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Allen Adams, Sienna Barstow and Tim Bissell Allen Adams, Sienna Barstow and Tim Bissell
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Thanksgiving thoughts

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Thanksgiving time has arrived. It’s that wonderful time of year when family and friends gather together in an effort to celebrate one another and express our respective gratitude for the good things in our lives.

But while there are a lot of wonderful things about this holiday, there are also plenty of potential pitfalls lurking in every nook and cranberry. Thanksgiving is a time when our emotions can run high and things can sometimes spiral in directions we don’t expect.

As part of this year’s Thanksgiving cover story, we thought we’d bring together a handful of different stories exploring different aspects of the holiday. We’ve got a piece about being a good guest and one about Friendsgiving celebrations. We’ve got a listing of some local restaurants that are offering Thanksgiving meals if you’re not inclined to cook. And we’ve even got a special edition of Tim Bissell’s Three Pint Stance in the mix.

Join us as we bring it all together and talk turkey. Thanksgiving turkey.

Guests of honor

One of the best things you can do when it comes to Thanksgiving is simple: be a good guest.

While that might seem obvious, the truth is that not everyone is as considerate as they should be – even on a day devoted to the notion of gratitude. Not out of malice or anything like that – it’s easy to misfire socially without meaning to.

So you’re showing up to wherever it is that Thanksgiving is happening. Maybe you’re traveling a distance to get together with family, maybe you’re just meeting up with a few friends for a Friendsgiving celebration – heck, maybe you’re just walking into your kitchen and/or dining room because you’re hosting this year.

Regardless, the odds are good that you’re going to be part of a group that doesn’t necessarily assemble in quite this form very often. This means that you’re going to find yourself searching for topics of conversation. And while chatting about the weather is usually pretty easy, once that 30-second stretch is over, you’re left with some choices to make.

Relatively easy topics of conversation include: kids, sports, kids’ sports, TV/movies/music, pets, hobbies, etc. Obviously, you’re not going to be well-versed in all of these subject areas. You might not be well-versed in any. And that’s OK. You’ll be fine. Genial agreement works best; if you can express feelings about the topic at hand – even brief and undefined ones – you’ll be good.

Seriously – just toss out the occasional “How about those Patriots?” or “I dig ‘Game of Thrones’ a lot” or “My dog does things similar to what your dog does” or “Yes, I would like to see pictures of your boat” and you’ll be good. It’s even better if you can make it a question; your cousin or uncle or niece or whoever can pontificate for a while, carrying the conversational load while still allowing you to appear interested.

(Note: As a rule, we’re in the camp of forgoing any talk of politics whenever possible. It’ll probably happen regardless, but do your best to avoid it. It’s a wildly polarizing subject that can open multiple cans of worms almost instantly. While you might think that you’ve got just the right argument to change someone’s mind, what you’ve really got is a recipe for an at-best awkward and at-worst loud and angry dinner. It’s almost certainly not worth it.)

Above all else – be civil. Be polite. Don’t be the one who wrecks the day for everyone else.

That applies to the dinner itself as well. Be well-mannered – and we’re not just talking about napkins on laps and using silverware properly. If you’re a guest, someone has worked VERY hard to make this meal happen. Be appreciative of that, even if (hell, especially if) it isn’t much to your personal liking.

If there’s something weird and/or unfamiliar as part of the spread, you go ahead and have some. Every family has their own traditional dishes; even if you’re leery, you need to at least make an effort. Have a piece or a scoop or a slice or whatever. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you need to try it. When you’re asked – and you will be asked – accentuate the positive, even if that’s just the uniqueness of whatever it was.

But remember - even the classics can go awry. Be ready if something isn’t quite up to snuff. The squash isn’t over-buttered; it’s rich. The mashed potatoes aren’t lumpy; they’re rustic. The green beans aren’t stringy, they’re robust. The peas aren’t bland, they’re traditional. The cranberries aren’t…ah, who are we kidding? Cranberry sauce, fresh or canned, whatever - it doesn’t matter what you say about cranberries. Cranberries are tough and they don’t give a crap what you have to say about them.

And then there’s the turkey. There are a LOT of things that can go wrong with a turkey; there’s a reason that Butterball sets up a literal hotline every year to walk people through their turkey experience. Still, no matter how much advice you might get from some turkey tech in a headset, there’s always a chance that things go sideways on you. It’s a kajillion-hour process where any tiny deviation could make the difference between deliciousness and disaster.

For you, however, there is no such thing as a disaster. You are going to make clear how much you enjoyed that turkey. Undercooked, overcooked, frozen solid – you WILL make your host and/or hostess feel good about the bird that they have laid before you.

A quick primer:

Overdone; dry = Comment on the quality of the cook on the bird; compare it to a past meal. Mention your dislike for an underdone bird.

