Winter weather and American Thanksgiving
By Paul Miazga
The snow arrived quietly, on Saturday night, while some guests were over for a pre-Thanksgiving harvest fest (American Thanksgiving is two weeks away yet). The weather accompanying it was cold, but not miserable, so I was more mystified than mortified watching the snow fall.
Compared to past years, this was a gentle easing into the winter months, which suited me just fine. Oftentimes the winter weather here arrives with a blanketing flurry of wet snow, bone-chilling winds and lots of ice; keep a look out for Kyivans bearing plaster-cast limbs in the coming days. This year it was actually a nice transition in the weather, but so much for my plan of taking photos of autumn leaves over the weekend.
Bundling up the next day against the cold and snow I stopped by a local market to get into Thanksgiving preparation mode. For the last two years some American friends of mine have inspired me to prepare the traditional turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings, despite the fact that, as a Canadian, I should be celebrating this holiday back in early October. Trips to local markets only heighten my sense of inspiration.
Among the things I go looking for are, first of all, appropriately sized turkeys (nothing bigger than 5kg, thanks). The way I see it, a 10kg bird (as can often be found in Canada and the US) just doesn’t seem healthy; this is a festival of bounty, not of obesity, after all. Other items: sage leaves and celery (for the stuffing), cranberries, chestnuts (the roasting kind), sweet potatoes and corn on the cob. It’s a challenge to prepare a big bird by one’s self, and it’s fun to find fresh, as opposed to prepared goods for the whole feast!
One of the best things about visiting such local markets is that it puts you in touch with the food you’re eating; more and more in the West the idea of having a chat with your local butcher, grocer and the like is becoming more and more difficult. Goods might be cheaper and easier to find, but what you get is the same as everyone else, and that’s not always worth celebrating. I like talking with this woman named Galla at Volodymyrsky Market, who has supplied me with lovely, wholesome birds for the last two years now. I specify the size of bird I want and we arrange a time to meet the week after (it’s always good to prepare a week in advance). These birds have always hit the spot and have that real fowl taste that’s lacking in the over-sized birds that I recall from my teen years.
For sage, sweet potatoes, chestnuts and celery, these can still be found at local markets, though only the celery is sure to be there now that the snow has arrived. If not available at local markets, these products can usually be found in the largest grocery stores, such as MegaMarket and Furshet. Cranberries by Oceanspray are a common item in MegaMarket stores, as are bags of frozen corn on the cob – you won’t find sweet corn on the cob in any local market. Even if you think you did in the summer, it was likely just ears of feed corn you saw.
About the only thing left after all the shopping is to pick up wine and do the actual cooking. Moldovan and Chilean wines are both inexpensive (from $5 to $10 per bottle) and very good and they are also widespread. As for the cooking, I’ve yet to get the stuffing just right, but at least my sister’s secret recipe for the bird itself is foolproof and takes almost no time (90 min max.)
For those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, take a trip to the market this weekend anyway. Now that the snow and cold have arrived in force, market prices will start to really increase, so it’s your last best chance to get farm-fresh ingredients at reasonable prices.