We gathered for a Thanksgiving meal yesterday. In order to enjoy my Saturday and spare myself the temptation of an expensive Starbucks latte, I blew off a trip to Hy-Vee. This means that Sunday morning, the turkey dressing had to be made with whatever was left in the kitchen and the garden. Luckily, my monstrous sage bush is still fresh.
I woke up and dumped about a pint of sourdough starter in a big glass bowl and stirred in almond and coconut flour (1/3 cup of each?) and some liquid poured off from plain yogurt and some milk—enough of these last two to get the consistency of cornbread batter. Good dressing starts with bread or biscuits made from ingredients that don’t have names better suited for a bottle of weed killer.
I grew up on corn bread dressing, but in New York, I learned to make it with chunky whole wheat sourdough. Yesterday, I was conjuring a quick hybrid of the two.
Also, because I did not want to pass several minutes cutting cold butter into my bread batter, I put a stick of butter in a sauce pan on the tiny burner—that way I could just pour the butter into the batter. I hand-brewed a large light-roast coffee and retired to my study to write in my gratitude journal:
When I finally started chopping veggies, the names and faces of various loved ones who would be missing from our table “haunted” me. We had gotten used to the absences of those who had died 20 and 30 years ago, but the more recent ones—that’s harder. I began to regret volunteering to host, but I got my knife out anyway.
I cut a wedge out of the sweet pumpkin my son had picked out from the CSA.
Aware of my anxious brooding, I handled the 10″ chef’s knife extra carefully.
I cut the pumpkin wedge into chunks, and put it in the oven to roast.
My husband and I took a walk in the sun.
“I’m not looking forward to the afternoon,” I said.
He moved slowly, as he does when he’s sad:
“Let’s focus on the food. And make sure your mother is happy.”
When I mixed the ingredients for the turkey dressing and poured the cream over it, I began to feel better. Cream makes me feel good—and there’s a scientific rationale: Sally Fallon, of the Weston Price Foundation says,
The body makes its own endocannabinoids—exactly the same substance that occurs in marijuana—and these can help the body modulate pain naturally. We make these endocannabinoids out of an omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid, which occurs uniquely in animal fats like butter, egg yolks, cream and lard.
Also, we need cholesterol for serotonin to generate good feelings and we need fat to regulate insulin. Eat more butter and cream!
I tucked the pan of dressing in the oven above the turkey and went for a two-mile walk. Thirty minutes later, all the cream was absorbed. It smelled divine. My husband walked through on his way out for a run and paused to stand over it.
“That looks really good.”
“Yes– it’s going to be a wonderful Thanksgiving.”
My mom said it was the best dressing she’d ever eaten!
Recipe: Anti-Depressing Dressing
4 to 6 TBLS of butter, plus more for greasing pan
A pound or so of torn up bread or biscuits–a day or two old if possible
One medium butternut squash or the equivalent of pie pumpkin
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
20 to 30 fresh sage leaves, chopped
4 medium portabella mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms, chopped
2 cups (or more) heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 375
- Butter 9X11 baking dish
- fill baking dish with squash or pumpkin chunks, salt generously, and bake until soft—30 to 40 minutes. Let cool and peel.
- While pumpkin roasts, on medium heat, melt 2 TBLS or more of butter and sauté onion and celery with half the sage and generous amount of salt, until soft
- On medium heat, melt 2 TBLS or more of butter and sauté mushrooms with other half of sage, and generous amount of salt, until soft
- In a big bowl, mix bread, onion mixture, mushrooms, and pumpkin. Taste for salt and add if needed.
- Spread into greased baking dish. Pour cream over. Pour enough cream to saturate the all the bread and vegetables. In fact, pour so much cream that it almost spills over.
- Bake, uncovered for about 35 minutes.
POST SCRIPT: My daughter, ever rigorous in argument and skeptical of mothers, said,
“But mom, does cream really make you feel good?”
“Did you hear Grandma? She said I am different. She said I am more relaxed. I didn’t pay her to say that.”
Anyway, if drugs can change our moods, why shouldn’t foods, or a deficiency of certain foods, anyway? And if we’re deficient in something, it’s animal fats. Why not eat well (delicious, fatty and healthy) and forgo the pill?