Thanksgiving is traditionally a day for gathering with your family and eating turkey, but there’s a twist on the holiday as a purely social gathering, and it’s called Friendsgiving.
The menu might include anything from beer and cheese fries to cocktails and salmon. But instead of the host slaving away for hours in a hot kitchen, it’s more likely to be a party-style potluck.
The trend is also turning up in ads, charity promotions, Evites and even on a cruise ship, with Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas ship hosting a Friendsgiving celebration for passengers two weeks before Thanksgiving this year.
This fall’s premiere issue of The Magnolia Journal, a magazine from HGTV’s Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, also featured a story about Friendsgiving.
And while Americans have long celebrated Thanksgiving with friends when they couldn’t be with family — whether they were living abroad, at college or in the military — Friendsgivings aren’t usually replacements for traditional family gatherings. Instead, Friendsgivings are held in addition to the traditional Thursday turkey dinner, specifically scheduled on a different day so as not to conflict with family get-togethers.
New Yorker Hannah Redfield says she and her 20-something friends are “really into” Friendsgiving, which they’ve celebrated since 2014. She calls it “a millennial-driven interpretation of Thanksgiving. This demographic of people isn’t as concerned with preparing the traditional Thanksgiving meal but is looking for an excuse to celebrate friendship. In my experience, people aren’t necessarily expected to show up with solely mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc.” Instead, they bring everything from cheese fries to spaghetti squash — “whatever they could muster or afford with entry-level salaries.”
Nina Foley of Chicago agrees that Friendsgivings offer an opportunity to break traditions: “While a family Thanksgiving would never allow for anything other than traditional canned cranberry, creamed corn casserole or green beans, because it’s Friendsgiving, we have the freedom to get creative.” One friend in her group went to culinary school and includes ingredients with his gourmet turkey that “none of us ever saw on our plates as kids _ figs, preserved oranges, fried sage!”
Friendsgivings are also often more like parties than staid sit-down dinners. There are Friendsgiving pajama parties, and themed events with arts and crafts or games.
Michelle Platt is hosting her third Friendsgiving this year _ a potluck _ in Briarcliff Manor, New York, for friends from college who are now in their 40s. “We almost all have kids, so I hire a babysitter to watch them so we can have some adult time,” she said.
Platt uses the online invitation service Evite for her Friendsgiving and noted that “the first year was slim pickings for invite designs, but now there are a lot to choose from.” Evite reports a 29 percent increase this year over last in the number of events that its Friendsgiving designs are being used for, totaling in the thousands.
Some Friendsgivings double as fundraisers, with hosts inviting guests to support a good cause. A charity called No Kid Hungry, which focuses on ending childhood hunger by connecting kids to the meals they need, offered a Friendsgiving fundraising option last year and raised $28,000 from some 50 participants. This year, No Kid Hungry has registered 1,400 Friendsgiving fundraisers, raising $78,000 so far. Hosts ask guests for donations or charge for a specific cocktail or treat.
Kory Stamper, associate editor for Merriam-Webster, says the term Friendsgiving hasn’t yet made it into the company’s dictionary, but “it’s a good candidate for future inclusion.” She says Friendsgiving started being used around 2007, with boosts from a 2011 Bailey’s Irish Cream ad and also from a Real Housewives of New Jersey episode.
Branding expert Nancy Friedman said on her blog, Wordworking.com, that Friendsgiving first turned up online in 2004 and was popularized in part by a 2013 Taco Bell promotion. Some people think the term is connected to the TV sitcom Friends, which was famous for its annual Thanksgiving-with-friends episodes, but Friedman doesn’t think the word was ever used on the show, which ended in 2004.
Danielle Paleafico, 29, started hosting Friendsgiving five years ago in one of her first apartments after college, and now it’s grown into an all-day, drop-in event for 30 to 40 friends at her home in Morristown, New Jersey.
