Day 1 - Paul Hollywood says no
by giacinta frisillo
This week we’ve very excited about having giacinta frisillo sharing with us from Glasgow via New York: giacinta frisillo (she, they) (@giacinta_frisillo , @_glovestory_) is a visual and performance artist and community educator. she loves cats and hates capital letters. This week, giacinta is having a Thanksgiving meal, feeding friends, serving them with the best autumnal foods and we are looking forward to hearing threads of her thought processing what Thanksgiving means to her.
As ever, get in touch if you too would like to have a week writing on the Gazette, it’s open to all. Best,
I am a New Yorker living in Glasgow and so I host a large Thanksgiving dinner every year. I acknowledge, especially as a white person, that Thanksgiving is a problematic holiday and is seen as destructive and hurtful to many indigenous people in the US. That said, as my international friends ask me loads of questions about the holiday over plates loaded with cornbread and applesauce, I’ve come to outwardly discuss with them some of these issues along my own personal difficulties with the holiday and more recent embrace of it in my own life, as a harvest holiday wherein I can take a moment to be actively thankful for my friends by feeding them. Last year’s feast saw 43 people attend and required meal prep for the 5 days leading up to dinner. I plan to host a similar event this year and would absolutely love to write about it in all its complexity for you.
Nope. Hit snooze.
Okay, okay. I’m up. I make coffee – more out of habit than desire. I use my John Lewis brand moka pot with the slightly melted handle from when the flame got a bit too close. I miss my Bialetti, but it was lost in the fire sale that was my moving across the ocean. I once read an attemptedly humorous infographic defining people based on the type of device they use to make coffee.
The moka pot? Geriatric Italian.
I make mine a black Americano. It tastes burnt. I stare at the cup and then at the mega task staring back at me.
Thanksgiving is coming.
I’m on the hunt for freezer space.
I used the better part of yesterday baking pans upon pans of cornbread and need it fresh for Sunday’s big meal. Last year, some of my Scottish and British friends asked what it was, assuming a sliced loaf Hovis who’d gone rogue, perhaps. This year, however, no questions – only drooling mouth emojis. They know what to expect this time around, which is all the more pressure.
Coarse semolina, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk faked by using oat milk and lemon juice, margarine, and a splash of aquafaba for egg. Easy. But when one bake comes out a bit too puffy and the next a bit too browned on the edges and the next a tiny bit undercooked in the middle, and the next too dry, I panic. I cut it up and chuck it all into freezer bags anyway, telling myself that they won’t notice the problems if all the rest of the food I cook is twice as good. I know I won’t earn the Paul Hollywood handshake today.
I’ve made two kinds of cornbread this year – sweet and savory. My family always ate Jiffy: the sweet kind from the white and blue box whose branding has clearly never changed from 1930 when it was created. We called them Johnny Cakes and made them in a square pan. For breakfast or a snack with a cup of cocoa, they were always delicious. My recipe attempts to recreate these muffins, partly through flavor, but mostly through fuzzy memories of childhood. My savory creation is what seems “grown up”. I make it in a cast iron skillet with thyme and bits of corn and shredded vegan cheddar. “This is the one people will be talking about all year!” I tell myself. The bakes are just as troublesome, though, but into freezer bags they go and I move on.
I’ve decided to make Alice’s Pumpkin Scones from a recipe at Alice’s Teacup, a sweet teahouse in New York I used to frequent full of delicious foods and sweet and savory scones. I’ve made this recipe before, but have always had trouble with the dough. It seems no matter how much flour I add, the dough is too wet and won’t form. I’m determined today, but find myself experiencing the same problem. I press on trying to use a star-shaped cookie cutter to form them, but no luck, so I move to a glass to make small rounds – also impossible. I start pulling small bits of dough off the plastic I’ve laid it out on and squishing it into sort of ball shapes placing them onto floured roasting pans because in keeping my good kitchen things away from inconsiderate flatmates, I can’t find where I’ve stored my baking tray. I make it through 4 batches, half the dough, before taking a rest.
I realize I haven’t eaten anything yet, which probably accounts for my not feeling too well. I toast a store brand whole wheat pita that I’m meant to be saving for work lunch tomorrow. I spread margarine throughout the inside, slather on a bit of kalamata olive tapenade, and throw in a few bits of the best vegan cheese I’ve ever had: Lidl brand “Greek Style”. I don’t know what sorcery these people employ, but I’m ready to stir their cauldron. I chop up a bit of leftover raw red cabbage for texture. This isn’t the most inspired meal I’ve ever made, but it’s quick and I’ve got to get to work.
I’m back. I need to get the rest of the scones – and I use that term loosely for these weird soft pumpkin-colored blobs I’ve created – baked, cooled, and placed in freezer bags to bring them to my friend’s house for freezer storage. I manage and bring them along with the mounds of cornbread and yesterday’s apple and cranberry sauces.
It takes a bit of maneuvering, moving fallen peas, a frozen renegade French fry, and a dubious Tupperware of soup, but I fit everything into the freezer and leave to consider dinner.
I’m starved. I stop in the Sainsbury’s even though I don’t need anything. I leave and run into my neighbor who purports being so hungry he’s feeling a bit “stabby”. Me, too. Off I go.
At home, I decide on some miniature shells: conchigliette. They’re meant for Thanksgiving’s macaroni and cheese, but I’ve bought so many bags I’m sure there’s enough. I boil them, while in the cast iron I toss olive oil, the rest of the red cabbage, and half a can of chickpeas. As they’re cooking, I toss in a dash of spices, whatever’s to hand, including garlic and onion powders, salt, and basil. I ladle in some pasta water and give the shells a stir. I decide to get real wild and add some Alpro vegan single cream to the skillet. I throw in the shells along with some fake cheddar and breadcrumbs. I dig in! Meh. I remind myself I can’t be inspired for both the big meal Sunday and individual meals and swallow.
Walnuts! They’ll keep. Cast iron skillet, once again. In go the walnuts, coconut oil, honey, rosemary, and salt. I toss them around until everything is melted and they’re coated well and stick them in the oven to roast a bit. They’re fragrant and when I take them out I try one. They’re sweet and savory and delicious.
I haven’t had chocolate today. I break half a large square of the 85% bitter dark I keep for emergencies such as these. I boil the kettle and throw the rooibos bag into the cup. I dip the chocolate into the tea to melt it just a bit and let it dissolve dreamily in my mouth.