I'm one of those tiresome folks who is descended from one of the English people who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620. My blog handle, in fact, is derived from one of those people. Thanksgiving is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me it's always been a family occasion: an anniversary of an arrival in a new place, but also an occasion to honor the native people without whom the Pilgrim settlement would never have survived. Some contemporary Native Americans find that a troublesome legacy (and I don't blame them), but I think of a hard winter in a new country, when the English transplants were sick and dying, and the native people did what any decent human being would have done; they offered help to their new neighbors. That they were repaid so poorly is one of history's tragedies.
Thanksgiving found me alone again this year; partly from circumstance, partly from inclination. I turned to Mark Bittman and the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market. Bittman's recipe for "Turkey Thighs Braised in Red Wine" (from How to Cook Everything) seemed just the ticket, and the farmers market was happy to supply a turkey thigh (one thigh is plenty of meat for one person). The seasonings ranged from porcini mushrooms to juniper berries, all simmered in some Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel. This would qualify as another "hearty food" kind of dish, with the dark thigh meat standing up to the intense red wine quite well. I added a twist to Bittman's recipe by frying some bacon in the pan first, then browning the turkey thigh and simmering; just to add a little something extra to the sauce. Not your typical Thanksgiving meal, but more than adequate and suitable for a festive special occasion.
Dessert was the traditional pumpkin pie, also from the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market. On Friday, I introduced The Deacon to the market; she has been seeking a good meat counter ever since her favorite butcher shop, Heinz's, closed a few years ago. During my tour, I noticed a new heap of Mennonite and Amish cookbooks in the furniture-and-tchotschkes section; that definitely spells trouble.