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  • Melissa Orquiza

Thanksgiving, Pumpkin Bread with Mascarpone & “Forky Asks a Question"

TJ's Pumpkin Bread with Candied Ginger Mascarpone Frosting

Thanksgiving. An American tradition, expressing gratitude, celebrating togetherness, the “discovery” of the “New World” and… navigating family politics. My family is the poster child of opposites. Imagine a Trump marrying an Obama or Clinton. I am not kidding.

While my father’s family is very down to earth, my mother’s aristocratic family was comprised of mainly lawyers, doctors, engineers, and politicians that married beauty queens and socialites. Many of them were educated overseas- Harvard, Cornell, Caltech, University of Edinburgh, and Cambridge. The only common thing they had was that both my grandfathers were doctors whose families were spared during World War II, in order to care for both wounded Japanese soldiers and American servicemen.

No matter what side you were on, they wanted to take care of their wounded, so before killing off, burning, or sparing a town, they would ask for the town doctor. Both spoke English, Tagalog, and Spanish and were able to communicate with the American servicemen. My dad’s dad even convinced a friendly American soldier to leave the US army generator to give power to the city he was from. No one knows what he said. Maybe they were drinking buddies? Lol.

So, back to a Trump marrying an Obama or Clinton. My family reunions were fraught with navigating real politics and internal family politics. They, to this day, are at opposite sides of the political spectrum. I’d like to think I’m a centrist, able to listen to the value of both views, in order to come up with an elegant solution. I learned at once to be able to converse about how stock prices on a commodity could influence the GDPs of a series of nations due to diplomacy and make someone laugh when they were uncomfortable at a hoity-toity party or backyard shindig. So, in a way, this strange dichotomy of my childhood made me a hit at dinner parties, cocktail parties, bars, backyard bbq’s, you name it, because you could basically plop me anywhere and I could discuss couture, art galleries, international politics, how to thresh a rice crop and how dirt roads suck, all the while perfectly comfortable making someone laugh whether it be on an upholstered silk chair or a lawn chair. Physical comedy was the best- universal and can make anyone perfectly at ease.

Thanksgiving should be about that ease- friendly banter, laughing, the glossing over of internal differences but believe me, I understand that it is extremely difficult to exhibit self control when relatives start screaming at each other about a slight from twenty years ago. Worst still, is when they decide to enlist their children to take sides, all the while giving them a biased view of the situation. I used to think that this was endemic only to my family, when I realized, this happens in every family, just to varying degrees. I quickly learned you cannot control these situations- it’s like a lab rat experiment gone horribly wrong, but you can control the variables.

Distractions are wonderful things. There’s already a million things to do during Thanksgiving, so distract them with this easy quick bread, “TJ’s Pumpkin bread with Ginger Mascarpone Frosting” (the frosting is from the Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Cake recipe). It takes less than 20 minutes and you can do the frosting while it bakes in the oven. When a difficult topic arises, you can easily say, “Excuse me. I need to get the mascarpone to room temperature. Do you mind helping me with the frosting?”

If people are still “discussing,” cut them a slice, and suggest a great Pixar movie to bond over. If you can’t bond over food and a Disney film, I don’t know what to say. Personally, my favorite Pixar short right now is “Forky Asks a Question.” Short, sweet, simple and hilarious...just what Thanksgiving should be. Nuclear explosion diffused.

Pixar- Forky Asks a Question, Official Trailer, Disney+

TJ’s Pumpkin Bread with Ginger Frosting

1. Follow the directions on the box. Substitute butter for oil, milk for water. Add a one or two teaspoons vanilla (to get rid of the box flavor). (Brilliant, right?)

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice. (You can also add a swish of bourbon or cognac if you’d like.)

Barefoot Contessa’s Ginger Mascarpone Frosting

* Only need 1/2 of the recipe

Ginger Mascarpone Frosting (Frosts one standard loaf cake)

12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 cup minced crystallized ginger (not in syrup)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, cream, and vanilla together for about 1 minute, until light and fluffy. 2. Add the crystallized ginger and salt and beat for 30 seconds more.

Make Ahead: Frosting can be made a day or two ahead and it keeps well in the fridge.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy!

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