Adventures in Eating

Thanksgiving in the Deep Freeze or When a Chainsaw Becomes a Cooking Aid

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on God’s goodness, provision, or just nod to the happy luck of history if that is where your inclinations go, but either way, it is never as much fun as when spent wearing a down-filled parka and mittens.

As I write this, my entire cottage kitchen has turned into a walk-in freezer, thanks to the wonders of winter in our cottage region where today it is -16C (3F). This means, of course, that there is no cooking going on in our neck of the woods. The pipes are drained, the pump disconnected, the circuit breakers all switched to the off position. But we have thought about holding a Thanksgiving dinner there, even under such dire environmental conditions. And so, if it is the thought that counts, it is as though we have actually done the thing.

We have not, of course, but we have braved some winter weekends at the lake where the subject of holding Thanksgiving there comes up time and again, and yet we never can bring ourselves to do it, partly because we perceive our guests might not enjoy eating a turkey that has to be worked at with an ice pick, even after roasting.

On the upside, there is no fear of food spoiling in such an environment.

For those who are considering an inaugural Thanksgiving weekend at a frozen family retreat next week, here are a few tips from we who think about doing it, but have not. Although, I should add that we had company up one Easter when the forecast proved wretchedly wrong and we spent the entire 48 hours in snowsuits, even sleeping in them:

  1. Bring lots of disinfectant wipes. Even if your cabin is fitted with a winterized water system, there could still be some surprises in store, so an abundance of water-less cleaning supplies is highly recommended, especially as a failure to leave a cabin sparkling clean in the winter can lead to a mouse-infestation in the spring.
  2. If you have year-round resident-friends in the vicinity and your cottage is reasonably accessible, consider asking one to turn the heat on at your cabin 24 hours in advance of your arrival, not only to make your entrance more pleasant, but also to ‘cook off’ the inevitable humidity that occurs when warming a frozen structure.
  3. Keep in mind that stove-top dishes will take longer to cook in a cold cabin (this holds for the un-insulated cottages, not so much for those with decent insulation and an adequate heating system).
  4. Pre-cook as many of the dishes as possible to spare yourself the labour of hauling in water or having to melt ice for cooking. Note: Chainsawing the lake ice and hauling up the chunks in buckets is considered great fun by children and even men, but is not such a pleasure for the cook who is holding up the whole dinner for want of water to steam the veggies, ergo a lovely broccoli casserole dish prepped in the city beforehand will go a long way toward soothing the cottage cook’s nerves.
  5. If you are the sort to embrace the chill rather than huddle against it, consider meshing a summertime favorite, the barbecue, with the blustery environs and hold a portion of the dinner out on the deck. Barbecues work just as well at sub-zero temps as they do in the summer, and it will add a touch of the unforgettable to your dinner, especially if it is followed by a trip to the local hospital emergency ward to treat frostbite.



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About Jo Hatherly

Joanne Hatherly is a Canadian cottager who writes about hosting hordes from her one-sink cottage kitchen. She is an author, journalist, incurable chocolate-addict and lake-swimmer. Repped by a UK literary agency, she is working on a literary crime thriller. Follow her eclectic ramblings on current news, census reports, literature and freakish encounters with snakes and other wildlife on Twitter: @johatherly