While my kids rev-up for Halloween, I’m preparing for Thanksgiving. I know, anticipation of one dinner in November’s 4Th week seems absurd, but as most of you cooks understand, Thanksgiving is the most difficult meal of the year. The Thanksgiving turkey dinner is the only meal that has a prescribed list of foods. Tradition has determined the entree, side-dishes, and desserts, and all of these compete for time to be baked in a single oven.

How did we get ourselves into this ridiculous cooking situation? I believe the fault lays with technology. In the 18th-century, meals were cooked over large hearths. A grand animal could be roasted in the center while multiple pots hung at the sides, simmering their contents. Additional foods were simultaneously baked in chambers within the hearth stone. Some of the cooking, especially the roasting, was even done outside over a woodfire. In the 19th-century, our fore-mothers cooked Thanksgiving dinner on multi-chambered woodstoves. Most women were highly adept at controlling varying heat levels in each chamber. And meanwhile the large bird may have been smoked or roasted outside.

Click on “Continue reading…” for more of the story and a great recipe for butternut squash and apple bake.

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