“We watch football, I make turkey, all the usual side dishes, homemade pasta and meatballs, dessert, etc.,” she said. “Everyone usually brings a dish and a bottle of wine or beer and we all just come together casually, watch the games, catch up and enjoy each other.”
Timing is important: She picks a date before the real Thanksgiving, and then “we all go our separate ways for the holiday and give thanks with our own families.”
Six live turkeys were dropped from a small plane as part of a northwestern Arkansas community’s annual tradition, with one of the six apparently dying when it hit the ground.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that about 400 people attended the Turkey Trot festival in Yellville, which is about 90 miles north of Little Rock.
The turkeys initially dropped straight down for a while before most got their bearings and glided to a landing.
Festivalgoers took off after the birds trying to catch them.
Animal-welfare groups have condemned the tradition, which has been going on for about 50 years. However, no protesters were seen at this year’s event.
Turkeys can fly, but usually at less than 100 feet. They’re dropped from about 500 feet.
Sixty-six-year-old Barb Klug of Bull Shoals said she planned to serve the dead turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
The story sounds familiar: In the 1600s, starving Europeans, new to the continent, were rescued with gifts of food from Native Americans, with whom they joined to give thanks.
Except this particular Thanksgiving story didn’t happen near Plymouth Rock. It happened in Wisconsin in 1659, just 38 years after the Pilgrims’ feast.
That’s one example of the rich Thanksgiving history held by the Badger State. Mary Spielman Roller, a resident of what became Milwaukee’s south side, even claimed to have introduced turkeys as the Thanksgiving bird in the state of Wisconsin, in 1835. She brought four birds from Buffalo, New York, when she settled in Milwaukee at the age of 18.
“Mrs. Roller assisted her husband in cutting down huge trees to use in building a log hut, and to make a clearing in the forest wherein to plant some grain and build a coop for the turkeys,” according to an early newspaper account. As the animals multiplied, “The Indians were constantly trying to steal them. Although not openly hostile, the Indians were apt to show anger when opposed by a woman.”
Of course, Roller could only claim she was the first to distribute turkeys to others for Thanksgiving — the bird is native to Wisconsin, and common. The Wisconsin State Journal recalled in 1930 that in Madison’s early days, turkeys “ran wild over the present university campus.” White settlers had great difficulty hunting them, however. Mark Twain later wrote of his own frustrating experience, “Hunting the Deceitful Turkey.”
Roller’s daughter recalled that Native Americans were invited to her mother’s first Wisconsin Thanksgiving. They “came in their native costumes, adding a touch of bright color to the monotony that pioneer decoration has always assumed.”
Native Americans here already had their own thanksgiving ceremonies. The Ojibwe celebrated in early spring, however, as a “first fruits of the season” event. Any food caught, collected or harvested had to be first offered to what white settlers called their “Great Spirit.”
As a federal holiday, Thanksgiving is fairly recent. Far from a banquet, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln set aside Aug. 30 as “a national day of humiliation, fasting and prayer.” The Civil War still raged and the occasion was decidedly spiritual, “so that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high.” It continued as a semi-religious observance for decades.
Wisconsin’s first official observance of Thanksgiving was in 1830, when it was still part of the Michigan Territory. Gov. Lewis Cass declared that a day of Thanksgiving be observed on Nov. 25.
“I recommend to the inhabitants of the Territory that, refraining from all labor, inconsistent with the duties and solemnity of the day, they repair to their respective houses of public worship,” he proclaimed, “and unite in suitable acknowledgements to the ‘Giver of every good gift.’”
As late as 1876, the State Journal reported that much of the day was spent in church, although dining also was celebrated. In Madison, former Gov. Cadwallader Washburn and other nabobs ate in hotels. “There was good skating on Monona Bay, which was well enjoyed by a large number of youth.” Evening brought a fireman’s ball and several plays — one of them starring a young man soon to be known as “Fighting Bob” LaFollette.
Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848 and the holiday afterward roamed the calendar; the present national date wasn’t fixed until 1939. In 1844, Gov. James Duane Doty even named Dec. 12 as Thanksgiving.
