Persimmon bread, and a Thanksgiving thought

It’s Dare to Eat a Peach’s first Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. As my sister pointed out, it’s one of the few times in a year when we can be reasonably sure everyone else is doing the same thing we are. It’s a quintessentially American holiday, without the jingoism and the omnipresent hot dogs of, say, July 4th. It’s a pause for breath before the arrival of the juggernaut Christmas–a welcome moment of inclusiveness for heathens like me. It’s a celebration of food, family, and the remarkable bounty of the planet we live on. It’s a holiday transported far from its murky and oppressive historical roots–a welcome shift, I think–and, so far, the only major one that has stubbornly resisted commercialization. There are no Thanksgiving jingles in stores, and for that alone it is a glorious day.

But as a food blogger, I have to acknowledge something: Thanksgiving is driving us crazy.

Every year, around this time, newspaper dining sections and online food resources explode with tips and tricks and helpful suggestions and friendly advice and firm guiding hands and thousands upon thousands of brand-new shiny recipes. Every year, the spit-shined chefs on food TV spend a week of 24-hour broadcasts showing us slack-jawed viewers how to brine and roast and simmer and season our way to the perfect Thanksgiving feast. Every year, there is an onslaught of the new, ushered in on a deafening roar of tradition-talk. For anyone who enjoys cooking, Thanksgiving seems to be an inevitable yearly tug-of-war between novelty and Grandma’s secret recipes.

Me? I’m letting go of that rope.

This year, I’ve finally stopped worrying about whether regular old pumpkin pie is boring, or if I’ll be a bad cook if I don’t do something fabulously creative with broccoli. I’ve embraced truths universally acknowledged: that root vegetables are magical when roasted, that cinnamon and apples are a star-crossed couple, that a well-roasted turkey tastes terrific with nothing more than salt and pepper on its skin. And I’ve decided to get creative when the spirit moves me, seeking out new and exotic recipes only if they really inspire me or get under my skin.

Tonight, I’m sitting in the kitchen of my childhood home. My mother is doing a crossword puzzle, my grandmother is playing solitaire, and my father is watching Daily Show reruns on his computer. I am feeling the thankful spirit of the holiday in every muscle fiber–gratitude that my loved ones and I are healthy and happy and safe. I’m eating a slice of persimmon bread I made, just for us, as a little pre-Thanksgiving treat. I didn’t mix the flour quite enough, and I baked it too long, and I used old baking soda, and none of it matters, because this bread is just right–dense and oh-so-subtly sweet, scented gently with anise, the perfect late-autumn nibble.

Tomorrow, we will make my favorite holiday feast. Tonight, I am calm and content. Thanksgiving is here, and it’s imperfect, and that’s perfect.

Persimmon Bread (makes one 9-inch loaf)

Adapted from Beard on Bread, via David Lebovitz

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sifted whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1/3 cup brandy or whiskey

1 cup persimmon puree (about 4 ripe Fuyus or two squishy-ripe Hachiyas)

3/4 tsp anise (aniseed)

Preheat oven to 350º F, and butter or spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, or lightly dust with flour and tap out any excess.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flours, salt, baking soda and sugar. Make a well in the middle, and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until the last traces of flour have just disappeared and the batter is glossy and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Wrapped well, the bread will keep for about a week at room temp, or in the freezer for much longer.

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