A Moonshine Murmurs Guide to reading- and eating- this Thanksgiving

by Lindley Estes

It’s Thanksgiving eve. And here at Moonshine Murmur’s we’re taking our feast with a heavy side of reading. Read on to find out your favorite author’s holiday dishes and pick up a few ideas for your own Thanksgiving celebration.

Get Ephron’s wit and recipes  here .

Get Ephron’s wit and recipes here.

Nora Ephron shared in her novel Heartburn that the ultimate comfort food is mashed potatoes.

She wrote, “Nothing like mashed potatoes when you're feeling blue. Nothing like getting into bed with a bowl of hot mashed potatoes already loaded with butter, and methodically adding a thin cold slice of butter to every forkful. The problem with mashed potatoes, though, is that they require almost as much hard work as crisp potatoes, and when you're feeling blue the last thing you feel like is hard work. Of course, you can always get someone to make the mashed potatoes for you, but let's face it: the reason you're blue is that there isn't anyone to make them for you. As a result, most people do not have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it's almost always at the wrong time.”

She even shares the recipe—and a little melancholy humor—in the book:

“For mashed potatoes: Put 1 large (or 2 small) potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and place the potatoes back in the pot and shake over low heat to eliminate excess moisture. Peel. Put through a potato ricer and immediately add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and as much melted butter and salt and pepper as you feel like. Eat immediately. Serves one.”

Philip Roth was not known for being concise, and in his Pulitzer-Prize winning American Pastoral he waxes on about that dish at the center of all Thanksgiving tables:

Turkey. Pie. Sides. It really is the best time of year for readers and eaters.

Turkey. Pie. Sides. It really is the best time of year for readers and eaters.

“And it was never but once a year that they were brought together anyway, and that was on the neutral, dereligionized ground of Thanksgiving, when everybody gets to eat the same thing, nobody sneaking off to eat funny stuff—no kugel, no gefilte fish, no bitter herbs, just one colossal turkey for two hundred and fifty million people—one colossal turkey feeds all. A moratorium on funny foods and funny ways and religious exclusivity, a moratorium on the three-thousand-year-old nostalgia of the Jews, a moratorium on Christ and the crucifixion for the Christians, when everyone in New Jersey and elsewhere can be more irrational about their irrationalities than they are the rest of the year. A moratorium on all the grievances and resentments, and not only for the Dwyers and the Levovs but for everyone in America who is suspicious of everyone else. It is the American pastoral par excellence and it lasts twenty-four hours.”

Need a recipe for turkey for 250,000,000? Saveur has you covered here.

Not a fan on turkey? “The Chubby Vegetarian” blog has a whole host of tasty veggie options for your holiday main here.

“…just one colossal turkey for two hundred and fifty million people—one colossal turkey feeds all.”

Pie. Lovely, lovely pie. It’s a favorite of many authors. When asked why New Englanders eat pie for breakfast, Ralph Waldo Emerson once replied: “What [else] is pie for?”Jack Kerouac was known to be partial to apple. Hunter S. Thompson loved key lime.

But in Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad, he writers talks about the distinctly American foods the narrator misses outside of the country: “Apple pie. Apple fritters. Apple puffs, Southern style. Peach cobbler, Southern style. Peach pie. American mince pie. Pumpkin pie. Squash pie.”

I’d venture he liked a slice of huckleberry pie, too. Whatever your favorite flavor is, this list from Food & Wine has you covered for last-minute pie-making.

“perfect ambrosia, transparent orange slices combined with freshly ground coconut”

There’s never too much ambrosia.

There’s never too much ambrosia.

True crime springs to mind with Truman Capote before a holiday catalog of recipes, but in “A Thanksgiving Visitor” he describes a full feast. The short story, a sequel to Capote's “A Christmas Memory,” was originally published in McCall's magazine, and was later published as a book by Random House.

He explains what’s on the table: “perfect ambrosia, transparent orange slices combined with freshly ground coconut… a dish of whipped sweet potatoes and raisins… a delicious array of vegetables canned during the summer… a cold banana pudding—a guarded recipe of the ancient aunt who, despite her longevity, was still domestically energetic.”

We all have that one aunt. And who doesn’t love a good ambrosia? Alton Brown has you covered for that recipe here.

How we all lovingly gaze at leftovers.

How we all lovingly gaze at leftovers.

People forget that along with his prescient musings on the fate of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald was very, very funny. In his book of letters and notes The Crack-Up, Fitzgerald spends pages discussing “Turkey Remains And How To Inter Them With Numerous Scarce Recipes.” Here are a few of his [joking] recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers:

  • Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.

  • Turkey Mousse: Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.

  • Turkey and Water: Take one turkey and one pan of water. Heat the latter to the boiling point and then put in the refrigerator. When it has jelled, drown the turkey in it. Eat. In preparing this recipe it is best to have a few ham sandwiches around in case things go wrong.

  • Stolen Turkey: Walk quickly from the market, and, if accosted, remark with a laugh that it had just flown into your arms and you hadn’t noticed it. Then drop the turkey with the white of one egg—well, anyhow, beat it.

  • Turkey Hash: This is the delight of all connoisseurs of the holiday beast, but few understand how really to prepare it. Like a lobster, it must be plunged alive into boiling water, until it becomes bright red or purple or something, and then before the color fades, placed quickly in a washing machine and allowed to stew in its own gore as it is whirled around. Only then is it ready for hash. To hash, take a large sharp tool like a nail-file or, if none is handy, a bayonet will serve the purpose—and then get at it! Hash it well! Bind the remains with dental floss and serve.

Have a favorite dish or holiday-related passage? Comment and join the discussion below!


Lindley Estes is a second-year fiction student in George Mason University's Master's of Fine Arts program and an editor for Stillhouse's Moonshine Murmurs blog.