But Wisconsin’s earliest-recorded meal of thanksgiving was that celebration in 1659. Pierre Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart Sieur des Groseilliers, the first French explorers to enter the state after Jean Nicollet ran out of provisions during a hard winter in what is today Bayfield County.
They ate their dogs. They backtracked to their previous camps and dug the refuse of past meals from snowbanks. They boiled guts, skin and sinew and consumed it. They crushed and ate powdered bones. Some of the hair from hides was burned for fire, “the rest goes downe our throats, eating heartily these things most abhorred,” Radisson wrote later. “We went so eagerly for it that our gums did bleede like one newly wounded.”
They started to eat wood.
“Finaly we became the very Image of death. We mistook ourselves very often, taking the living for the dead and ye dead for the living,” he wrote.
They were rescued by the Odawa (Ottowa), who fed them wild rice, turkey and other foods. Groseillers gave a speech of thanksgiving. The pair were later reclothed and underwent a series of Odawa ceremonies they did not understand.
“After this,” wrote Groseillers, “they weeped upon our heads until we weare wetted by their tears.”
And so it was, just a few decades after Plymouth Rock, that Thanksgiving came to Wisconsin.
Heading into crisp weather, I crave the holiday classics that beg to be made this time of year. One of my favorites is stuffing. Seasoned cubes of dried bread sautéed with celery, onion, herbs and butter, then baked up to crispy-outside-soft-inside perfection?
Except: My extended family has three vegetarians and my daughter is gluten-free. So my challenge was to make a dish that scratches the stuffing itch for them without making it seem like the ugly duckling of the Thanksgiving table. The solution ended up being a roasted vegetable medley that I promise will be the most-requested recipe of your holiday. It is that good, and full of nutrients, too.
To make that happen, I rely on a mix of roasted vegetables for a caramelized sweetness that feels roasty and homey. And I add meaty mushrooms sautéed in garlic and the trifecta of holiday cooking herbs: rosemary, sage and thyme. A Granny Smith apple cut into tiny cubes brings just enough acid for depth, while a surprise little hero tucked into the recipe — toasted walnuts — adds texture, along with some nice healthy fats to fill up vegetarians who will be skipping the turkey.
Easy, healthy and satisfying. Your healthy or vegan or gluten-free guests will feel satisfied, not sidelined.
VEGGIE OVEN HASH
Start to finish: 40 minutes
2 ½ cups cubed butternut squash
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 cups small cauliflower florets
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with kitchen parchment or foil.
Mound the squash on one of the baking sheets then drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of oil. Toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Arrange evenly, then roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning once or twice.
While the squash is roasting, mound the cauliflower and broccoli on the second sheet. Drizzle them with 2 teaspoons of oil, season with salt and pepper, then arrange in an even layer and roast for 25 minutes, turning halfway through or until the cauliflower is golden. All of the vegetables should finish roasting around the same time. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, then sauté until the mushrooms are starting to get tender, about 7 minutes. Add the apple, thyme, rosemary and sage, then cook another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender (but not floppy). Stir in the lemon juice, remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the slightly cooled roasted vegetables and the toasted walnuts. Stir and adjust seasoning if needed.
The arrival of Black Friday brings on the frenzy: Buy, wrap, waste; then buy more, wrap more, waste more.
So WiG invited a dozen leaders of local, state and national environmental groups — from Audubon Society and Sierra Club chapters to the national Keep America Beautiful — to offer tips to brighten the green in the red and green season.
• Those reusable tote bags aren’t just for groceries. Use them when shopping for gifts. And use them instead of wrapping paper when giving gifts. Another wrapping paper alternative — fabrics or newsprint.
• If using mail-order shipping, ask the seller — or shipping company — to pack items with paper rather than polystyrene packing peanuts.
• There need not be shame in second-hand. WiG came across a certified pre-owned iPad Mini for under $200 at Gazelle.com and big discounts on unused gift cards at GiftCardGranny.com.
