Since crayons don’t come with spell check: INNOVember – Your opportunity to invent


out of the fire and into the frying pan

We don’t often have the chance to really look at the imaginative artwork created by children. Quickly walking past bulletin boards of preschool artwork, I recently saw written in day-glow orange crayon the word Innovember” and this got my attention.

With my brain preloaded for all things creative, I mistakenly took this to mean: “Innovation in November,” and thought: what a great theme! Then, looking more carefully, the word accompanied an illustration of a Thanksgiving scene and I realized the little typographer who created this amazing idea had actually left out the spacing between words and meant to say: “In November.”

Well, it’s not exactly Rocktober but still a great theme and InNovember we have a built-in opportunity to be innovative. Our harvest festivals around the northern hemisphere and Thanksgiving in the United States in particular are steeped in traditional foods that are ripe for shaking up. However, as we are giving thanks and reflecting on our good fortunes, many people come to expect their stuffing and cranberry sauce cooked a certain way — and many families have traditional dishes that even the most courageous of us won’t dare to mess with.

Our opportunity doesn’t come from reinventing the whole meal or redefining a treasured side dish but from bringing an entirely different creation to the table. Whether it’s your favorite everyday food that you’ve perfected and want to share or a wholly new experiment involving bat’s wings, eye of newt, or the nearly forgotten sun dried tomatoes — either have the potential to become next year’s tradition. Assuming you use ingredients that don’t exceed their expiration dates and are fully cooked, there is little risk in serving a new dish since a singular disaster in a vast feast won’t leave anyone hungry — and mistakes provide the best leftovers that can be warmed up into stories for next year – and some even may even become legends. Try something new! And if you can, please December to help the less fortunate.

What was your biggest holiday food disaster or your greatest success? What will you cook this year?



  1. My biggest success was in 2009. Two of my oldest boys had finally come back from long overseas tours of duty, and I was hoping to get them all together for the holidays for the first time in ten years. It’s easy to lose tough after a while, and I didn’t want this to happen with them, but it seemed they just didn’t think it would be a big deal if they missed one more holiday together. I finally had to break out the big guns. Instead of threats and stealth mommy guilt trips, I tried a whole different tactic. I said fine, I told them what I was cooking, and said they were all invited. I would only ask once, and if they didn’t come, “we” would have fun without them (little did they know the “we” in this equation was me). I bought a Turducken and a whole bunch of other weird foods knowing my boys wouldn’t be able to resist. The food wound up turning out great, but the best part was that they all showed up! It was the best family dinner we’d had in ten years, and the food had nothing to do with it 😉

  2. I read an article recently that said that the first Thanksgiving shared by the Pilgrims and Indians was served, not with turkey, but with eel. You could try that for an innovative, redefined Thanksgiving feast but I wonder how many hearty souls would agree to show up.
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  3. Crispy eel-skin rolls are incredible!

  4. fanny foo foo says:

    Anyone for chopped onion baked to sweetness in your chocolate cake? My mom was always an inventive cook. She taught me to experience the tastes as you read a recipe and how to imagine a meal out of what was at hand. Not that she ever used recipes much. Until her eighties, she dreamt up new dishes like elaborate piano improvisations born of life-long practice. Then we noticed she’d begun to forget how to cook as well as who we were. The next Thanksgiving, I stepped in at the last minute to make the holiday dinner because my siblings who were coming feared she wasn’t safe in the kitchen any longer.

    Beginning the night before, I boiled corn on the cob, crammed that turkey with toast and celeric, mashed cranberries with brandy and turnips with buttermilk, while we talked in the kitchen, the conversation repeating from the start again every 20 minutes or so. She was telling who she’d given her latest paintings, water colors that she still did every day, the technical complications of oil no longer possible for her. Only a year before a local gallery had given her a two-floor retrospective of the vibrant, homey landscapes and still-lifes that spoke her heart in gloriously multi-color strokes of glossy linseed. Now, she was working on several miniatures as we spoke but I was busy and tired and not paying much attention to their subjects.

    Long after midnight, I finally set the table before we slept. Early next morning my brothers and sisters came from all over the country to our little town in Appalachia, and a million little kids overran her tiny house laughing. When we were almost ready to sit down, my oldest niece came to tell me that Mimi was leaning across the table and knocking over glasses. Upset, I went in to see and found that she’d been placing the series of miniature watercolors she’d done in the kitchen. Her subjects were the individual vegetables I’d been cooking, the tawny softness under the mushrooms in one, a turnip blushing like a plump baby, green stalks and leaves more distinct and lush than the real things. I’ll forever smile at that proof of what she taught me by anecdote and example.

    Art will always out and express our nature in its creation.