Each Thanksgiving since I’ve been out of the U.S. has been unconventional in some form, but this is the first year we’ve ever eaten around a table on the floor and ended the evening over a shared plate of persimmon pudding with a variety of utensils, due to the fact that I own exactly 4 spoons, 3 forks, and 5 sets of chopsticks. We went a bit off the cusp with the menu: we had stuffing with cranberries and apple juice that was spiced with sage, ginger, and cinnamon. Habiba brought turkey legs that she stripped by the light of her cell phone in the corner of the living room, the only spot in the apartment with enough surface area to do it. Justin brought stir fried vegetables, Mary brought South African sausage, and we ate that with Minnesota wild rice and kohlrabi salad, rosemary roasted potatoes, and brussel sprouts Luke procured from the army base that were sautéed and caramelized with kimchi. When it came time to make the gravy, we all realized we’d never done it before, only watched our mothers/aunts/cousins do it dozens of times between us, but Janessa and I took to the stove once we decided, at the last minute, that we absolutely needed the gravy. Turns out the gravy was the simplest of all the dishes on the table to make, be it that we had really good turkey juice with which to begin. You whisk together the juice (but not the fat) from the cooked bird with a bit of flour and let it bubble in a pan on the stove. You let it thicken, and add more flour and juice until it’s the consistency you want. You season with salt and pepper, and voila–you’ve got Thanksgiving’s most valuable player.
When our wine key snapped in half, the bottom half wedged deep inside the cork one of the last bottles, we all took turns swearing while trying to pull it free, each to no avail, until someone had the brilliant idea to tie the string of a hooded sweatshirt around the end of the corkscrew and the tines of a fork (while Brendon ran out to buy a replacement from 7-11). We cheered when it popped free, then passed it around and took swigs straight from the bottle. You might not call us classy, per say, but you can’t argue with that kind of ingenuity.
A note about the recipe below: I don’t have a 9×13 pan, so I halved the quantities and poured most of batter into a small ceramic casserole and the rest into a muffin tin. The pudding that baked in the casserole was super soft and almost oozy. But the pudding that came out of the muffin tin was a totally different dessert, and had developed a caramelized crust on top that was so, so good. Maybe, probably, it had baked faster. In any case, take this into consideration depending on what kind of texture you’re after, if you decide to embark. Which you should.
(from my friend Mary Ann, who got it from her niece)
2 cups pureed persimmon pulp (from hachiya persimmons, the oblong shaped variety that must be utterly soft before eating)
2 cups raw sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda *or* baking powder (I used soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk sugar and eggs together. Add persimmon pulp and mix well. Stir together flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Blend flour mixture into sugar/egg/persimmon mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour (I unintentionally skipped this step and ended up mixing everything together at once. If it made any kind of unfortunate difference, I couldn’t tell). Add melted butter and vanilla. Pour into a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake at 300 degrees F/150 degrees C for an hour. Test by jiggling the pan–if the center moves, bake another 5-10 minutes. It’s okay if the pudding is not completely set, but it shouldn’t be runny. Serve warm with whipped cream. Or vanilla ice cream. Or, as we did, unadorned and straight off the spoon/fork/chopsticks.