The basic menu is the same all over the country: Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, token-green-veg, pie. It's the regionality and the culture and the family that make the memories.
So, away from Texas another Thanksgiving, here's what I'll miss that I know my family down south will be eating: Pecans and Texas grapefruit. And here's how they'll be eating them.
Growing up, we didn't serve Thanksgiving buffet-style. We had separate courses, even though Mother had to play the dual role of hostess and server. So we'd sit down to a salad, served on chilled plates. This was it.
On a few leaves of butter lettuce, arrange slices of ripe avocado alternately with sections of Texas red grapefruit. Sprinkle with sliced scallions, then drizzle with a simple vinaigrette, made with a shot of grapefruit juice replacing some of the wine vinegar.
When I say Texas red grapefruit, I mean Rio Stars, which are literally this color, thin-skinned, naturally sweet and not much bigger than oranges.
The salad plates were removed and stacked in the sink, heated dinner plates and the turkey were set in front of my father who had sharpened his knives that morning, the vegetables in their silver bowls were set in front of my mother, and the meal commenced.
For dessert, a new set of plates and forks, and the inevitable pie. But besides mince, which I never learned to love (although as a child I was a big fan of hard sauce), Mother served pecan tassies—little tarts made with a playdough-like cream cheese crust filled with a brown sugar pecan mixture.
I prefer pecans to any other nut, although now I eat more almonds, as do we all, thanks to California's immense crop. In Texas in the fall, pecans all everywhere. taking a walk, you pick up a couple, crack them against each other and eat as you go. Here, they're so expensive I don't buy them that often. But they're worth it for these little tarts.
Get 2 muffin tins, the small size. Preheat oven to 350. Mix: 3 oz. softened cream cheese, 1 stick softened butter, 1 cup flour and a dash of salt. Chill dough. Divide cold dough into 24 little balls and mold each ball into a muffin cup. Don't worry; you don't have to worry much about over-handling this dough. Stir together: 1 egg, 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup pecans and a dash of salt. Fill tart shells with pecan mixture. Bake until crust is lightly browned, maybe 20 minutes or a little longer.