• For holiday hellos, consider sending e-greetings or reduce the amount of paper by sending postcards instead of greeting cards inside envelopes.
• When decorating, look for natural ornaments (pine cones, shells, dried flowers, berries) and recycled curios (glass, wood, metals, fabrics) rather than items made of non-biodegradable plastics or manufactured using petroleum-based products.
• LED holiday lights use less energy than incandescent bulbs. And there are eco-friendly alternatives to burning paraffin candles.
• Recycle the Christmas tree. If your community doesn’t recycle trees, use the bulk of the tree for firewood and use the branches for mulch under acid-loving bushes and shrubs, such as evergreens and rhododendrons.
• Recycle electronics. Don’t trash broken or unwanted appliances and electronics or old batteries. Hold onto them to take to an e-scrap collection. And trade smaller items at ecoATM kiosks at shopping malls for cash or coupons.
• Donate rather than discard items. When new gifts replace working but old possessions, donate them to a charitable cause or give them away. Check out the Freecycle Network at freecycle.org.
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When pairing wine with food, most hosts and hostesses know that red goes with red meat and white pairs with fish.
But what if you’re serving an appetizer of oysters, a plate of porcini risotto or a cache of special chocolates? How do you choose the best pairings when there’s no deceased animal flesh to guide you?
Pairing wine and food is a lot like pairing different dishes, or ingredients in a recipe. Look for contrasts and complements, so the wine and food work together to enhance each other and hide shortfalls.
Following are some suggestions to guide you:
• Watch your weight, as well as that of your wine and food. Full-bodied wines with flavors that won’t be overwhelmed by gravy best accompany rich, heavy foods.
• Pair complementary flavor intensities, like a pinot noir’s bright berry character with roast duckling. Balance is the key.
• Make sure the wine’s level of acidity complements the flavor and fattiness of the food so it can serve as a palate cleanser.
• Always serve wine as sweet or sweeter than the food it accompanies. Sweet wine can also help tame rich, indulgent foods like foie gras.
• If all else fails, remember that almost everything goes with Champagne.
Those suggestions hinge, of course, on how well you know the wines in your market. The casual host can consider the following classic matches.
Serving rich patés or foie gras? Consider a riesling or pinot gris with a good blend of fruit and acidity.
Serving shrimp or shellfish? A French chablis or lightly oaked chardonnay provides sufficient flavor and backbone.
And nothing suits oysters like Champagne.
Most people match turkey with white wine, which is fine if the wine is rich and full like a premium California chardonnay. But turkey is a heavier meal, requiring a robust wine, and a lean bird as well, so tannins must be kept in check. A bountiful beaujolais, powerful pinot noir or even a zesty zinfandel works well.
If you’re serving goose or duck, both high-fat birds, make sure that you’ve saved some of the riesling and pinot gris from the foie gras. Either will provide good service.
Speaking of robust foods, roast beef and even venison are often holiday favorites, and few meats bring as strong a flavor palate. Powerful reds, including wines from France’s Burgundy and Bordeaux regions, are called for here. A top-flight cabernet sauvignon also pairs wonderfully with either.
Stepping outside the norm and serving seafood? Try matching an elegant fresh salmon with a light red, such as a pinot noir. The wine’s fresh berry taste offers a surprising complement, and its natural acidity helps tame the fish’s strong flavor and cleanses the palate between bites.
Vegetarian dishes are becoming more common at holiday gatherings. Generally, they’re lighter in body and flavor density, meaning a light red or a zesty white may offer the best match for meat-free entrees.
THE CHEESE COURSE
A well-considered cheese platter is a delightful accompaniment to any holiday gathering. But it can be challenging when it comes to pairing with wine. Cheeses come in a wide variety of flavors and textures, many of them clinging, cloying and on a collision course with most robust, high-tannin red wines.
