This article was first published in 2015.
This year’s Thanksgiving dinner was the first we’ve hosted at our home in Trumansburg, NY. Since moving here, my husband Marc and I have been blown away by our proximity to wonderful locally grown and crafted food and drink, so we thought it would be a fun and rewarding experience to source most of the ingredients for our meal as close to home as possible.
Our first shopping stop was Interlaken for Finger Lakes Cider House’s amazing Thanksgiving Market, where we sipped Honeoye Cider while snacking on roasted chestnuts and visiting with a variety of local vendors. We had a hazy vision of the menu but mostly gathered what struck us in the moment. Our haul included: leeks, onions, red leaf lettuce, romaine and frisee from Bright Raven Farm & Apiary in Jacksonville; chestnuts from Hemlock Grove Farm in Danby; red potatoes from Three Stone Farm in Interlaken; Good Life Farm’s apple cider vinegar and ginger; Black Diamond Cider’s newest offering “First Fling”; conveniently cubed Wide Awake Bakery bread for stuffing; and fresh cranberries from somewhere in Massachusetts.
I gathered more local goodies later that night at GreenStar Natural Foods Market in Ithaca: sunchokes from Frosty Morning Farm in Truxton, parsnips from Remembrance Farm in Trumansburg, Snow Farm Creamery in Brooktondale’s Asiago-style offering “Tiara” and flour from Farmer Ground Flour in Newfield. Back home later we grabbed Lively Run Dairy goat cheese from Trumansburg’s Good to Go Market along with Crooked Carrot Apple Sauce and Emmy’s Organics Mint Chip Macaroons to help fuel the brainstorming. From our own garden, we had Brussels sprouts and shiitake mushrooms grown from an Edible Acre’s log to add to the mix.
But sourcing locally wasn’t the only challenge we took on this year. Marc and I had decided to create the slightly ludicrous “Vegducken“. Several factors prompted this adventure. We had several vegetarians coming to dinner, plus two hard-working foodie family members visiting from Connecticut (aka supplemental labor and kitchen skills). And we had scaled back a little on meat this year, only purchasing a half-turkey (an 18-pounder Autumn’s Harvest bird skillfully sawed in two by the butchers at the Piggery).
When our Aunt Sue and Uncle Charlie arrived Wednesday evening we broke the news: We’d be putting them to work with us on Mission Vegducken. There was a healthy amount of skepticism as I described the umpteen-step process to everyone. But after an evening of T’burg delights–dinner and music at the Rongovian Embassy and a round of bowling at Atlas Bowl--they agreed to help us tackle the monstrosity first thing in the morning.
The Vegducken did call for several ingredients not easily found in Tompkins and neighboring counties. A vegetarian response to the infamous Turducken, Vegducken might be more aptly named “Butterzucchplant” we decided, for its layers of scallion, zucchini and eggplant nested inside a butternut squash. We considered substituting honeynut and delicata squash for the inner layers but were nervous about diverging from an already complex recipe so reached to Florida, California and Mexico for a few items. The eggplant, zucchini, scallions and lemon sat on my counter aside our bountiful “local-copia”, a small pile of warmer-climate compromise.
Making the Vegducken was fun–but even with four people reading the recipe, watching a video, prepping, assembling and cooking it there were still a few missteps. There was also a lot of laughter and everyone felt proud of the result. While in the end it was not the star of the meal, it was a good- looking, tasty addition to the table appreciated by vegetarians and meat-eaters at alike. In the end, it was perhaps the process more than the product that made this particular dish worthwhile.
As for the rest of our locally-focused feast, it was delicious. It’s hard to go wrong with ingredients grown and crafted with such care in a place you love. And the simple act of procuring these items from neighbors and new friends added something special to each dish. I’m so grateful to live amid such abundance and generosity and glad I got to share the day and the meal with great people.
- Green salad with butternut squash, pomegranate, goat cheese and apple cider vinegar dressing
- Cranberry-brined turkey with rosemary-thyme gravy
- Brussels sprout-cranberry-chestnut-mushroom-ginger stuffing
- Slow-cooked garlic red potato mash
- Maple-syrup sunchoke and carrot sauté
- No-knead bread with local flour
- Butterzuchplant (or, “Vegducken”)
- We sipped: Shalestone Vineyard‘s 2013 Pinot Noir, Glenhaven‘s Gewurztraminer, Black Diamond‘s First Fling cider, Southern Tier Brewing‘s Old Man Winter and Red Raspberry & Tulsi tea (Tulsi from Muddy River Herbals, Jamaica Plain, MA – a nod to our Boston roots)
- Dinner guests contributed: Good Mother Stallard Heirloom Beans, carrot salad, cranberry chutney and apple and blueberry pies