Pimp Your Meal: Thanksgiving, Israeli-Style
With eighty degree days and no sign of chill in sight, Thanksgiving seemed a far-off option in a country that is more familiar with religious Pilgrims than the sort that settled New England. But left to some homesick Americans with a penchant … Read More
With eighty degree days and no sign of chill in sight, Thanksgiving seemed a far-off option in a country that is more familiar with religious Pilgrims than the sort that settled New England. But left to some homesick Americans with a penchant for good wine, the holiday can turn into much more than the one celebrated in the good ole US of A–the one preceded by a large parade and capped off with black Friday.
Twelve Americans and one Israeli gathered in a lovely apartment in Jerusalem as the weekend began in the holy land. Two poets, four rabbis in waiting, a computer engineer, a photographer, a teacher and a few visitors began the evening, not with the carving of a bird or the giving of thanks, but with the popping of some bubbly. The notion of this meal was not to follow the dictates of tradition but rather to create something new: five courses, each paired with a specific wine, and lemon sorbet to cleanse our palettes in between.
The first course, appetizers enjoyed before setting down at the table, included veggie antipasto and veggie chopped liver. They were accompanied by a bottle of Cava and a bottle of Brut. These were my favorite wines–cold, sparkling, the perfect start to a fascinating meal.
Everyone found their seat, finished off their Cava and moved onto the second course. In an effort to not leave tradition completely in the dark, one of the guests prepared a honey sage cornbread–in my opinion, a modern American classic. Sweet, savory, amazing. This was served with a carrot soufflé–the recipe of a guest’s aunt and the perfect retake on the sweet potato marshmellow combination that often graces Thanksgiving tables. As we were now seated at the table, the cries of "Pimp your dish" began–a chorus that followed us through the night and necessitated that the cook give the origins and secrets of his or her recipe. This course was served with Chenin Blanc.
Before moving on to course three, we were served lemon sorbet to make sure our palates were clean and prepared to best enjoy what came next. The third course included a stuffing recipe out of Long Island and a gourmet macaroni and cheese. The mac and cheese truly shamed Kraft–big shells covered in mozzarella, cheddar, and gruyere with tomato slices for color. Sauvignon Blanc, a few rounds of Johnny Appleseed, more sorbet and on to course four.
The fourth course was the real meat of the meal, minus the meat. Salmon done in a cumin rub, sour cream mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and homemade cranberry sauce. Any other night, this would be the entire meal. On this Thanksgiving, this and some Tempranillo equaled just the fourth course.
With all of the savory food dispensed, we moved on to the best and most important course–dessert. Pumpkin cheesecake bars, chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, dark chocolate truffles and Malbec to boot.
I walked in knowing only the hosts and two other people. I walked out with a handful of new friends, a full belly and real inspiration–this was not a Thanksgiving without thought or hope. This group of temporary expats really redefined the notion of Thanksgiving for me; each course was given its time, its wine and its appreciation. There were true thanks given at this meal–for the food in front of us, for friends new and old, and for the ability to celebrate the holiday despite our proximity to New England.