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When a holiday addition turns into tradition

Wendy Van Wagner
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

As Thanksgiving approaches, I think back to when my now husband first joined my family for Thanksgiving dinner.

It was an exciting time in our lives. We were newly in love and eager to become a part of each other’s lives in every way we could.

Spending the holidays together felt like a no-brainer to us, though I am sure my family felt a twinge of uncertainty. Who is this man that their daughter was bringing to dinner? Would they like him? Would he like them? Would he understand the kooky holiday games and traditions that were uniquely their own?



Most of all, of course, could he possibly love their daughter as much as they did and as they felt she deserved to be loved?

As the day neared, Joe and I talked constantly about the menu for the feast. We had offered to make everything and bring it over to my mom’s house. We planned for all of the usual things — stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, candied yams and more.




Then Joe said, “Well, and of course, creamed spinach.”

I was game. It sounded great even though it was not a part of my family’s traditional menu.

Joe said that was his favorite Thanksgiving dish and that he had grown up helping his grandmother make it each year. So, of course, we added it to the menu.

Thanksgiving day we picked fresh spinach from my brother’s farm and got down to the cooking portion of the day. We cooked all day and finally brought bowls and trays of hot, fragrant food to my parent’s house. There was much interest in Joe and the dish of creamed spinach, both being brand new to everyone!.

Here is where I will rely on the creamed spinach as metaphor for the larger picture of how the evening went.

The spinach was beautifully appointed, along with the other dishes — garnished and plated. As the buffet commenced, my family took modest but polite helpings of the creamed spinach, not wanting to be rude but also not sure they would actually like it.

We were all seated, and the feasting began. The first round quickly turned into the second round as plates were cleaned and heaped again. The spinach started to earn larger helpings though no one was yet singing its praises. It seemed to be a quiet success.

Six years have passed since that initial Thanksgiving when Joe joined us. We are now married and have a darling little boy that everyone loves.

Creamed spinach is now always on the menu and even is a special request from my grandmother.

Here is the recipe we make in honor of Joe’s family traditions bridging with those of my family’s.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grandma Hasty’s Creamed Spinach

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and tough stems removed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/2 cup heavy cream

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes.

Drain in a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a large spoon to release as much water as possible. Finely chop and set aside.

Melt the butter in medium saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the spinach and cook, stirring, just until the liquid is released.

Add the cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook until the cream is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

Freelance writer Wendy Van Wagner lives in Nevada City.


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