Thanksgiving Carbonara


Each Thanksgiving I stand in a kind of protest. Either I don’t cook at all and we get take-out or we eat from a church basement buffet or I make just a braised turkey part with a few simple sides. I’m the only cook in the family and so it’s a given that on the holiday I will be in the kitchen. A number of years ago, I thought hey I want to be my husband under the blanket in the big easy chair head-down in a novel or my daughter watching a movie cuddled up between grandparents on Thanksgiving day. We usually travel up to Cambridge, MN to my in-laws to spend the day and cook and eat, and their kitchen is entirely divided from the rest of the house. It makes for lonely preparation.

Hence, the protest. It goes without saying that what my day job is, and so over time the thought of not having the holiday to sit and laze started eating (no pun intended) at me. I am the least festive person you’ll meet this time of year, flaring my nostrils at the talk of turkey and football games. I don’t know how it’s gotten this pronounced…

The food writer, Calvin Trillin, put out in the world a while ago the idea that we should make spaghetti carbonara the official food of Thanksgiving since it’s simple to make and everyone loves it. There has been much written on the subject. I adore the idea and so this year, with the family’s permission, we’re following Trillin’s brilliance and plattering what would traditionally be a browned, crispy bird a silky pile of pasta carbonara instead. Okay, we’re keeping the red wine cranberry sauce, since it’s the only real Thanksgiving standard I am reluctant to pass up. (Plus, when is it appropriate to make cranberry sauce outside of the holiday?) And we’re roasting beets and winter vegetables. Salad too with vinaigrette and my daughter demands homemade pumpkin pie.

Carbonara gives me the option to read my Marquez novel in front of the picture window for a while or just plain take a nap on Thanksgiving day. I’m still in keeping my protest but to the degree where all of us are happy. Looks like we’ve started a new tradition!