan. Heat the saucepan on medium-low heat to help melt the cheese. Whisk in the mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Do not let the mixture boil.
Toss the cooked pasta and cheese sauce together and then pour into a 4-quart baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle an even layer of crumbled bacon on top and bake for 10 minutes more.
Literary Review revealed their shortlist for the 2011 Bad Sex in Literature award on Tuesday, and the 12 nominees include 1Q84, 11/22/63 and The Land of Painted Caves. The winner will be announced on December 6. In the meantime, check out the rest of the list as well as some really bad examples via Huffington Post, such as this one from Stephen King:
She was wearing jeans. The fabric whispered under my palm. She leaned back and her head bonked on the door. "Ouch!" I said. "Are you all right?"
Doubleday's Thanksgiving Twitter challenge, Literary Turducken, had some great results that are worthy of a chuckle. The original post said: “The Literary Turducken combines not one, not two, but three classic works into one, in the spirit of the turkey+duck+chicken creole classic.”
2012 will be a big year for Charles Dickens, what with it being his 200th anniversary. Amidst all the celebration will be a bit of a change, however . . . specifically to Great Expectations. A new film adaptation of the classic work comes out in 2012, directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes. This article over at The Telegraph has Newell comparing it to Hannibal Lector and calling it a "thriller." It will also have a new ending.
My opinion: I'm into it. You?
Thanksgiving is all about the best family recipes--the ones that use the most butter and cream and are handwritten on ancient recipe cards. Like my grandmother's corn pudding recipe—at the bottom she wrote, "Serve, eat & slap yo' mama!"
So don't make this recipe today. Enjoy your favorite family dishes with those you love, and log this one away for later. Because you have to admit, this recipe from Ruhlman's Twenty sure does look good!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The main critical points are to cook and shock the asparagus properly and to get a good colorful crust on the scallops. The hardest part is finding good scallops. Try to find a good fishmonger who can offer large dry-packed scallops in the fall and winter when they are primarily harvested. The larger they are, the better the dish will be, and the easier it will be to prepare.
Remove the scallops from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. They usually have a little nib of connective tissue on their side; remove and discard this.
Just before cooking the scallops, put the puréed asparagus in a saucepan over low heat. Put the asparagus tips and 1 piece of the butter in a sauté pan over low heat.
Season the scallops on both sides with fine sea salt. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. It needs to be large enough that the scallops aren’t crowded, or you won’t get a good sear, one of the pleasures of this dish. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. A depth of 3/16 inch/5 mm is ideal, but gauge the depth by eye. It is better to err on the side of too much oil. You’re not eating the oil, just cooking in it. When it’s very hot, just before it smokes, add the scallops and cook until they are beautifully seared, about 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking just until the scallops are warm in the middle and medium-rare, about 2 minutes more. With scallops, it’s better to err by undercooking them; raw scallops are delicious, but overcooked scallops are rubbery. Remove the scallops to paper towels to drain.
While the scallops are cooking, raise the heat on both pans with asparagus to medium. Warm the tips in the butter. Bring the puréed asparagus to a simmer and season with kosher salt, then whisk in the remaining butter.
Immediately before serving, add the lemon juice to the asparagus sauce. Divide the sauce among plates or large bowls. Place the scallops on the sauce and garnish with the warmed asparagus tips and lemon zest.
You’re probably eating turkey (or another favorite food) right now, and spending time with family and friends. I love doing all those things on Thanksgiving, but I also like to spend the holiday diving into a good book.
If you’re looking for Thanksgiving kids books, here are a few favorites from the BookPage.com archives. This year, we highlighted Duck for Turkey Day and Thanksgiving Rules, but there are many older books worth re-reading or discovering, too.
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, shows a re-enactment of the Thanksgiving feast of 1621 at living history museum Plimoth Plantation.
Rivka's First Thanksgiving, by Elsa Okon Rael, is about a young Jewish girl’s celebration of the holiday in 1910. About the book, reviewer Alice Cary writes, “Here’s a lovely story with unique insights into what it means to be a thankful American.”
All About Turkeys, by writer, illustrator and naturalist Jim Arnosky, is about the feeding, hunting and mating habits of the wild turkey. We’ve got an interview with Arnosky here. (Sneak peek: “I am convinced that if you love the outdoors, natural places, and wildlife, you will grow into a person who will consider those factors no matter what work you do.”)
Enjoy the holiday! What are you reading?
Update: Nadia won a copy of Thanksgiving Rules by Laurie Friedman.
We love hearing about the books you're thankful for, however, so feel free to keep commenting on our original Thanksgiving post.
P.S. If, like Nadia, you like Bernard Waber, here's a handwritten interview with the author/illustrator.