Thursday, November 10, 2011

Festive Table Setting & “Grandma Julia’s Giblet Gravy”

As we plan for our Thanksgiving feast, I thought it might be a wonderful idea to talk about some guidelines that may help you dress your table. I would love to share some ideas about the meal courses that you will be serving and eventually becoming your holiday traditions.

Setting a table is the place where your family and friends gather together for two important things in life, to eat and talk. You can’t go wrong when you use colors of the traditional warm amber hues for Thanksgiving, the blues, whites and silver of Hanukkah, and the classic red, green and white of Christmas. Traditional colors and table settings communicate love to anyone that shares a meal with you in your home.

To choose a tablecloth really depends on your dinnerware. You could use a patterned cloth or a solid color. A nice touch is adding place cards to your table, and be sure to allow enough room for seating. I know that in my family, when we have a holiday or special meal, we sit at the table for most of the day, even after eating. So you want to be comfortable.

Worried about what fork to use? Don’t worry, I am going to give you some guidelines. The basic place setting for your holiday meal will consist of an appetizer, salad or soup, and a main course. In a traditional Italian menu, a dish of pasta is eaten prior to the main course. Following the main course will be dessert and coffee or tea. At this point of the meal, my mom would also put out fruit, chocolates, nuts, and mints. By this time everyone is stuffed and have been at the dinner table for over 5 hours or more. Another Holiday Dinner was a success!

One rule I always follow, is that the utensils are arranged in the order of which a person will use them. In our Western culture, this means that the forks, bread plates, and napkins are to the left, while the knives, spoons, glassware, cups, and saucers are to the right. In many other countries the left-right order is reversed. Often, in less formal settings, the napkin and /or cutlery may be held together in a single bundle by a napkin ring. Napkins rings are very rare in the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, and Italy. In informal dinners you can even place the napkin on the plate.

Some final table details, don’t forget the salt and pepper shakers. If you find some room on your table, a floral centerpiece and unscented candles would be a beautiful warm finishing touch to your holiday table. One last item I would love to share, is a little hostess gift that I give to my guests as they leave my home. It can be something small, even a cookie cutter with a lovely ribbon on it, which is a thoughtful thank you for coming to my dinner party.  

My mom's table at Thanksgiving
I think back when I was still living at home, my mother would always have the family over for the holidays. The smells in the kitchen would always give me that warm and toasty feeling, especially the aroma’s that would float all the way up to my room, which was on the second floor. Food is a big part of my Italian family and it always centered around the kitchen. My mom’s dinner table was simple, but beautiful, especially with the proper placement of forks, spoons, and knives. We always had to have a centerpiece with candles on each end of the table. Everything sparkled, from the good china to the sterling silverware. As my family would be seated around the table, I could see how proud my mother was as she would hear her guests, admire her elegant table. My memories of how my mom prepared for her holiday dinner parties will last me my lifetime. 

Grandma Julia

Everyone has a favorite recipe they look forward to enjoy at a family holiday meal. The smell and taste of a special dish can evoke memories from the past or create new ones for the next generation. My recipe this week is, “Grandma Julia’s Giblet Gravy.” This is a delicious gravy to enjoy your turkey with.

“Grandma Julia’s Giblet Gravy”

Chopped cooked giblets
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 cups of water (saved from boiling giblets)
3 chicken bullion cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste

The giblet bag in the turkey you purchase, usually includes the heart, liver, gizzard and the neck. ( exclude the liver) Boil giblets in water for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain water. (don’t forget to save some water for making gravy later) Pick meat from neck and finely chop all the giblets, so you can add to the gravy. Heat oil and add brown flour lightly. Stir in water, bullion cubes, and seasonings. Cook, and continue stirring until thickened. Then add the giblets and reheat gently.

Yield: This recipe makes 3 cups of gravy.
Gravy Master may be added for coloring, a drop at a time.

Till Next Time……..

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