Chinese Thanksgiving, Twice

A week after the fact and finally the butter is chilling in the freezer for pie pastry.  I’m making pumpkin and pecan, the favorite pie (fraternal) twins of Thanksgiving.  Though really, in our clan Mom’s famous chocolate pie was the real winner.  Rich and creamy and deep dark chocolate on the bottom, unsweetened whipped cream on top, cradled in a buttery Nilla wafter crust and flecked with shaved chocolate, it was heaven with each creamy, cool, crust-crumbly forkful.

This year, though, I’m going traditional rather than familial.  The chocolate pie’s filling requires eggs to be whipped into fluffy oblivion, and I don’t have a hand mixer.

I’m using a recipe from Epicurious for Bourbon Pumpkin Pie, and for the pecan, I’m doctoring up a jarred filling…with more bourbon.  Yes.

At one of the import stores my eyes snagged on a jar I recognized.  At Gardners Market, the little sandwich shop I worked at during my university years, one of the many whimsical food items we carried was a large jar labeled “Pecan Pie In-a-Jar.”  This might seem superfluous, perhaps even more so because the ingredients in the jar were a straightforward blend of pecans, light and dark corn syrup, sugar, natural flavor, and salt.  Why would you need to buy a jar of these ingredients?

Why indeed.  Maybe you would if you lived in China, wherein a shopping list for Thanksgiving essentials necessitates treks across the city to all the various import stores.  Rather than going on another (probably fruitless, or rather, nutless) search for pecans, when I saw the jar, I felt a profound relief.  All my pie filling needs, provided in one cute and exorbitantly overpriced jar, with the bonus of nostalgic remembrance.  Done and done.

We tried to have Thanksgiving on Monday, and we mostly succeeded, except Daniel wasn’t there.  He couldn’t get back from the military base, and in the drawn out waiting for a word from him, I vacillated about what to do.  Should we cancel completely?  Should we extend our celebration even further from the sacred Thanksgiving Thursday we’d already missed (both Brett and I worked that day, till 9 p.m.)?  Or would Daniel show up at the eleventh hour?

A turkey was perhaps going to be ordered, if Daniel could come, if it wasn’t too late…

and then he finally wrote in that he couldn’t make it.

Fact: I don’t handle disappointment well.  When I got the news I halted my fluttery preparations for the evening and sank into despair.  Yes, we had other friends coming, but Daniel’s our family.  What’s the point of Thanksgiving without family?  (To the friends who made it: you’re dearly loved and valued, but when you live with a dear friend it makes them even more familial…you share all those mundane home moments.)

I rallied, or Brett rallied me, and I set about my corn pudding and my stuffing.  Then Josh called to inform us that, in the confusion of waiting for Daniel and calling the turkey shop to check about cooking times, the turkey had been ordered and was en route.

What?   But…Daniel isn’t coming!  Ah good grief.  Whatever.

So we had our Thanksgiving turkey in the end, four days late.  Without Daniel.

And now, tomorrow, since he’s home, we’re going to go for round two.  This time, we’ll be eating leftover turkey.  I’m going to make green bean casserole, and a repeat of the delicious corn pudding we had a few days ago.

We always had corn pudding at Thanksgivings in Tennessee.  I wasn’t really aware until recently that it’s a southern Thanksgiving tradition, though that makes sense–what with the south’s obsession with grits.

Corn pudding was never a must-have side for me at those family gatherings.  I’ll have to ask my mom or grandma what went into it, but this year I went for something different.

In perusing the internet, I looked over loads of recipes.  Some called for whipped egg whites, some for freshly shucked ears of corn, some called for not much more than canned creamed corn and butter and an egg or two.

The one that caught my eye was one on the Food Network site, using creamed corn, frozen corn kernels, cornmeal, and a healthy knob of butter and cream cheese, along with some shredded cheddar.  Buttery, cheesy corn pudding?  Yes please.  The one I was raised on never had cheese, but I knew the richness of the cream cheese and sharp tang of the cheddar would work beautifully with sunny yellow corn.

And it did.  It was rich, nicely browned, creamy, and cheesy.  In other words, divine.

It’s been a patched up and strung out holiday, but this year I’m thankful for my family here in China, as small and mismatched as it is, and I’m thankful I can spend tomorrow with them eating leftover turkey and (mostly) homemade pie.

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About dumplingdaze

I moved to Beijing from Paris a year and a half ago. I'm originally from the green hills of Tennessee, and although I miss bluegrass and good biscuits like I miss croissants and a good piece of St. Felicien, I'm enjoying my new home in the Far East. Chinese food is delicious! Dumplings, or jiaozi, are some of my favorite things on earth to eat. As you might have surmised, I love food. I also love words, and this blog is a space for me to ramble about food and life and experiences in Asia and beyond.
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