A mouse can help you in your preparations (11/18/1998)

Published Wednesday, November 18, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News
Links checked 09 Oct 2002

A mouse can help you in your preparations

Special to the Mercury News

THIS THANKSGIVING, when you're dashing around the kitchen, desperate for a helping hand, don't forget your friendly ol' mouse.

No, not the rodent variety, but the computer gizmo, which, with a flick of the wrist, can provide all the tips you'll need to plan the turkey day feast.

Whether you're a beginner who has never cooked a dinner, an old hand who simply needs to brush up on the do's and don'ts or a gourmet cook looking for interesting new recipes, the Internet can help. Here, you'll find thousands of Web sites, maintained by amateur chefs and big-name food companies alike, as well as Usenet news groups that are part recipe exchange, part community and part virtual Grandma explaining how to make a pie crust.

The basics

Never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner or need a refresher course? Several well-known food companies explain the basics and more. Butterball (www.butterball.com) provides tips on choosing, storing, roasting and carving turkey and recipes for stuffing, side dishes and leftovers. Norbest (www.norbest.com/norbest) covers similar ground.

Reynolds Aluminum (http://www.reynoldskitchens.com/) offers recipes galore and articles explaining the differences between foil tent, foil-wrapped and oven bag roasted turkey.

iVillage (http://www.ivillage.com/food/celebrate/turkey/pages/1,13346,240594_538464,00.html) has Thanksgiving recipes and articles from Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Country Living.

The Global Gourmet's "Perfect Turkey Handbook" (www.globalgourmet.com/food/egg/egg1197/perfturk.html) answers basic questions about buying, storing, thawing and roasting turkey.

Want to try something different this year? Check out the classic black turkey recipe (www.mit.edu/people/wchuang/cooking/recipes/Meats/Black_Turkey.txt) or for a "Wow!" reaction from your guests, prepare Chef Paul Prudhomme's turducken (www.gumbopages.com/food/poultry/turducken.html). Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. All the fowl are de-boned and the chicken is stuffed with oyster dressing. Andouille sausage dressing lies between the chicken and the duck, and cornbread dressing between the duck and the turkey.

Care to return to the Thanksgivings of yesteryear? The Plimoth Plantation Web site re-creates the first Thanksgiving meal, complete with recipes and historical references (http://www.plimoth.org/Library/Thanksgiving/1stbill.htm).

Beyond turkey

Granted, 91 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving (and for days afterward), but Thanksgiving isn't just about turkey. Next on our Web tour are sites for the groaning sideboard: appetizers, side dishes and desserts that make Thanksgiving something besides just another turkey dinner.

The Dinner Co-op at Carnegie-Mellon University (http://dinnercoop.cs.cmu.edu/dinnercoop/) has a wonderful collection with more than 750 of its own recipes and more than 3,000 links to other recipes and food information pages. Unfortunately, the search engine was busted when I tried to use it to search for the Thanksgiving recipe archive they used to have stashed away. The collection, though, is well worth poking through for ideas. I found a terrific-sounding recipe for Pumpkin and Crab Soup ( http://dinnercoop.cs.cmu.edu/dinnercoop/Recipes/sanjiv/PumpkinCrabSoup.html from Sanjiv Singh, who claims it makes a great soup for Thanksgiving.

The Epicurious recipe archives (www.epicurious.com) contain more than 8,000 recipes from Bon Appétit, Gourmet, House & Garden and cookbooks. Epicurious sorted through those recipes and pulled together 20 Thanksgiving menus (www.epicurious.com/e_eating/e04_thanks/menuintro.html). Themes range from Colonial Charleston to Shaker, from country to California. You can also mix and match your own menu with recipes from the archives.

And for dessert . . .

No Thanksgiving feast would be complete without a pie or two. Hundreds of pie recipes are available from the PastryWiz (www.pastrywiz.com/archive/category/pie.htm) and the PieRecipe.com (http://www.pierecipe.com/).

Still in need of inspiration? Our next stop investigates one of the delights of the Web: link lists. Link lists are lists of Web sites and may be annotated or not. A click on a link (a Web site's name or description) sends you from the screen you are reading to the site you chose.

Yahoo and Kate.net offer two of the best recipe/non-recipe Thanksgiving link lists. Yahoo's Thanksgiving links (http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/Countries/United_States/Society_and_Culture/Holidays_and_Observances/Thanksgiving/) link to Thanksgiving recipe sites, activity sites, history sites and more. Kate Palenscar's list (www.kate.net/holidays/thanksgiving/) is very extensive, annotated and sorted into categories such as food, crafts, activities, stories, parades and clip art.

One of my favorite Usenet food sites is the Recipe Link (www.recipelink.com). Recipe Link's Thanksgiving list (http://www.recipelink.com/thanksgiving.html) links to sites for turkey how-to's and recipes, dressings, side dishes, desserts, vegetarian Thanksgivings and more.


The Net, though, is more than just millions of Web sites. Usenet newsgroups for cooks are another source of recipes, tips and support. Mimi's CyberKitchen has a fairly complete list of cooking newsgroups (http://www.cyber-kitchen.com/index/html/gp16.html).

Two of the most popular cooking newsgroups are rec.food.recipes and rec.food.cooking. Subscribe and join in the discussions or tap the Usenet archives at Google Groups.

If you need a recipe quickly, Google Groups' Usenet search (http://groups.google.com/advanced_group_search) has an archive of most Usenet newsgroup postings for the past decade or more. Select "PowerSearch." Enter your request in the search field and click on "find." If you search, for example, for the words "vegetarian Thanksgiving," you will retrieve hundreds of postings that contain both words. Fair warning: Not all postings will have useful information, but that's Usenet. If your request is a phrase, enclose it in quotation marks -- for example, "cranberry relish" or "mincemeat pie."

If all else fails, search the Web. To find the Web sites in this article, I used search engines, the card catalogs for the Web. You can, too. My handy guide for using search engines is http://www.computerbits.com/archive/1998/0700/web_searches.html.

Sal Towse is a Saratoga freelance writer.