Newsletter #19, which is so close to 20 I can almost taste it. If you’ve found your way here by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here: let me help you with that!
This is my first time taking professional Thanksgiving “off” in several years. Weird as it may sound, not contributing to the mainstream Thanksgiving conversation in any sort of official way fills me with a mix of about 389 different emotions, including but not limited to: sadness, frustration, anxiety. That said, it does feel incredible not to have to make up a reason why this year’s stuffing is better than last year’s or tell you for the 96th time that soy sauce is a great addition to gravy (soy sauce is a great addition to gravy, btw!). Sure, it’s undeniably thrilling to be a part of people’s holidays, but after many years running on the hamster wheel of content creation, not having to push myself to innovate for the sake of “creating new content” feels like an all-expenses-paid trip to the nearest Sandals resort.
When it comes to the creative process, I’m annoyingly hung up on originality, honesty, and integrity (classic Enneagram 4). Things born from a true desire to create really turn me on, which is to say that if I think I’ve achieved my personal best classic stuffing recipe, then I’m not going to lie and tell you otherwise just because I’ve swapped a leek for a shallot and added a handful of mushrooms. I could fake it and say it’s better than the last, but–I’m horrible at faking it.
Generally, my Thanksgiving foods are high in practicality, low in fussiness, and utterly boring in the most delightful way. I have 364 days a year to eat however and whatever I want, and, as someone who is constantly making those types of decisions, there’s something extremely nice about being told what to do. Relinquish control, submit to tradition. For me, it’s a pan of crunchy on the outside, custardy on the inside stuffing with lots of celery and absolutely no “spins,” or “twists,” and if you try to put a nut or dried piece of fruit inside of it, I’ll scream, I swear I will. It’s crushed potatoes where the only ingredients are potatoes, butter, milk, cream, garlic, salt, pepper, and chives and yes, there will be many, many lumps (I’m not a baby, I don’t need my food puréed, thanks). It’s a big, dumb turkey, dry brined and roasted whole like a chicken on a sheet pan, with lemons, garlic, and onion served with two bowls of gravy that are probably a little too salty. It’s cranberries from a can, sliced and plated like Jell-O next to one very herby salad that I like to eat with just about anything, every day of the year. It’s not a single sweet potato in sight and one supremely juicy, sweet-tart-salty deep-dish apple galette with six different ice creams and more alcohol for dessert because when I wake up, I want to feel BAD. I know...I’ve...said all of this before. And if you’ve heard it, this intel might be a little anticlimactic. But it’s honest, and honesty is all I have left to give at the end of this Q4.
So, it is with great regret that I’m here to inform you that my new Thanksgiving content this year, like so many other things, has been canceled. I will not be promising you the fluffiest or the juiciest or the flakiest or the silkiest anything. I shan’t blow your mind with a secret ingredient for your carrots or make up a technique that tricks you into thinking your turkey will be fucking INCREDIBLE. (Turkey is always just fine, and that’s fine.) I will not be suggesting tips on how to have a cool Thanksgiving “via Zoom”, because there is no version of that that is fun and you know it. I will not be writing an earnest essay on gratitude or eight thousand words on capitalism and why this Thanksgiving we should stop comparing ourselves to others and put away our phones because what we have in front of us always has been and always will be enough. I will not be offering any new HOT TAKES because, well, you’ve heard them all. I will not be offering “recipes for two,” because it only reminds me of how single I am (very, thanks for asking!) and who are we if not horny for leftovers?
