November 21, 2012
Since the holidays are upon us, I feel obliged to write about my favorite one. You may have assumed I’m referring to Thanksgiving, since that’s every food and cooking enthusiast’s favorite holiday. But Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday; James Bond Day is.
One could argue that James Bond Day is not a real holiday. It’s not on any calendar I’ve ever seen and I’m fairly certain no one outside my immediate family celebrates it. But don’t be too quick to dismiss James Bond Day. First, take a look at this list of holidays in November from a website that my colleagues and I like to peruse when we’re hard up for ideas for our monthly all-staff meeting activities (and in need of a laugh).
November is not just the month of Thanksgiving. It’s also National Georgia Pecan Month (which sounds like code for some kind of drug-centric hippie celebration), National Banana Pudding Lovers Month, Historic Bridge Awareness Month (some of these are quite specific), and National Impotency Month, which makes one wonder why there is no “awareness” in the title—are we supposed to be celebrating impotency? Today, November 21st, is Use Less Stuff Day. Not to be confused with Useless Stuff Day. November also doubles as Movember, that month when men like to torture their girlfriends or wives with unsightly and scratchy facial hair.
So if moustaches warrant a whole month of celebration, doesn’t the release of a new James Bond movie deserve a day? James Bond Day happened to fall in November this year (Skyfall was released on the 9th), but it is unfortunately not an annual holiday—it’s a holiday beholden to the politics and time constraints of movie production so it occurs randomly like an erratic leap year.
I can’t really recall when or how James Bond Day was established, but I do remember eagerly anticipating it whenever a new Bond film was announced. My love of James Bond Day had as much to do with my love of the films as it did with my love of playing hooky. The release of a new Bond film was the cause for celebration, but the method of celebration consisted of taking the day off from school to go see it.
The significance of James Bond Day may not be as obvious as that of Thanksgiving—to be thankful for what you have in life—or Christmas—to be generous and make sacrifices for others—but it’s nearly as important. James Bond Day is about breaking the rules (like school attendance) and not taking yourself or your daily obligations too seriously. Sometimes it’s necessary to challenge the status quo in harmless ways just to remind yourself not to accept all of society’s rules and expectations at face value. Critical thinking is an ability my family instilled in me in various ways—James Bond Day being the most entertaining—and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Speaking of family and gratefulness, tomorrow is Thanksgiving! While I do like Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of the standard, nationally recognized holidays (i.e. not James Bond Day). Quite frankly I’m not that fond of turkey and I hate having menu limitations!
I much prefer Christmas, which in my non-religious family is two days of non-stop eating. (And presents—who doesn’t like presents?) Generally we have a simple pasta dish for Christmas Eve, homemade biscuits for Christmas morning, and an elaborate meal for Christmas Day dinner that varies every year. Of course now that everyone in my family is an opinionated and accomplished cook, Christmas Eve’s dinner has gotten a bit more complicated than pasta. Last year I made a Middle Eastern feast complete with homemade labneh.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Christmas is a month away, and despite my Thanksgiving grievances, I’m very excited about my menu this year: apple-cider brined turkey breast, rosemary gravy, mashed root vegetables (sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, and celeriac), balsamic-glazed Brussels sprouts, and Dorie Greenspan’s apple cake with David Lebovitz’s cinnamon ice cream (possibly my favorite dessert of all time).
Another dessert I love is pumpkin pie. The only problem with having pie for dessert after a Thanksgiving meal is that everyone is generally so full they can’t eat something so heavy. In the past, my solution to this problem has been to drink a cup of peppermint tea and take a nap on the floor. For some reason the floor is more comfortable when my stomach feels like it might burst. Since lying on the floor is not really the best cure for overeating in polite company, I thought why not lighten up dessert so I don’t have to recover before I eat it? That’s how I got the idea to make Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse has the same spices and flavors as pumpkin pie, but a lighter texture from the whipped cream and beaten egg whites. It is deceptively light, however, since it’s loaded with fat from the heavy cream and cream cheese (I suspect you could use 1/3 less fat cream cheese with the same results). The graham cracker topping provides a textural contrast to the mousse and turns it into a sort of deconstructed cheesecake!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse
For the graham cracker topping:
Whipped cream, for serving (see note*)
To make the mousse: Whisk the egg yolks and brown sugar together in a small saucepan over low heat or in a double boiler set over medium heat. Stir constantly for a few minutes until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to thicken. Do not let it stand over the heat unattended or you will end up with scrambled eggs.
Add the pumpkin, cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and spices to the egg mixture. Stir over the heat until the cream cheese is melted and the mixture is thick and smooth. Let cool until warm.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and beat again until stiff, glossy peaks form. Whisk ¼ of the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture and then carefully fold in the rest. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form and then fold it into the mousse. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.
To make the graham cracker topping: Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Cook the mixture until medium brown and transfer to a plate to cool.
Serve the mousse with whipped cream and graham cracker topping.
*Note: I like to add a splash of bourbon to my whipped cream since pumpkin and bourbon are a great combination. Just a splash though—you don’t want it to overpower the flavor of the mousse or intoxicate your dinner guests!