WE had a big garden back in Vermont and a country house heated by a wood stove. I would dry herbs from the kitchen ceiling and toast crumbs while cooking down sauces or simmering pot roasts and porridges atop the household kiln throughout the day. Things like onions, corn, turnips, beets and cabbages would go in the root cellar – no genetically modified crap on our table. I even made wine and vinegar from wild grapes.
A little of this, a pinch of that and a splash of sauce would bring that home-cooked ebullience to any dish. But nothing brought the family together more than my famous – because while many a Thanksgiving meal has been forgotten, this dinner is remembered even decades later – maple meatballs.
Start with any basic meatball recipe. I like to use an equal mixture of ground pork and ground beef with lots of crushed garlic, minced onions and whatever dried herbs are handy depending on the nature of the meal (Swedish, Italian or Polish, for examples).
This particular spring, I had just sugared two gallons of maple syrup from trees on our property near Lake Champlain. Maple syrup tastes great on anything. We have it on snow, ice cream, cereal, fruits, pancakes and, of course, waffles. So, I substituted it for the eggs and the meat rolled into balls real well.
At dinner, my son took a bite, squinched his face like a prune, and said, "Dad, what is this?"
"Maple meatballs," I beamed.
My older daughter rushed toward the bathroom and stepdaughter grimaced while holding her throat.
"They're terrible!" the kids agreed. Awful, disgusting, putrid, puky, barfy, horrendous, nasty, bowel-inspiring, enema bombs; they created more words than when they cheated at Scrabble. The meatballs can't be that bad, I thought, and then took a bite.
Well, that did it. The kids, who had been arguing, hitting and teasing each other throughout the day, were united in common cause. They gleefully spent the rest of the evening mocking Dad's maple marvels.
To this day, whenever they meet, that's always the ice breaker.
Nothing brings a family together like maple meatballs. You must try this at home.