Cheese is best accompanied by dessert wines like vintages ports and sherrys, or crisp white wines such as New Zealand sauvignon blancs, chilled California chardonnays or white wines from Burgundy. The wine’s acidity cuts the cheese’s strong flavors and helps dissolve the debris accumulation on the palate while delivering fresh fruit flavors that broaden the tasting experience.
AND, OF COURSE, DESSERTS
When it comes to desserts, sweet almost always rules the palate. The same is true of dessert wines. There are wonderfully fruity and fragrant ice wines, which are from grapes harvested after freezing on the vine, which concentrates the natural sugars Also great with desserts are elegant old ports — fortified wines with full, rich palates and enhanced alcoholic horsepower.
And those tasty chocolates? A vintage tawny port has the sophistication, as well as a drier palate to complement the candy. For something lighter and brighter, a fine muscat can also do the trick. Even a robust red goes especially well with dark chocolate.
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As Thanksgiving approaches, Tofurkys in Seattle can breathe easy, even if real turkeys can’t.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has pardoned a soybean-based roast, The Seattle Times reported this week.
Spokesman Jason Kelly says Murray posed with the tofu turkey at City Hall to draw attention to hunger in the community.
The Tofurky was donated to Rainier Valley Food Bank.
Kelly acknowledged that Seattle’s reputation in the rest of the country is “a little bit ‘granola'” and that Murray was poking fun at himself.
Communications director Jeff Reading said that the mayor has no plan to pardon any of Seattle’s urban turkeys “either the literal or figurative variety.”
The maker of Tofurky, Turtle Island Foods, is based in Hood River, Oregon, and produces several tofu or tempeh-based products.
On the Web…
Present Music has produced no shortage of successful collaborations and commissions, but one of the standouts is always the annual Thanksgiving concert. Held this year on Nov. 23 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Present Music’s latest version of the concert gave audiences another reason to be thankful this season.
The company began the evening by shattering the audience’s anticipatory silence with the rhythmic drumbeats of “Opening Song,” performed by the Buck Native American Singing and Drumming Group. A regular partner at PM’s Thanksgiving concert, the troupe is made up of men from various tribes in the Milwaukee area. Their entrance song echoed through the halls, combining voices and percussion in a perfect marriage of sound.
Equally in sync was the next piece on the program, Cathy Mocklebust’s “Towers.” Composed in 2000, the piece is written for a handbell choir but intended to replicate the ringing of church bells.
Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble was up to the task, filling the cathedral with a delightful, pristine timbre. While the low tones of the bass bells served as a foundation, the ensemble’s upper bells played a descending stepwise pattern — ironically creating a feeling of climbing upwards like in a tower.
Arguably the concert’s most ambitious work was “Hammers and Whistles,” a work by Karman Ince with text by Izzeddin Calisar that required nearly every guest, including the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and PM’s vocal ensemble Hearing Voices. Longtime Present Music attendees may have recognized this work from a 2006 performance; it was originally commissioned by the organization for its 25th anniversary.
Running roughly twenty minutes in length, the single work was a tour de force for all involved. Mr. Ince described the piece as “about the wonderment of creation and the act of experiencing and sharing the creation.” The piece truly exemplified that, combining bombastic horn sounds with lush symphonic and vocal harmonies. The only weakness: an occasional lack of balance between the combined vocal ensembles and the instruments.
But a work magnitudes simpler proved the most poignant and touching moment of the concert. “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” by Gavin Bryars, was built from a recording Bryars took in 1973 while living in London and working on a film about homeless people living around Waterloo Station. The recording is just a few lines sung by an unnamed man, nothing remarkable vocally. Bryars put it on a loop, and created an orchestral and vocal accompaniment that flowed in and out over and over. The voice reminds the listener of the joy of singing purely for the love of song, another reason to give thanks.
Present Music’s Thanksgiving Concert reminds us to be thankful for the small things that we have in life. Whether it is the beauty of the sounds we make each day, the clanging of a church bell or the sound of drum, there is something to be grateful for.