I’m not one of those people who is really keen on celebrating holidays. A quick flip through my blog makes the point glaringly obvious. In my four-and-a-half years of blogging, I can count on one hand how many holiday recipes I’ve posted. This is partly due to the fact that my place lacks the proper space to host a gathering of any significance, so I’m the one usually showing up at someone else’s home with dessert. In the ten years I have lived in my condo, I have not put up a Christmas tree. I hate the commercialization of Christmas. The crowds, jammed parking lots, the prodigious and pointless spending. When December 1st comes I wish I could blink my eyes and have the month be over.
It’s not that I don’t think celebrating holidays is important. I believe that human beings need rituals, special moments to bond with those closest to us. But I think this should occur on a nearly daily basis–not every three or four months. Having been in Eastern Europe this summer, I was reminded anew at how breaking bread with family and friends is still a very important part of everyday life. Lunch is an hours-long affair, not a sandwich scarfed down at the work desk or in front of the TV. It is an important part of the social fabric.
It always stuns me when people say things like, “It’s just food!” As if they don’t understand what all the fuss is about. To me, saying food is just food is like saying money is just paper. In theory, yes, but there is a universe of meaning behind the statement.
Many people love food for food’s sake. I love it because of how it connects me to the people in my life and to my community. Something feels not quite right for me when I have to sit down to yet another plate of pasta on my own. This is why food has so much power, why I think the interest in cooking and food has grown as we have become more and more disconnected in society by way of advances in technology.
So food is why Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. Not only is it a holiday on which we celebrate the harvest but it’s a day when we also give thanks. It is a daily practice for me to remind myself of what I’m grateful for and there are many things. Mostly I’m grateful for all the love I have in my life–the people who cherish me and accept me for who I am and are always there for me.
Because I have never roasted a turkey and probably will not do so any time soon, I am offering you this humble gratin of potatoes with garlic and herbs–a simple little twist on the mashed potatoes decorating Thanksgiving tables across the country today.
I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving and that you have many things to be grateful for.
Garlic Herb Mashed Potato Gratin
8 russet potatoes (about 4 pounds)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
6 tablespoons (3/4 cup) butter
9 ounces grated Parmesan
2 egg yolks
freshly chopped rosemary, thyme leaves, chives (about 1-2 tablespoons)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and cut the potatoes in relatively even dice. Fill a large pot with water and add salt; bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to a roiling boil and add the potatoes. Cook the potatoes until they fall apart when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes.
2) Heat the milk and cream with the minced garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.
3) Remove the potatoes from the heat and strain off the water in a colander. Transfer to a large bowl and mash; add the cream followed by the butter and salt; fold in the egg yolks. Stir in Parmesan and chopped herbs.
4) Spread mashed potatoes evenly into the bottom of a casserole dish; sprinkle evenly with the panko. Bake until he panko is golden brown, about twenty minutes.