Underdone = Hunt up a non-pink piece, then compliment the juiciness of the meat. Mention your dislike for an overdone bird.

Bland = Talk about how refreshing it is for someone to let the flavor of the bird speak for itself. Ask where the turkey came from and respond accordingly. If it came from the supermarket, say you couldn’t even tell. If it came from a farm/farmers market, say you totally could tell.

Over-seasoned = Ask questions about herbs and spices; be specific. Say things like “Do I taste X?” Even if you don’t actually taste X. They’ll tell you what you do taste.

And of course, dessert. This is likely your free pass – if you’re put off by your options, you can simply claim that you overdid during the meal proper. Warm fuzzies for the chef AND you don’t have to eat a slice of that thing whose claim of pumpkin pie status is suspect at best.

From here, you’re almost home free. You’ve made it through dinner with charm and grace; you’ve been affable and amiable. All that’s left is the denouement and the departure.

There are loads of after-dinner Thanksgiving traditions. Some people just find a couch upon which to fall asleep watching football. Others put on a holiday movie and fall asleep watching that. There are others who have more elaborate traditions – games or songs or what have you. Regardless, whatever the tradition is, if you’re invited to participate – participate. It’s not that hard. Besides, you’ve made it this far – what’s another couple of hours?

Goodbyes can be short and sweet. If you’re offered a plate of leftovers, take it. Pick a dish that you genuinely liked – there will assuredly be at least one – and compliment it one more time. Offer the sports-minded folks one more “Go [insert sports team here]!” for good measure.

Don’t forget to say thank you. And keep saying it. It might feel like too much, but don’t be afraid to go one or two beyond the line where it starts to seem weird. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, and whether you’re at the home of your parents, your friends, the family of a significant other or whatever, you need to appreciate the efforts that have been put forth.

(If you’re the host, take each goodbye graciously; try to remember to mention what each guest might have brought, but don’t feel like you have to be effusive in your praise. Just remembering their dish will be enough at this point in the festivities.)

Seriously – be thankful above all else.

The joys of Friendsgiving

For many of us, Thanksgiving is a beloved tradition. It's a chance to come together with our families and express our gratitude for the good things in our lives.

It's also a chance to jam as much delicious food into our faces as we can.

But while Thanksgiving is usually about being surrounded by relatives, what about our chosen family? What about those people who we have welcomed into our worlds of our own volition, those people whose presence we have deliberately sought out over the years?

Well - that's why we have Friendsgiving.

Friendsgiving (or whatever you might choose to call it) is all about finding a time to gather with our friends to celebrate the same things that we share with our families on Thanksgiving. Maybe it's a group of people whose circumstances prevent them from spending the holiday at home. Or maybe it's just a bunch of folks who want to take advantage of the celebratory spirit in the presence of their friends before/after they do the family thing.

Every Friendsgiving is different. Some choose to put forth the traditional spread. Others opt for more of a potluck situation. Still others celebrate by packing up all of the leftovers from their familial Thanksgivings and coming together to share them with friends. There's no wrong way to do it - if you're coming together to enjoy one another, you've nailed it.

And there really are a multitude of ways to do it. For instance, this year, I attended a Friendsgiving that was a vegetarian potluck. The hosts provided the foundation – Tofurkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and peas – along with a couscous salad and French onion soup, while we the guests filled in around the edges with various salads and hors d’oeuvres and desserts. We sat around and sipped drinks and chatted and half-watched a little football.

And then? Why, we ate, drank and made merry.

(Note: I will admit to having some misgivings about a vegetarian Thanksgiving going in – I am a carnivore of some renown – but it turned out to be quite good. I was prepared to be a good guest and find nice things to say, but it was genuinely enjoyable. I didn’t have to lie about anything – not even the Tofurkey. Thank you to Dennis and Dominick for being such gracious hosts.)

Again – Friendsgiving can be anything you want it to be. This was a more intimate affair, but I’ve been to much larger undertakings; parties where 50 people might make some or all of the scene over the course of an evening. Large, small, in-between – it doesn’t matter as long as you’re with friends.

And it’s surprising how welcome it is to just … see one another. In this age of ubiquitous social media, we all stay connected to a certain extent, but there's nothing like hugging a dear friend and hearing how they're doing in their own voice. Sure, we may talk (well, “talk”) regularly, but how often do we simply sit down and enjoy one another? As we get older, life carries us in differing directions; sometimes, we need an excuse to gather. Friendsgiving can definitely be that excuse.

Family means different things to different people. Sometimes, it can even mean different things to the same person. For many of us, our friends are just as much our family as anyone with whom we share blood. In the end, one thing is for certain - in the season of giving thanks, there are few things that warrant that thankfulness as much as friendship.

Happy Friendsgiving!

