Pass the Gravy, Hold the COVID

To pumpkin pie or not, that is the question. Every year (lately) I make a pumpkin pie. Every year it has one slice missing from it (me). I may sneak a couple more slices out of it over the next few days, but I’m the only one who eats it. Zeke makes pecan pie. He now actually makes two because, according to Emma:

“Pecan pie is so yummy, why would I want anything else?”


Hmmm… So I’ve been thinking, do I need to make a whole pumpkin pie for myself? Really?

I’ve made all incarnations of Pumpkin Pie, starting with the classic one off the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can. During my Bon Appetit days, I upped my game and made the one from the Silver Palate, recommended by Arianna of Arianna’s Cook Shop. Over the years, it’s appeal waned for me (too plain and loose) so I tried a Pumpkin Ice Cream pie with candied almonds from Southern Living. It was delicious, but not at all traditional. Last year I tried Julia Child’s recipe for her Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pie– another winner and who can argue with Julia Child’s tastebuds? This year I’m thinking of skipping the pumpkin pie completely and making a Pumpkin Ginger Sorbet from the New York Times Food section. Light and refreshing.

My Martha Stewart days in Tallahassee.

Macy’s is still having it’s Annual Thanksgiving Day parade, but with no in-person spectators. At least one beloved tradition hasn’t bitten this dust in 2020. Last year, after Thanksgiving, Zeke and I went to New York City to celebrate my 60th birthday. It was what I really wanted (who needs more stuff at 60?) and a total surprise. The best part was, Zeke planned everything from the flight and the hotel, to our dinner reservations. I’m usually the one who plans our trips, so this was a real gift to me.

We had a wonderful trip, with excellent Fall weather and all the Pre-Holiday buzz New York radiates. The Holiday windows were just being set up that weekend, so we walked down Fifth Avenue to check them out on the way to Central Park and saw the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center being set up. We visited newly reopened F.A.O Schwartz, went to a Holiday market in a park, visited the 9/11 museum, ate at my favorite NYC restaurant (The Grand Central Oyster Bar) and saw a Broadway play (The Rose Tatoo with Marisa Tomei). The Oyster Bar is now closed (no one traveling on the trains) and Broadway, of course, is dark, due to COVID. I’m so glad we went on that trip! The expression “what a difference a day makes” can be changed to “what a difference a year makes” and there’s no year that is more true for than 2020.

I played tennis four times last week! An abnomaly for me, but I ran into an acquaintance whose moving, after 15 years in Miami, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This year (the Year of the Rat) has been a year of transition and self reflection. People had the time and space to reevaluate their living spaces, their jobs, their city, state and significant others. Some of us doubled down (I love all this togetherness!), others bailed (I can’t stand your face!), quit their jobs or moved. This year of transition has also been a year of transformation. Zeke keeps saying “I can’t believe we bought a boat!”, so the craziest thing we’ve done this year is buy a boat. Apparently, we’re transforming into boat people. If I start looking like Mary’s leather-skinned neighbor from too many hours in the sun (in “There’s Something About Mary”) someone please give me a heads up.

My birthday is always around Thanksgiving (sometimes it’s on Thanksgiving), making travel problematic, especially if I’m cooking dinner. This year, of course, that’s not a problem. Last year, I had my Aunt Josie’s funeral, where I gave the eulogy, on my actual birthday. Last week, my early birthday lunch at Fiola’s was cancelled due to the rising COVID cases. It’s so great that we have two effective vaccines in the pipeline; if we can all just be patient and safe a little longer, salvation is around the corner! They say by May things will be back to “normal”; whatever normal will look like then.

