Christopher Coutant

Deviate from tradition at your own peril

Thanksgiving meals provide comfort and ritual, tradition and disasters

Thanksgiving is a holiday almost totally given over to the eating of food. There are no presents, few songs, and decoration is usually limited to hanging three cobs of Indian corn on the front door.

But our tables are transformed into groaning boards, in more ways than one. Occasionally, we speak a word or two of actual thanks at the beginning or end of the meal, but most of our energy goes into digestion.

The world of food does not need another column about roasted cranberry sauce or brussel sprouts gratin or praline pumpkin pie. Basically, the same Thanksgiving menu is repeated thousand-fold across the state: turkey, vast quantities of gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, cranberry, and pie.

I have almost given up trying to slip something new into the menu. The comfort of eating the same foods year after year provides great pleasure and balances the sometimes-difficult company we find around the table. At Thanksgiving, we put aside the past, wholeheartedly embrace our families and friends, and with them share this most American of holidays.

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The joy of pudding

Some recipes that not only bring comfort but also offer delicious, dinner-party-worthy fare

When I would get sick as a small girl, my mother would make Junket for me. Junket was a powder that came in a cardboard box, much like Jello. You mixed it with lukewarm milk and poured it into little cups and, after waiting 10 minutes, you would end...

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Peaches: Making the most of a short, sweet season

The peach, when ripe, is the most perfect of fruit: fragrant, beautiful, juicy, exquisitely delicious. An unripe peach - or, worse, a mealy peach - is just downright awful. Frequently, peaches don't really seem to ripen well after they are picked; they only get softer, which is not at...

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Cold soups make flexible meals for busy and hot summer days

Now that we are experiencing actual summer, not some New England version of monsoon season, I have again located my appetite. Unfortunately, my time, an essential kitchen ingredient, is nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, August is the peak of garden produce. Corn has arrived, tomatoes are red and ripe, cucumbers are firm and crisp, potatoes pile up in their lovely hues of red, russet, and brown, and I want to cook it all. I have greatly overextended...

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Eat your broccoli

Broccoli tends to elicit love or hate. George H. W. Bush famously hated it, but I love broccoli. I love broccoli rabe. I love broccolini. All have a superficial resemblance to one another, but each has its own distinct character - cousins in the large colorful Brassicaceae family. All are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants. All are full of fabulous flavor. So if you hate broccoli, read on. I might convert you to embrace a more liberal view of...

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When oil and water do mix

It's June, and that means the house starts to fill up with an eclectic gathering of people who might or might not easily mix and match but who all agree on their need to be fed. I stand at the kitchen counter with a dizzying background of small loud children running around the furniture, a visitor from the city experimenting with cochineal dye in the bathroom, a discussion of bond trading overheard through the screen door, a sweetheart who is...

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Food lust

I know it's May, and I should be waxing eloquent about ramps or fiddlehead ferns, but instead I want to talk about California. I love Vermont. It is a small, quiet, clean place with clearly defined seasons, interesting creative people, wonderful food, and good politics. But however charmed life is in Vermont, sometimes you want to leave, especially in April, which is when I recently disappeared to Los Angeles, a big, dirty, loud, sunny, place where lots of America's business...

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Sour sign of spring

I have lived in Vermont long enough to know that as soon as I let out that long end-of-winter exhalation, more times than not we are slammed with a late storm. But I am an optimist. I planted spinach and radishes, and for the first time in ages I am trying my hand at starting flower seeds. The little bulbs I put in the ground last fall are just starting to poke their green noses up amidst the brown rubble...

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