Virtual Thanksgiving and Cranberry Bread (Musings on This Holiday)

Cranberry bread by Tracy Shapiro

Cranberry bread [Photo and bread by Tracy Shapiro]

Traci Shapiro, owner-operator at Redwood Coast Arts and Crafts School, writes a regular column about life that she shares online. She’s agreed to share it with us in our column/letters to the editor section this time.

Well, here we are, the beginning of Thanksgiving week or as I used to call it “Holy-crap-I-have-to-cook-HOW-much-food-for-people-that-don’t-really-like-it-and-will-spend-the-whole-meal-kvetching-about-it” time, oh goody (Ok, I only “said” it in my head, but I sure did THINK it loudly).

Apologies to all those people out there that Love this holiday, but I just never got it.

Seriously, let’s get the family to travel hundreds of miles so they can be together to eat a meal. Sounds good in theory I suppose but let’s review for a moment. First, it’s been my experience that within the first fifteen minutes of the gathering everyone remembers WHY they moved hundreds of miles away from each other. Oh, and they’re all exhausted and jet-lagged from the travel so by all means let’s sit around a table and talk politics—that sounds like fun.

Second, most people with family coming from out of town only plan for ONE meal (two if you count the late-night sandwiches) even though their houseguests will be staying the weekend. And this, by the way, is why restaurants are sooo busy over Thanksgiving Weekend. Well, that and the “get-me-out-of-this- house-and-away-from-these-people” thing. Trust me I know, I ran a restaurant for a long time. Except that THIS year most restaurants will be limited one-quarter capacity so the wait time should be “fun”—just saying.

Third, and again my apologies to those who actually like turkey, but most people don’t. They may say they do but they’re only saying that because that’s what they supposed to say. And well, how exactly do you break it to Granny that you’d rather eat dirt than her turkey (which she spent hours preparing). Or that her cherished turkey is just a mashed potato, gravy, and stuffing delivery device. I know this for a fact because the last time I made a Thanksgiving turkey (which is the last time I will EVER make a turkey) when it can time to try to give away “doggy bags”, no one wanted any because, well, they didn’t really like turkey, they were just eating it because it’s what one does on Thanksgiving. ***Note of reference–mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing work very well with pork roast—just a thought.

I know, I know, some people LOVE Thanksgiving, my Dad was one of them. He used to say it was his very favorite holiday. He always spoke glowingly about the gatherings at my Grandparents’ house and I always wondered what party HE had gone to because that certainly wasn’t the party I remembered. What I remembered was getting up at the crack of dawn to drive the approximately one hundred and fifty miles (one way) to my Grandparents’ house so we could spend the day watching the adults arguing with each other about the same thing they argued about EVERY year. And then getting back in the car for the long drive home on the same day. Ah, good time.

Anyway, I’d like to make a suggestion, stay home this year. There’s a monster plague raging that will only get worse the more people travel. Maybe, just maybe, if more of us make the commitment to putting our health and the health of our communities first this season we can help slow the spread. And be honest, do you really want to share a meal with your family and talk politics THIS year?

So here’s my contribution to your alternative Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’ve been working on developing the perfect Cranberry Bread recipe and this year I think I’ve finally nailed it. It’s not too dense and soggy, it’s not too dry and crumbly but it’s flavorful and it’s stable enough that the leftovers hold together in a toaster. I hope you will enjoy it.

So here’s to Thanksgiving 2020—-and remember on Zoom when your crazy uncle or aunt (we all at least one) starts spouting whatever conspiracy theory they’re into this year, you can just hit Mute!

Love to all and stay safe

Cranberry/Orange/Pecan Bread
by Tracy Shapiro. Nov 2020

2 C All-purpose flour 1 lg Egg (at room temp)
1 C White Sugar ½ C Orange Juice
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder 2 TABL (1 oz) Salted Butter (melted)
1 tsp Baking Soda 2 TABL Boiling Water
½ tsp salt Zest of 1 Orange (finely chopped)
1 C Frozen Cranberries (don’t defrost)
1 C Pecans (coarsely chopped)

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees (300 degrees if using a glass pan)

Grease an 8.5”x4.5”x2.5” Loaf pan

Zest a “softball” sized orange then juice the orange and add enough water to the juice to equal ½ C, set aside.