In a year when everyone became a food blogger or is too tired of cooking to ever cook again, I feel okay with sitting this one out. I’m 35 now, and part of being that age means I know what I like and what I want. It’s exhilarating, really. And this year for Thanksgiving: I want to be quiet. I want comfort, I want softness, I want predictability, I want gentleness. I want an irresponsibly sized bag of Cheez-Its as an appetizer. I want 18 bottles of lightly chilled red wine. I want too many candles lit in lieu of electricity even though that’s definitely too dark to see anything, because I want ambiance, goddamnit. I want no fewer than two pans of stuffing because seeing only one will fill me with scarcity panic. I want to dress up in something involving crushed velvet or sequins for at least the first half of the evening just to feel alive again and then change into something that does not touch my skin. I want to listen to Sarah McLachlan with my beautiful small pod of friends and drink too much and cry a little at the end of the meal while we go around and read our GRATITUDE LISTS aloud. I want to fall asleep on the couch with all my makeup on watching Waiting to Exhale. I want to eat leftovers in the morning with my bare hands and think of all the things I could make with them and decide that there is nothing better than eating bits of shredded turkey and cold stuffing straight out of Ziploc bags when you’re hungover and feeling peckish, which of course, I will be feeling all day.
The great news is, I STILL WANT TO HELP! If you’re dying for a full backlog of recipes, articles, and hot takes, I’ve said PLENTY about Thanksgiving over the years and there are receipts! You can Google “Alison Roman Thanksgiving” or something like “Alison Roman squash,” “Alison Roman potatoes,” etc. Thanksgiving material spanning seven years and three publications exist for your perusing pleasure, not to mention two books with plenty of excellent ideas for Thanksgiving sides, desserts and convertible chickens.
If you’re not into Googling (I hear you!), next week, I will be republishing versions of my favorite recipes that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving, small or small. They will accompany printable PDFs with menu suggestions, available to paying subscribers of this here very special newsletter. Think of it as a greatest hits compilation, The Dance of Thanksgiving recipes.
Also available to paying subscribers next week: two Q+A threads, hotline style. Like a very cool Thanksgiving-themed club, except the club is a comment thread on this newsletter, and you’re not going anywhere. I may not have any fresh takes on why you absolutely do not need a roasting pan (you don’t need a roasting pan!), but goddamn do I love giving advice.
Sit and work at your laptop until it’s dark out and without realizing it, work in the dark for several hours. Get up to grab wine (do NOT turn any lights on), drink the wine, write furiously in the dark, feel like you’re starring in a The Queen’s Gambit spinoff (I still can’t believe that the baby-Harry Styles-as-character-from-Deadwood is the child from Love, Actually). Speaking of words that end in OFF, have you heard the news? IT’S A SENATE RUNOFF, BABY! Jon OssOFF and Reverend Raphael WarnOCK (close enough, sure) are in two of the most important Senate races of our young, beautiful lifetimes, and we need every ounce of energy, enthusiasm, and *financial expenditure* you have available to elect them to those seats in Georgia. Without that Senate majority, it will be very hard to get anything done, and if there’s one thing I love it’s democratic efficiency, so let’s get back to phone banking, sweet ones. Download an app that tracks how much water you drink to hold yourself accountable for hydration; find yourself lying to the app every day lol. Subscribe to Foster Kamer’s new media-focused newsletter, and feel legitimately bummed that Gawker wasn’t around to weigh in on 2020. On second thought, maybe be grateful for it 🥴. Think about ordering a turkey, recognize it might be too late, realize you don’t need a full turkey anyway, decide to maybe not roast a turkey?
Doomscrolling Reminder Lady @karenkhoIf you are staying at home for Thanksgiving and eat meat, I highly recommend going to your local Chinatown and buying roast duck, char siu, and/or roast pig for dinner. You support a local business and avoid wondering for hours if your oven-cooked turkey will be dry.
To everyone who purchased a ticket for the cooking/baking and publishing classes: THANK YOU. You raised over $30K for Swing Left, which helped candidates like Mark Kelly (AZ) and John Hickenlooper (CO) FLIP the Senate seat to blue (!!) and candidates like Jon Ossoff get closer to the seat. For those who missed out, I will be announcing more classes via this very newsletter in December for the 2021 calendar year. Stay tuned.
For the month of November, proceeds from paid subscriptions will go to FAIR FIGHT, who are working to register voters, fight voter suppression and help us secure those extremely valuable Senate seats come January. Learn more here.
Past supported organizations to put on your radar: The Okra Project / Food Issues Group / La Cocina / Heart of Dinner / ACLU