Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. (Federally recognized holiday, that is. I get pretty excited about Groundhog Day, Pi Day, and International Talk Like a Pirate Day, too. Arrr!) The reason Thanksgiving means so much to me is that over the years, gratitude has become more and more important to me. It’s what makes life abundant. The more thankful I am, the more I find to be thankful for. Of course, I’m thankful for the big, obvious things, like Robert, our dogs and other animals, our home, our health, family, friends, and work. But it’s so fun – and gratifying – to find subtler things to be thankful for: a cup of hot tea every evening after dinner, clouds in all their fascinating forms, clean tap water, the way sunlight looks at varying times of day and year, learning (from books and from life), a fairy ring of mushrooms, good smelling soap, the freedoms I have at this time and place in history, finding connections with such seemingly different people… The list could go on and on.
High up on my gratitude list is cycling – no surprise there. If you follow my blog, you know that I love all types of cycling, whether it’s road riding, gravel grinding, randonnuering, or tandem riding. One type of riding that I haven’t written about much is my spin class, jSpin. Robert started jSpin about five years ago because he got bored with riding his trainer in the basement all winter. He bought about a dozen spin bikes and converted the break room at Jordan Engineering into a spin room. Several instructors teach classes on Monday through Thursday evenings. Also, we occasionally host a movie spin on Sunday afternoons during the winter when it’s cold and/or rainy. Not only is the exercise part great, jSpin gives me the opportunity to spend time with friends and neighbors whom I might not see otherwise.
I go to the class that Robert teaches, which is the Monday class. It makes a good recovery ride if I’ve put in a lot of miles over the weekend. Usually, though, I try to keep up with Robert’s instruction, which focuses on interval training with heart rate monitors. He also enjoys planning the music for each class as much as the workout. Occasionally, I substitute teach for Robert if he has to go to an evening meeting. My more frequent contribution, however, is a music spin show. I love coming up with themes. Therefore, I came up with a music set for tonight’s Thanksgiving spin.
We started with a classic tune associated with Thanksgiving, “Simple Gifts.” This is a Shaker song written in 1848. Although it’s often thought of as a hymn, it’s really a dance song. I discovered a beautiful version with Alison Krauss singing in her lovely, ethereal voice, accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma’s exquisite cello.
Continuing our warmup, we got a little more upbeat but still stayed rather mellow with “Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead. Incidentally, that’s something else to be grateful for:
Then, the feast began. We had “Mashed Potatoes” by The Kingsmen. Although my family always has sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, I hear that mashed potatoes are a pretty common menu item for other people.
How about some gravy for your mashed potatoes? In this case, it was “Wavy Gravy” by Kenny Burrell, an aptly jazzy segue. I had searched for music by the counterculture icon Wavy Gravy but didn’t find anything that I thought would work for spin. I was pleased to discover this song by the same name.
Thanksgiving dinner must have The Cranberries. I included my favorite song of theirs, “Zombie.” It’s quite somber, being about the ongoing war in Northern Ireland, but the music and lyrics are powerful. The bass guitar toward the beginning is on my list of Top 10 Best Guitar Riffs.
At last it was time for the star of the feast, The Byrd(s)! Did you know that the lyrics to “Turn! Turn! Turn!” come from Ecclesiastes? (That’s my favorite book of the Bible.) “Turn! Turn! Turn!” has that quintessential 1960s sound. Although I’m proud to be a Gen Xer, I’ve got to hand it to the Boomers for giving us some great music.
What’s Thanksgiving turkey without dressing to go with it? I don’t know of any dressing songs, but The Dave Matthews Band sings “Cornbread,” which is the main ingredient in dressing. And it’s not stuffing. Here in the South we eat dressing, which is cooked in a separate pan, not inside the turkey.
Time for dessert! We had pumpkin pie thanks to Smashing Pumpkins. The song was “1979.” By the way, at the end of this post is the world’s best pumpkin pie recipe. It’s from my mother. Actually, she got it from the Eagle condensed milk can years ago. The two biggest keys are to chill the pie thoroughly before serving and to use real whipped cream on top – no spray-can stuff.
If you follow the recipe, of course you need some Cream to go on top of your pumpkin pie. And make it “Sweet Wine,” a nice accompaniment to dessert and another excellent, bluesy/jazzy song for the set.
Wait! You can’t put plain cream on your pumpkin pie – you must “Whip It!” (Whip it good!) Devo will help you with that.
In case you’re a teetotaler, you might rather have a little coffee with your dessert. Frank Sinatra serves it up all-American style with “The Coffee Song.” This also reminds me of Thanksgiving morning in my kitchen. I enjoy cooking at a leisurely pace, drinking tea (ironically, I’m not a coffee drinker), and listening to Frank Sinatra. This little ditty is such a fun one.
If you overdid it on our Thanksgiving feast, perhaps you need a “Remedy.” The Black Crowes not only have your prescription, they fit in with the autumn decor.
As delicious and enjoyable as Thanksgiving dinner is, in the end this holiday is really about being grateful. That’s why I ended our Thanksgiving spin show with “Thank You.”. I love hard rockin’ with Led Zeppelin, but this beautifully melodic song is my favorite of theirs.
“Simple Gifts” – Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss
“Touch of Grey” – The Grateful Dead
“Mashed Potatoes” – The Kingsmen
“Wavy Gravy” – Kenny Burrell
“Zombie” – The Cranberries
“Turn! Turn! Turn!” – The Byrds
“Cornbread” – The Dave Matthews Band
“1979” – Smashing Pumpkins
“Sweet Wine” – Cream
“Whip It” – Devo
“The Coffee Song” – Frank Sinatra
“Remedy” – The Black Crowes
“Thank You” – Led Zeppelin
2 C canned pumpkin (1 can)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 unbeaten egg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust (use homemade if possible)
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 capful vanilla extract
Mix pumpkin, condensed milk, egg, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger on low speed of an electric mixer. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted near middle comes out clean. Cool.
On high speed of electric mixer, beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream on top of cooled pie. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Thoroughly chill pie in refrigerator before serving.