Fritters for dinner, an all-star Thanksgiving hotline, and a great tip for giving meaningful gifts
Greetings readers and eaters! Hope you are all gearing up for the holidays. The first of our two daughters will be coming home from college on Friday, and even though she can eat anything on the island of Manhattan, she has requested her parents’ Braised Short Ribs with polenta, which means…I WIN. In book news, I finally picked up The Vaster Wilds, by Lauren Groff — Luisa’s glowing review of the novel in last week’s reading round-up clinched it for me. Lastly, I scored some leftover turkey parts at an office Friendsgiving yesterday and, since I am prepping as much as possible in advance this year, those turkey parts are simmering on the stovetop with onions, carrots, and celery AS I TYPE THIS, soon to be turned into gravy for my feast. Here are your Three Things…
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1. A Thanksgiving Hotline: Wednesday, November 15!
Please join me and a crew of all-star Substackers tomorrow for an “Ask Us Anything” text chat all about Thanksgiving! Caroline Chambers, Emily Nunn, Ali Slagle, Colu Henry, and Christina Chaey and I will be around for a full hour to live-answer all of your most pressing head-scratchers, such as What is a dish that doubles as a side for omnivores and a main for vegetarians? Are you allowed to introduce a new stuffing even though your mother-in-law has been the one in charge of that dish for decades? Is chocolate allowed on the dessert spread? As your teachers once told you, there is no such thing as a dumb question!
SEE YOU TOMORROW!
2. Honeynut-Potato Fritters
Please answer a question for me: Is honeynut squash as common as butternut squash these days? I ask because I only ever used to score the smaller, sweeter squash at the farmer’s market during a very specific window of weeks, but now I see them spilling forth out of boxes and crates everywhere I turn — from Trader Joes to Fairway to the 72nd Street corner vegetable stand. (Or maybe it’s because I live in Manhattan now, where hard-to-find things abound?) In spite of the bounty, I can’t seem to shake the habit of hoarding the honeynuts, which is how I found myself with the absurdly nice (read: out-of-touch?) problem of How do I turn all of them into dinner? Of course, I could’ve made Rigatoni with Chard, Honeynut Squash, and Hazelnuts or replaced the butternut squash in my coconut-milk based squash soup in The Weekday Vegetarians. But I had some time on my hands, so made a batch of fritters. I ran my (uncooked) squash through the shredding attachment on the food processor, along with some Yukon golds, onions, and spinach…
They were like healthier, more flavorful latkes and we ate them with sautéed kale and scallions, a fried egg, and a splash of Mama O's Kimchili Sauce — which I recommend picking up! (Not too hot, not too sweet, just the right amount of funk.) Honestly, though, this meal could’ve been breakfast or lunch, too. And the fritters themselves could easily be a side for Thanksgiving — I froze more than a dozen and successfully reheated them for later meals. Head over to Dinner: A Love Story for complete instructions. It goes without saying, you can swap in butternut squash for the honeynut squash if that’s all you can find.
3. How to give meaningful gifts
I’m not sure if it’s because my kids are older or if the state of the world is demanding it, but all I want to give this year are experience-driven gifts or gifts that carry more meaning than, say, a scented candle. (On the other hand, maybe a scented candle, or a pair of Ugg slippers for that matter, carry some kind of special sentimentality for you, so who am I to get all high-horsey…) Anyway, I wanted to remind you that last year, as part of the Like Magic passion project I run with my friend Jodi, we received a tip from a very wise reader named Tracy. A few years ago, instead of asking her children what things were on their holiday gift list, she decided to have them fill out a questionnaire about their lives. She asked questions like “Are there any things you look for to bring warmth and comfort to the dark days of winter?" and "Are there any specific holiday traditions you are looking forward to more than others this year?" and “Is there a local small business/restaurant that you are particularly taken with?" In her words, “It resulted in the coolest responses and really helped me come up with good gifts and ideas for how to make the holidays more meaningful.” Here is more from her:
For instance, in one response, my youngest son mentioned he wanted a yule log class we had taken during Covid Christmas to be a yearly tradition. Another son noted that after recent a move to a new town, he still didn't really know what the best local restaurants were. So I researched restaurants for him and gave him a collection of gift cards to new restaurants and coffee shops. One year, it was clear from my daughter's responses, that a stack of frozen meals was just the thing to give her -- she had just had her first baby, and I knew the meals would really help with transitioning back to work. My other daughter had just finished college and started teaching, and mentioned she wanted to spend her break getting back into reading for pleasure, so we got her a few books and a gift card to her new local bookstore. The questionnaire really brought a new round of magic to Christmas with a house full of adults. My college sophomore now reminds me to prep the new questions each fall. And the responses themselves are even part of the tradition -- we read them while exchanging gifts over Raclette dinner on Christmas Eve.
Amazing, right? I would add “Are there any causes you feel passionate about?” and “What is your idea of a perfect day?” I wanted to remind you of the tip now so you can grill your kids when they come home from college this week. There’s really no reason why you can’t do this with younger kids, too. You can read the whole post here. Thanks, Tracy!
Have a great week — don’t forget to register for tomorrow’s hotline!