Drew Gahagan makes his living baking things at The Village Oven that people love to eat, including Thanksgiving pies.
Gahagan, who operates the bakery with his wife, Frances, has a few views on the Thanksgiving meal and some advice for diners: Eat what you like, but not so much of it that you’ll ruin the rest of the day.
His usual selection doesn’t include the traditional Thanksgiving desserts, which for most is pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream.
For the holiday, the bakery is taking pre-orders for pumpkin pie and, the Southern favorite, pecan pie. He has one order for an Italian cream pie for Thanksgiving and will take others.
The chemical engineer turned baker knows about Southern favorites having grown up in the South Carolina, where he graduated from Clemson University with a degree in chemical engineering.
Pecans figure in some of his daily offerings such as the pecan cream scone and the pecan biscotti.
He also has a ginger molasses cookie and blueberry butter scones, which routinely sell out.
Although he encourages moderation — at least to some degree. You can indulge in less than healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas foods because you have the rest of the year to get over it, he said.
He draws the line at eating for the tradition and not the taste.
His grandparents lived in the keys and had a recipe for what Gahagan generously called dressing.
It was made of crumbled saltines, canned diced tomatoes, onion and perhaps a little celery, he said.
“They would actually stuff the turkey with it,’’ he said. “When my grandparents were gone, my father continued the tradition even though nobody liked it.’’
His wife finally disrupted the cracker stuffing tradition with cornbread dressing and Gahagan is thankful.
His recommendation is if you don’t like it, don’t eat it even if it is a longstanding family tradition.
He has strong family connections. His and his two sisters’ families, 13 in all, meet for a Thanksgiving meal each year.
“I make up my mind before I go to the table with one plate. I’m going to get the things I like. I’m not going back. I’m going to eat that plate slowly. I’m going to have a dessert,’’ he said.
By Gahagan’s reckoning, it’s not sensible to overeat and spend the rest of the day in overstuffed misery. He also says you should never cook something you don’t like because it fits the day. As as an example, he cited Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish, a favorite annual offering of long-time National Public Radio host Susan Stamberg.
The recipe calls for two cups of whole raw cranberries, washed, a small onion, 3/4 cup sour cream, ½ cup of sugar and two tablespoons of horseradish from a jar. Stamberg warned the pink color may be off-putting to those accustomed to traditional cranberry sauce and relish.
Gahagan made it and found it awful.
He likes his own homemade cranberry relish.
Heat a cup of water and one cup of sugar and boil it into a syrup in a sauce pan. Add four cups of cranberries and spices as desired. He likes cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Cook the mixture about 10 minutes or until the cranberries burst.
Then stir in a few other things according to your own taste. He likes blueberries, pecans, raisins and some orange peel.
That relish will go on his one plate as will a few other things.
He likes turkey, cornbread dressing, macaroni and cheese pie baked in the oven, a good vegetable — perhaps green beans — and good bread.
He explains he loves cornbread dressing cooked in a pan in the oven, not as stuffing. He recommends against stuffing and not just for the taste.
“It will ruin your turkey,’’ he said. “It will draw all the moisture out.”
It may also keep the turkey’s core temperature from getting high enough to kill any harmful bacteria, he said.
“Why sacrifice a turkey for some wet bread?” he asked.
For Christmas, The Village Oven will again offer stollen, a rich, buttery German bread with raisins and dried fruit. His version is glazed and has marzipan in the center.
The Village Oven has something to be thankful for this year as business picks up again after the seasonal summer for summer. With St. Francis and Glynn Academy closed, parents and teachers weren’t dropping by.
But the winter visitors are returning, the ones, who said in the spring, “We’ll see you next year.”
Business should pick up as it did in the fall of 2018 “when the snow birds returned to the area,’’ Gahagan said. “The first one was sighted today.”