"That's what culinary tradition is - making the harvest season last all year long," Judy Rodgers, chef of San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, said about the practice of preserving food. "My God, the most unique holiday we have is Thanksgiving. If you really ponder what Thanksgiving is all about, you would really understand food. But so many people think it's about gluttony, the beginning of the 'eating season,' as opposed to truly revering this, your great harvest celebration, and then . . . putting stuff up so you don't starve over the winter."
I always think of Judy Rodgers because of those words she said to me a few years ago. Judy is one of the most observant and articulate chefs I’ve ever met, and is also one of the best writers about food and cooking I know (her Zuni Café Cookbook is one of my favorites, worth the price for the intro alone).
The above turkey (Donna took a quick shot before it went into the oven, thanks Donna!), rests on a bed of mirepoix and is now in the oven, Donna, the kids and I are about to bakes some pies and some cornbread to bring to my father’s, who, bless him, is doing the heavy lifting because of my travel schedule. (We’re roasting our own turkey just to smell—a house has to have the smell of a roasting turkey on Thanksgiving—and to look at, and to eat straight from the oven, because it’s so good.)
But I’ve also got a couple hog bellies that I’ve got to get on the cure for next week’s Demo at Macy’s, and that, of course, is even more what Thanksgiving is about. Last year I wrote this post, linking to a chef’s plea that he be able to dry cure his own meats, and included an editorial I’d written about the impact of preservation techniques on a culture’s culinary traditions, which had been on my mind because of Charcuterie .
Thanksgiving, the one holiday all Americans share regardless of creed, is about revering our food, about not wasting it. It is not about stuffing our bird or ourselves, it’s about having food, through our own care and ingenuity, all year round. And that is why putting the cure on the hog bellies today is perhaps an even more powerful metaphor for Thanksgiving.
I can’t eat the hog bellies today, but I can eat this turkey!