My Sister's Apple Cake

There’s lots of nice things about gathering on Thanksgiving for a big meal with family. We love our families. And in many ways, Thanksgiving is one of the more enjoyable holidays of the year. But, of course, it can present its difficulties. Here are ten things not to talk about during Thanksgiving dinner. Let’s all just try to get through this, okay?

1) Turkey
It’s unfortunate, since this will be the main course at most American Thanksgiving dinners. But mentioning the word can all too easily remind people of the country of the same name, and then nudge the conversation dangerously close to the issue of the Armenian genocide during the first World War. And if you ask, say, a cousin’s Turkish wife about how this sensitive subject is taught in Turkish schools (because she is a teacher, in Turkey, and had actually just been talking about the issue of teaching controversial episodes in Turkish history, and you actually thought that the Armenia thing was what she was talking about) you may be glared at by your cousin and told, “Well now that’s a cheery subject!” Apparently there are other controversial episodes in Turkish history and she was talking about those.

2) Pilgrims
Much too close to the hot-button political issue of immigration. Better just to pretend that no people have ever moved from one country to another country. At least for this one holiday, let’s pretend that. For the sake of the meal.

3) Native Americans
People choose different paths in life. Even family members who love each other very much. Some people move to California and get into yoga and spirituality and alternative healing practices, while others opt to stay in New York and remain bitter and complaining about everything all the time. Some people may want to read a ten-minute Native American prayer of thanks to our mother earth for the bounty she has bestowed upon us as a reminder of our duty to protect the environment. Before food is served. Do not huff loudly half way through. Do not say the words “new age.” Do make sure there’s a full bottle of wine nearby.

4) Real estate/home address
Just don’t.

5) Music
Because people have different opinions about things. Someone at the table may be a professional musician, and wonder aloud why the musical artist Prince inspires such love and devotion from his fans since, this person might say, “his singing is always off key!” Due to your own feelings about Prince, which run counter to those just expressed, and the consumption of many glasses of wine during the recitation of a Native American prayer, you may blurt out an answer to the posed question by stating, enthusiastically, that Prince is simply the “baddest motherfucker in the world.” There may be be children at the table, ages twelve, nine, four. An aunt may tell your wife, who she’s sitting next to, that, “That’s not okay.”

6) How’s the job hunt going?
Pass the potatoes, please?

7) The weather
An innocent question, posed to break an uncomfortable silence. “Have you noticed it’s a little warmer this year than it used to be?” BOOM! Now you’re in a heated debate about the divisive issue of climate change and whether or not all these evil scientists are making up all these flim-flam “studies” just to line their fat-cat scientist pockets. Not to mention the activist judges. They must have something to do with this, too, right?

8) Books
You haven’t read enough of them. You don’t understand the few that you’ve read.

9) Football
What, and risk getting into the controversial issue of helmet-to-helmet hits, the inherent violence of the game, the concussions, or, God forbid, Brett Favre’s penis? Nope. Not this year. Simply sit and watch in silence.

10) Dessert
I can not lie! Each and every one of these pies, cakes, cookies and crumbles that all the different relatives have contributed is equally delicious!

But here’s the recipe for my sister’s apple cake. (It’s the bomb.)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. gound allspice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 beaten eggs
1 tbs. vanilla
3 cups chopped, peeled apples (she uses Granny Smith)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted in 350° oven for 5–10 minutes (watch them to make sure they don’t burn)
2 tsp. shredded lemon peel
sifted powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour a round bundt pan (the doughnut shaped one), set pan aside. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl combine sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add dry mixture and beat on low just till combined. Fold in apples, half the pecans, and lemon peel. Pour batter into prepared pan. Put rest of pecans on top.

3. Bake in 350 oven about 1 hour (maybe 5–10 minutes more) until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack for three hours. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Adapted by Deborah Bry from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.

Illustration by Susie Cagle.