I have three favorite holidays: 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. In that order. I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my folks in fifteen years….we usually get together the 2nd week of December and it’s sort of Thanksmas. So as an single adult, my own Thanksgiving tradition has (usually) been making my mom’s quiche and watching every single Star Trek movie back to back. All 22 or 24 hours of it…it does take the entire weekend. Over those years, people have felt sorry for my Vegetarian Nerd Thanksgiving when I described this to them, but I assure it has always made me ridiculously happy.
Since I’ve been with Mark, we’ve de facto had Thanksgiving with his family (since we’ve done Thanksmas with mine).
His family has been “done” by my stepmother-in-law (SMIL). She’s a good cook, and has a profound Martha Stewart streak. She invites seventy thousand people and most of us drink a lot of wine and eat on the fine china. It’s a good time. It’s SMIL and father in law (FIL), my mother in law (you get the idea with -IL, right?), my SIL and her husband and two kids. (Chase is 11 and his cousins are aged 10 and 12, so they have a good time.) That’s the “immediate” family (whatever “immediate” means). It’s good, and we have family bumps and lumps, like any other. I’m not as used to it, because my family feels small to me. Big family dynamic is not something I grew up with (even though I have cousins….we just didn’t do holidays with them).
Often, there’s a smattering of other adults. Two of Mark’s friends who are both single join us. Sometimes friends of my FIL show. What’s nice for me is Mark’s ex-wife has finally stopped coming to Thanksgiving. Their divorce was final in 2002, and she and Chase’s grandparents still get along very well, which is great. The year that Mark drunkenly and happily announced that he and I were moving in together with her at the table was the year that maybe she got the idea that it was time to move on and start having Thanksgiving with her boyfriend who has been with her since 2002 or 03, and lives in her house with her, instead of with her ex-husband’s family. (I think she still comes at Christmas….I work every Christmas, so I don’t really care. But maybe this year, now that Mark and I are married, someone will tell her she should have moved on a decade ago.)
SMIL has a handful of somewhat adult stepkids who usually show up sometime after everybody at the adult table has cleaned most of their plates, but before dessert….they lurk through and wave. I usually don’t know who they are, and they grab food, and seem to eat it in the kitchen or somewhere else, drink some wine, and then they leave again. I call them ‘the teenagers’ until they prove me otherwise by showing up on time, bringing a dish to pass or bottle of wine at least, and eating at the grown up table.
This year, very strangely, SMIL and FIL ordered the turkey with basic fixins from Sunflower Market. I’m sure it will be very tasty and I’ve certainly appreciated all the hard work SMIL has put into the vast spread from previous years…and I’m happy she’s got the space to have all of us this year. God knows, I don’t want the Family Thanksgiving at my house. I want quiche and Star Trek, and Mark wants football at our house, period. (The Packers are up 21 vs. the Detroit Lions right now, btw.)
The womenfolk in Mark’s family also have extremely strong ideas about who cooks what and which pie and such. It took me a few holidays (because Easter and apparently Christmas are this way, too) to figure out these invisible rules. I figured out from various snapping remarks from various womenfolk, said usually months after the holiday in question. Mark has been oblivious to this, so he couldn’t tell me.
Don’t get me wrong…. I enjoy the family, and the Family Thanksgiving. I like my in-laws, and there’s good food and good wine, and I enjoy pecan pie as much as pumpkin. Mark, Chase and I are gonna do Thanksgiving my way starting tomorrow. It’s a new tradition for Mark and Chase, but so far, they like it, too. (Okay, Chase can do without the quiche, but he will eat it now.) It’s Vegetarian Nerd Thanksgiving, and I love it. I’m so excited for our weekend together. This year, I thought we’d make Christmas cards, too, and Chase is lookin forward to learning how to emboss things, and he likes the idea of picking out designs from my rubber stamp collection. Crafty stuff should be good fun. AND we’re gonna do the tree, and we really like doin that the three of us, too. See? I just love Thanksgiving weekend. It’s so fun.
But today is the Mark’s Side Family Thanksgiving. I volunteered to do the the vegetable. Because nobody but me WANTS to cook the vegetable. The family also doesn’t appear to have strong green vegetable opinions (though there are, however, strong ideas about the starches.)
I got this recipe off the internet, on suggestion from a patient of mine.
lacto-ovo vegetarian, gluten +
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
- 2 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled eggplant (about 6 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini (about 12 ounces)
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, mince
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 cup 1% low-fat milk (I used almond milk, cos I didn’t feel like going to the store for this)
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- 8 ounces (1-inch) cubed day-old Italian bread (about 9 cups) (I dunno if I had nine cups, but I tore up an entire loaf of Tuscan Bread that I made Sunday for this purpose. It was, incidentally, cement hard on the outside…and I worried about final product, but the pudding itself seems to be nice and soft.)
- Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add eggplant and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes; cook, uncovered, 15 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
Combine milk, 1/4 cup cheese, eggs, and egg whites in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in eggplant mixture. Add bread; stir gently to combine. Let stand 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pudding with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until pudding is set and lightly browned.
I had a small taste from the corner, and this is really quite tasty.
My only worry is keeping it good, while keeping it warm enough for dinner tonight. Hopefully, it will be fine reheated….this is the other problem with Family Thanksgiving and the dish to pass thing. We’ll see how it goes.