Thanksgiving, in the Time of COVID-19

I turn the calendar page and the tiny print at the bottom of the little square reminds me: Thanksgiving, November 26, 2020. After nearly a year of increasing horrors, many deaths, travel restrictions, and just plain fear of a still-mysterious virus, I find myself wondering just what Thanksgiving means to me now.

This year, it seems to me, I – and all of us, actually – must dig a little deeper to find things to be thankful for. Of course, as always, I am thankful for the people in my life, family and friends equally, or just about equally, horrified as I am by the state of things outside my front door.

Because food and cooking define most of my days, I’ll start there with my list of things for which I am thankful.

  1. Farmers, still producing food to feed the nation.
  2. Migrant workers, working in smoky fields in California to pick fruits and vegetables.
  3. Meat packers, continuing to show up for work despite increase risk for COVID-19 because they cannot afford not to.
  4. Truckers, driving long, lonely miles, spending nights away from their families, at risk for COVID every time they stop for gas or food.
  5. Grocery store shelvers and cashiers, making sure that food is accessible.
  6. Chefs and other cooks, serving food under vastly different conditions, struggling to keep afloat as COVID-19 threatens their livelihoods and their health.
  7. Food banks, feeding those impacted by economic hardship.

Then there are others who deserve a huge round of applause:

  1. Healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, office staff, testers, lab technicians putting their lives on the line for people infected with COVID or needing routine/emergency care.
  2. Journalists and other writers reporting truth and facts about the state of the world.
  3. Scientists working day and night to find a cure for COVID-19, or at least a stopgap, so we can begin to join together again.

Because of these people, I get through my days well enough, although many nights I waken at 2 a.m., jaws clenched, dreading what the news will bring a few hours later. And when I climb out of bed at 7 a.m., I first read the wise words of historian Heather Cox Richardson, who puts all the daily outrages in perspective.

So what about my days, which seem to melt into each other?

I’ve found solace in my old cookbooks, some cracking apart with age and splattered with food stains, others still offering up that new-book aroma, the crisp crackling of pages, filled with recipes yet to be discovered. Cooking old, familiar recipes comforts me, as does re-reading books such as Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles, even though the winter cold here in Florida would be a balmy spring day in Wisconsin.

Speaking of Wisconsin, I want to mention cranberries, since you’ll find cranberry bogs there.

One recipe I always make for the holidays is this whole-berry sauce made from fresh, or frozen, cranberries. Lost in the fog of time, the source for the recipe is unknown. I wrote it out by hand in one of those old lab notebooks, copying it from a now-forgotten cookbook in a darkened library on a snowy winter afternoon, the dim light just bright enough so I could see to copy the words.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch fine sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Rinse cranberries and cook with vinegar and water in a saucepan for 5 minutes over medium-high heat until soft and tender. Keep the lid on to avoid being splattered with bursting berries. Add brown sugar, spices, and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 3 minutes. Mixture will thicken. Stir in the butter. Pour sauce into a wide-mouth canning jar and store in the refrigerator. Serve with pork, turkey, duck, chicken, or ham. Freezes well.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Until I discovered this recipe just after my marriage, I never realized what an abomination the canned variety was. I am sorry if anyone loves it, but I don’t, and I never understood the attraction.

Please tell me what you are thankful for this year.


2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving, in the Time of COVID-19

  1. There are always two competing cranberry opinions at our Thanksgiving table, the “its too sweet” vs. the “its too sour.” I made your “historic” recipe this year and the sides were closer than ever before. Thanks, its pleasantly somewhere in the middle, a keeper.

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