Beer and turkey pairing – but not how you think

By Tim Bissell

OK, so my role here as beer guy for these pages would lead you to believe that I am going to once again try to tell you what beer should go with what food during your holiday feast. Forget that, I’ve done that and I’m done WITH that. Beer pairings, while informative and interesting, are really just too influenced by each person’s individual tastes. I have found that people will gravitate to the beer they prefer, regardless of the dinner choices.

So now what? I have to write a Thanksgiving-themed beer article, but I don’t have faith in beer pairings anymore. So what to do?

Well, there is one very important place that you should be using beer during your Thanksgiving dinner prep - in the brine!

The brine? What does he mean, the brine? Tim must be drunk at work again. I assure you, I am drunk but that isn’t the issue here. The issue here is that if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I mention the brine in the context of a Thanksgiving meal, you clearly aren’t brining your turkey and that is unforgivable.

The cliff notes on brining a turkey are thus: Create a solution that is about six percent salt by weight (a good rule of thumb here is 1 1/4 cup per gallon of water (or other liquid wink wink). Brines can be enhanced with a number of flavors and spices like citrus peel/juice, herbs, black pepper, aromatic vegetables and for the purposes of today’s article, BEER! Once you have your brine made up, plop your bird in there and let it sit for 12-24 hours. The liquid moves throughout the cells of the turkey, infusing it with the flavorful liquid and making a moist, delicious centerpiece to your Thanksgiving table.

But back to the beer. You can actually infuse the beer into the turkey! Have an aunt who hates beer? Trick her into eating it! Seriously though, some things to keep in mind when using beer in a brine:

  1.     Don’t use beer to replace ALL of the water, just some. I would be hesitant to use more than 16oz of beer in any brine. Remember, beer is mostly water, so when it cooks down, the flavors are enhanced.
  2.     Stay away from IPAs. Hoppy beers are awesome and I highly recommend drinking a few while you prepare this meal. However, for the brine, you should stick to maltier beers. Hops increase in bitterness if they are cooked, and that flavor can be quite unpleasant in your food. Stouts, brown ales and amber ales all work great!
  3.     Don’t worry about the kiddos! No alcohol will make it through to the final product, so no need to make a separate turkey for the kids. Let’s be honest, they are in it for the dessert anyway!

In closing, drink whatever beer you want during dinner. It’s your palate, you know best what it wants. But when it comes to cooking dinner, brine your turkey with beer.

Lastly, if you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: BRINE YOUR TURKEY!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NOBODY WANTS TO EAT THAT DRY, FLAVORLESS CRAP AGAIN, KAREN!!!!

Giving thanks out and about

By Sienna Barstow

BANGOR –  This year, refuse to be stressed out by the holidays and instead enjoy a gourmet dinner at one of your favorite Bangor restaurants. Why not skip the long hours in the kitchen preparing turkey dinner and create a new holiday tradition?

Here are five area restaurants serving up stress-free holiday meals.

Dysart’s Travel Stop

The restaurant at Dysart’s Truck Stop is known to be always open for Thanksgiving. The company serves about 480 turkeys during their $16.99 turkey dinner special. The dinner comes with all the fixings and “seconds if you’re not full.” Stop into one of two locations in Bangor and Herman. Dysart’s is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dysart’s Travel Stop is located at 1110 Broadway.

Governor’s Restaurant

Governor’s Restaurant is not only open for Thanksgiving dinner, they are also serving a Thanksgiving breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m. The Thanksgiving Dinner starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. Governor’s “All You Can Eat Thanksgiving Dinner” is $15 for adults and $7 for kids 10 and under. An extra three dollars adds a slice of Governor’s homemade pie to your dinner. Governor’s Restaurant is located at 643 Broadway.

Ground Round

Ground Round is not only offering a turkey dinner, they are offering their full menu on Thanksgiving. The Ground Round Thanksgiving dinner includes; turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a sweet Hawaiian roll and a slice of pie. Adult turkey dinners are $15.99 and kid’s turkey dinners are $7.99. The cranberry sauce and pie are not included in the children’s turkey dinner. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Ground Round is located at 248 Odlin Road.

Seasons

Seasons restaurant will take care of all the cooking and cleaning this Thanksgiving. The restaurant is offering a $19.95 holiday meal. As an extra bonus, kids get a complimentary meal with the purchase of an adult meal. Seasons is open from 11 a.m. until midnight. Seasons restaurant is located at 427 Main Street. Reservations are recommended; to make a reservation call (207) 992-2250.

Epic Buffet at Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway

Epic Buffet promises to be filled with every Thanksgiving favorite. Adult Thanksgiving dinners are $26.99, while children eat for half price. The buffet is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Epic Buffet at Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway is located at 500 Main Street.

One last holiday pointer: remember the only person who should not be eating on Thanksgiving is the turkey and that’s only because it’s always stuffed.  

 

 

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