Thanksgiving signals the beginning of six weeks of culinary yin and yang for Americans.
We gorge. We diet.
Americans need to rethink our on again, off again relationship with food. We should develop a more European attitude. The French, for example, consider chocolate mousse a pleasure but we look at it with guilt and apprehension.
The nation is constantly counting calories.
Witness the recent low carbohydrate craze—another in a long list of dietary fads that I have ignored.
Some of the wackiest over the years have been:
Short is the life span of a fad diet. The bloom is already off the low carb diet. The recent issue of Mayo Clinic Women's Health Source warned dieters to beware of the distinction between "good carbs" like oatmeal and brown rice versus "bad carbs" like sugar. Dieters were also cautioned against paying any attention to marketing phrases like "carb wise" or "carb fit."
Thanksgiving is hardly the time to obsess about calorie counting. Let prudence prevail but when you do give in, relax and enjoy yourself.
This year, I recommend that you reach back in time to try what was once a Thanksgiving staple, the mincemeat pie.
The pie suffers the same indignity as our old friend the fruitcake. Say "mincemeat pie" or "fruitcake" and noses turn up.
But if you have ever eaten a good one, nothing is better. That means you have to bake it from scratch.
But in the 1500s, mincemeat pies were banned in Reformation England because the pastry shells were considered symbolic of the cradle of the baby Jesus and the spices, the gifts from the three kings.
For five centuries, the filling never varied: minced boiled beef, ox tongue, mutton and suet with huge amounts of currants, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.
Once the pie landed in North America in the late 19th century, the recipe was altered and the meat—except possibly for the suet—was eliminated.
Here is the recipe for one large pie or eight- 3 ½ inch pies—a nice touch if you are having a large group:
After putting your filling into pastry crusts, bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Mincemeat pie is best served warm.
A note on the pastry shell: you will need a sturdy crust so look for a recipe that uses either egg yolks and/or heavy cream.
Not only will your mincemeat pie wow the guests but also you can do most of the work in advance to avoid a pressure-packed Thanksgiving morning.