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl lightly beat the egg then beat in juice, zest, butter, and water, in that order.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

Gently fold in the cranberries and pecans and spoon into the pan, smooth the top.

Bake for 60 – 75 min. or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 min then finish cooling on a wire rack.

If you like a soft crust, wrap the loaf in a clean towel after you remove it from the pan to cool.


*Note for this recipe use an orange with the best smelling rind you can find, the quality of the zest will determine the richness of the flavor.



  • You forgot to point out how racist Thanksgiving is.

  • Love your story Tracy. Except, darn it, I love turkey. I will give you the standard reply when somebody complains that they don’t like turkey. “It just wasn’t cooked right”. Plus, the French are right, every dish needs a good sauce.

    Back in the 50’s and 60’s Clark Hodge at the Eel River cafe served a hot turkey sandwich that was to die for. (In today’s covid-19 crisis that would be true) The turkey was dripping with juice and flavor, and it was super tender. His secret was a stock-pot that he kept at @200 degrees night and day.

    In the evening when he went home he would put a turkey in the stock pot. The next morning his prep cook would take it out and slice it up and make it ready for the day’s lunch special.

    The stock was like sourdough bread starter. All of the onion and celery trimmings would go into it, all of the chicken trimmings, and any thing else tasted good, that would made a good broth. Each day he would strain the broth and throw away the dregs, pour the broth back in the pot and start over. He made all of his gravies from the broth and It was egad flavorful.

    My wife, for some reason, loves cranberries, and I love oranges, so we are sure to try your recipe. But, first we have to gorge ourselves with Thanksgiving dinner.

    Thanks for your story Tracy.

    • We had an early turkey Thanksgiving on Sunday after being given one by my stepdad and we’re now eating leftovers and I concur, Ernie. The turkey cooked just right by my husband and sons is delicious even as leftovers. But Tracy’s recipe looks delicious and I have hopes to try it as a breakfast!

    • I enjoyed the read too but when I saw your reference to Clark Hodge at the Eel River Cafe my little heart skipped a little beat.
      The year was 1968, I was in high school & waitressed at his brother Hodges Cafe on State in Ukiah. I can’t recall his name – just Hodge. I DO recall those hot turkey sandwiches you described though! He & his wife ran such a clean cafe, served good wholesome food with such pride & care in preparation. I never knew what the secrets to his specials were but it was sure good food.
      They often talked with pride about his brother up in Garberville (to me at the time, it was “no man’s land”.) The Eel River Cafe has been here awhile.
      50 years have passed but I recall it like it was yesterday. Thanks for sharing a delicious memory.

  • Local acorn flour, locust pod sugar, huckleberries, & hazelnuts

    • Served with wild turkey, or salmon? Please pass the roasted bay nuts!

      • When roasting a pepperwood nut, they must be very dark roasted to get rid of the bitter spicy flavor, like dark roast coffee, at which point they become candy. Don’t let the secret out. Okay?

        I have a very prolific hazelnut in my front yard. That must have been a very favorite nut for the Indigenous people.

        Wild turkey was brought here by the white man. However it was a good choice. The California Wild Turkey went extinct 10,000 years ago.

  • Having been to almost 75 Thanksgivings, my memories of stuffing& gravy will never get old. But, the Pies! Omg- Pecan, Pumpkin, and impossible coconut cream pies! Oh my! I really like turkey, & love leftovers. A panini on focaccia bread, with turkey, stuffin, gravy, cranberry, Durkee’s spread….I actually will eat that every day until there’s none left! Then, all over again at Christmas-and those Christmas cookies! Happy Holidays as much as possible in 2020!

    • I AM 75. Recipe for breakfast turkey: Take some sliced turkey and fry in in clarified butter. (Won’t burn) add salt, pepper and garlic, then fry in a hot pan until golden brown on both sides. YUMMMMM! Serve with eggs and toast.

      We seldom have leftovers, just evolution of turkey meals. There is turkey tetrazzini, turkey sandwiches made with whole wheat toast, mayo, cranberry sauce, and lettuce. Turkey soup, etc. etc etc….

  • Folks remember to hang your “come back with a warrant” sign on your gate or front door to ensure you can eat peacefully this year

  • Except for an extra half teaspoon of baking soda, this recipe is straight out of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Crediting sources is good journalism.

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