Making Thanksgiving Harvest Again
Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends. A time for relaxation and taking stock of our fortunes. A time to see just how comically large of a turkey we can fit into a deep fryer and, subsequently, a time to thank our local firefighters. At its heart though, Thanksgiving is and has always been a harvest festival. So why does so much of our Thanksgiving meal come in cans?
This year, try something different. Instead of experiencing the joy of blood pressure spikes fighting for cans of green beans under the glow of the fluorescent supermarket lights, spend the weekend before Thanksgiving at your local farmers market and go nuts. You’ve already given yourself license to eat pie and dropkick your scale, and even the most traditionally minded of us must see the irony of celebrating a harvest with preserved food, so load up on everything the Sunshine State has to offer.
This past Sunday I visited the Downtown Brooksville Farmers Market, where I found the following cornucopia of goodness: apples, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, grapefruit, hot peppers, lemons, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white radish, yellow and butternut squash, corn, early season strawberries, green tomatoes, red tomatoes, watermelons, and zucchini. Be on the lookout at your local market for collard, mustard, and turnip greens, as well as green beans, turnips, and beets.
Fried green tomatoes are a summer staple, but don’t discount them in November as they lend a clean, fresh flavor to the meal. The sugars in a Florida fresh sweet potato caramelize beautifully in a casserole and, speaking of sugar, you can’t go wrong incorporating local citrus and strawberries in your desserts.
Of course, you don’t have to change up the entire menu, and a single side dish made solely from local, fresh ingredients may be all you need to bring a little Florida spirit to your annual traditions. Or, you can do what I intend to do: grab a mix of every local root vegetable and mushroom I can find, put them in a roasting pan, stick a duck on top, and fire away. Duck fat has a cult-like following for a reason, and when you taste straight-from-the-earth carrots roasted in it, or sub it for bacon in your collard greens, you’ll understand why. Bon appetit, Central Florida.