November 27, 2020 by Jean
This Covid Thanksgiving wasn’t as much of a departure for me as it was for many people. It has been more than thirty years since I last lived close enough to family members to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, and this is not the first year I have spent the holiday alone.
For many years, I had Thanksgiving dinner each year with my friend Joyce, who loved to cook this holiday feast. She was not a turkey fan, so she would roast either a goose or a duck. This would be accompanied by a myriad of side dishes, including soup, cranberry relish, roasted vegetables, and salad. My contribution was typically an apple pie (her favorite desert) and some fresh-baked dinner roles. Some years, it was just the two of us; other years, she also invited others to share the feast. It has been six or seven years since she last felt well enough to cook a Thanksgiving dinner (or well enough to drive the hour to my house so that I could cook for us). The last time I had Thanksgiving dinner with her was 2016, when she was a patient at a rehab hospital that put on a Thanksgiving dinner for patients and their visitors. Even then, though, we didn’t actually eat together; I went down to the hospital cafeteria to eat my meal alone, while she had hers on a tray in her room. In the years since, I’ve mostly spent Thanksgiving alone.
I love turkey dinner and its leftovers, so I got in the habit over the years of cooking my traditional turkey feast for Christmas. (Growing up, we always had turkey dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.) I am very good at creating rituals for myself, and one of those has been a new Thanksgiving dinner ritual: I take the last packet of leftover turkey meat from last Christmas out of the freezer and use it to make a turkey parmesan soufflé. This is what I did yesterday. My soufflé recipe is pretty simple, including a mixture of sautéed onions and turkey meat with turkey seasonings like thyme and sage in a cheesy white sauce as the basis of the soufflé. I also kept the side dishes simple this year, cooking and pureeing a butternut squash and seasoning it with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and maple syrup. I ate my simple turkey feast in late afternoon, savoring that first delicious bite of turkey meat surrounded by the slightly bready texture of soufflé.
I might have eaten a bit later, except that my younger sister initiated the idea of a family Zoom call for evening. What this meant for me was that I had more family connection on Thanksgiving this year than I normally do. For an hour and a half, I visited with both my brothers, my sister-in-law, my younger sister, and one nephew – a lovely way to finish my quiet, Covid Thanksgiving.