The Reality of Thanksgiving & Cranberry Sauce

Do you ever stretch yourself so thin you feel as though you may snap? That's how I feel every year on Thanksgiving. I must find a way to stop doing this.

Every year, I dream up the perfect dinner with a beautiful spread of homemade dishes placed artfully on a table set to West Elm's standards. I spend hours on a meal plan and a shopping list alone. Then, at the grocery store, I'll forget to buy walnuts, maple syrup, and celery. So I'll head back out to ever so quickly collect what I need and get back to work. This includes waiting ten minutes in traffic to get into the parking lot, wrestling through frantic and indecisive shoppers in the produce section, and standing in line behind carts stuffed to the brim with food and crying toddlers while I hold my three items in my hands. "Patience." The single word I have whispered to myself numerous times during the past week. Something that is sure to roll on into December.

So there I am at 4:30pm as the sun is setting behind the Hollywood hills, trying to photograph the cranberry sauce I threw together against the clock's passing time. Frustrated about my lack of owning an artificial lighting kit, I moved my setup to the outside patio behind my apartment. There, I kneeled on the concrete trying to capture at least one well-lit photo of a bowl of my cranberry sauce.

On Thanksgiving day, I brought my camera into the kitchen with the intention of documenting the beauty of the vegetables I prepared with all the holiday cheer in the room, but ended up only rush-photographing a pre-baked apple pie while everyone looked at me all hangry like — "when are you going to finish the rest of the food so we can eat already?" I'm puzzled as to how some bloggers are able to capture what looks like the most serene, clean cooking scene. At 1pm, I couldn't even find a moment to take my camera out to photograph the pile of dishes in the sink, the countertop covered in vegetable scraps, and the dogs scattered around the kitchen floor waiting for crumbs to fall. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to do Thanksgiving as utterly perfect as Kinfolk Magazine. Until then, mental images of a pomegranate eruption across the countertop and all over my now-stained clothing are enough for me.

Living slow is an art that I have yet to master during the holidays. I'm working on it.

My childhood turkey dinners revolved around Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. If it wasn't on the table in it's weird wiggling cylindric form, then you could forget about me eating anything that day. When I started learning about real food and how not-real that stuff really was, I decided it was time to grow up and make a cranberry sauce using actual cranberries, a fruit I had never held in my hand until I was maybe eighteen years old. Crazy, right? Here is the sauce I've been making every year since.

I usually use oranges for cranberry sauce, but this year I swapped them out for tangerines. In return, I got a slightly sweeter, aromatic, and less acidic cranberry sauce. If you are skilled enough to peel an entire tangerine in one piece, then I recommend doing so, as the entire peel will be cooked in the sauce and need to be removed afterwards. This recipe may contain less sugar than you are used to, which keeps the sauce on the tart side. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, feel free to add 1/4 cup more sugar than the recipe calls for. Also, if you are able to finish this sauce without making a red mess all over the stove, you have my utmost respect.

Cranberry Sauce 
Yield: 2 cups

- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup tangerine juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tangerine peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

  1. Place all ingredients in a pot together over high heat. Stir and cover. When the mixture comes to a boil, turn down to low heat. 
  2. Let the mixture cook down for 15-20 minutes or until all the cranberries have "popped", stirring frequently. 
  3. Remove the tangerine peel and cinnamon stick. Stir in toasted walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

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© A Little Baker
Maira Gall