My Mom is cooking just for herself and her boyfriend Bob. She found a 7 pound turkey, which I didn’t even know existed; she definitely robbed the turkey cradle. Zeke and I went to Publix to get our turkey over the weekend, which is 17 pounds. Do you notice, whenever you talk to someone about their Thanksgiving Dinner, the weight of their turkey always comes up? It’s the only meal I can think of where people brag about the size of the feathered friend they’ll be eating. Like when a baby’s born, we seem to need to give people this vital information. Speaking of babies…

Chris and Courtney’s baby is due this week, actually he’s due today ! Courtney said she thinks he’s waiting to arrive on Thanksgiving Day, or maybe my birthday (25th). I can’t wait to see Liam Jack’s sweet little face and have another Sagittarius to have adventures with. In other exciting family news, Lauren passed the Florida bar! She found out while in D.C. and was sworn in via, what else? Zoom. Yippee! We have another lawyer in the family.

In Miami food news, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival is on for February 2021, albeit with reduced size and no Meet-and-Greets. I’ve only been once (to the Grand Tasting) but I always have a running “wish list” of events I’d like to attend. (hint, hint)

In the wind-up to Turkey Day, my cooking has been pared down. My two favorite meals were bookended by fish dishes. On Sunday, we had Martha and Luis over for sautéed yellowtail snapper with a tropical fruit salsa, mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. We all enjoyed the dinner and seeing each other. The salsa, a Norman Van Aken recipe, elevated the tender sautéed Yellowtail with a sweet and tangy sauce, made with starfruit (instead of pineapple) from my tree. We had homemade banana ice cream with banana cake for dessert. I transformed the leftover mashed potatoes into a Shepherd’s Pie on Wednesday, with Bison meat instead of the normal ground lamb. If you’ve never tried bison, it’s a delicious and lean meat, low in calories and full of protein and iron.

We had lunch at Lazy Lobster on Friday on the way to our condo. They have a very safe set-up outside under a huge chickee hut. I do prefer it for dinner, however. I know I’ve been saying we eat too much red meat, but when we went to Publix and Zeke suggested chicken, all I could think of was that 17-pound lump of poultry awaiting me on Thursday, so we got skirt steak instead. I marinated it in mojo and Zeke grilled it. I served it with black beans and rice. Lunch on Saturday at Skippers (at the Holiday Inn) was excellent! I got the Shrimp Ceviche and Thai Glazed Chicken Wings and both were great, as was the Blackberry Margarita I drank – highly recommend.

Saturday night we had a drink with our Sanctuary neighbors outside at sunset and talked about our Thanksgiving plans. I made myself an Ancho Chile and Agave Margarita to sip; it was Muoy Bueno! At home, Zeke grilled a beautiful filet of Grouper, which I served with risotto and a caesar salad with plantain chips instead of croutons. I made the Lazy Day’s sauce, with tomatoes, scallions, white wine and key lime butter to go on the grouper. We both wanted something a little sweet, but all I could find was peanut butter cookie dough I’d made from Gigi Camp this summer, which I baked into cookies. Desperate times…

After one Thanksgiving a couple years ago, where I cooked and cleaned for days with little help, I went on strike and told Zeke “Never again.” Of course, I relented, but with the caveat that everyone bring a dish, even if they have to buy it already prepared. So this year, we’ll be having a crudite plate no one will touch, with black olives that taste more like than the can than olives (because tradition!), our Roasted 17-pound turkey with my grandmother’s sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. A.J.’s bringing a sweet potato casserole, Emma’s bringing rolls and making Brussel Sprouts and Lauren’s making pecan pie.

2020 isn’t a year for experimenting with weird or funky recipes. We need tradition! We need comfort! We need the tried-and-true! So, no, I won’t be making Pumpkin Ginger Sorbet in place of Pumpkin Pie. I’ve decided I will be making Pumpkin Pie this Thanksgiving, but a Lighter Libby’s Pumpkin Pie version. Because we all know who will be eating it.

“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings, he hastens and chastens his will to be known.”

Dutch Hymn

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope you have a wonderful meal, whether you’re alone or with a small group. Lastly, I’m thankful for everyone who reads my blogs!

Up Next: Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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