Cooking for Your Cat: Thanksgiving Feast

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RFT staff writer Aimee Levitt and her cat, Bess, continue their culinary adventure.

Were there cats on the Mayflower? There must have been, if only to chase mice, but I can't ever recall hearing about them, even back in elementary school when my teachers did their best to sweeten up the Thanksgiving holiday with stories and songs about small, furry animals. I can recall a particularly saccharine song about a little bunny we had to sing every November -- I can even recall most of the hand gestures -- but nothing about cats.

Which is a great pity. Not that Bess would ever sit still to listen to a story about a cat -- she wouldn't even hold still for the greatest cat poem of all time, "For My Cat Jeoffrey" by Christopher Smart. (Please, if you love your cat, go read it now. This blog post will still be here when you get back.)

But I want Bess to know that Thanksgiving includes her, too. Most of my immediate family has cat allergies, so she never gets to go home with me. Instead, it is her custom to spend Thanksgiving alone. Sometimes she gets a leftover piece of turkey the day after, which she rightly ignores. Everyone knows turkey is the least impressive part of Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, I vowed, would be different.

"You will have turkey, my darling," I told Bess one wintry evening as we huddled together for warmth. "You will know the glory of pumpkin pie. You will understand what it is to stuff yourself to oblivion. And you will not have to navigate family politics or watch football!"

Bess purred, stretched and dug her hind claws into my thigh.

And so the Internet search for recipes commenced once more. Ths time I was more specific. The recipe must have pumpkin and turkey. And on an iVillage site called Harvest Forum, I hit pay dirt.

The list of ingredients appeared, to my unenlightened human taste, a particularly nauseating combination. In addition to the aforementioned turkey and pumpkin, there was liver (or heart), bonemeal (or calcium) and, the piece de resistance, a fish head.

"I'm not sure we sell fish heads," said the man behind the counter at the Ladue Schnucks.

"Wait just a second," said his manager. "I think we have one in the back." She disappeared to investigate and returned a few moments later.

"We have two!" she said. "They're frozen, but they were fresh before then."

"Excellent!" I exulted and, naturally, chose the cheaper one.

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Not that I know how to cook a fish head. I decided to start by defrosting it. I put it in a colander and ran cold water over it, which is how you defrost shrimp (at least according to the instructions from Trader Joe's). As I added the rest of the ingredients to the blender, its dead eyes stared up at me fishily. I tried to remove one, the way I removed the squid eye back in seventh grade dissection, but back then I had the right tools. This time, all I had was a steak knife. Something ominous and dark squirted into the air, but the fish eye did not move. Perhaps it was best just to let it be.

The ground turkey made the blender a bit sluggish. When I poked at it with a rubber spatula, it turned nasty and bit off an inch or two. [Always turn your blender off before poking at contents with any utensil! - Ian] I decided not to risk the carnage from the fish head.

The pumpkin-turkey-liver puree (with oil and calcium) Was a beautiful orange. I sampled a tiny bit off the tip of my finger. It wasn't very flavorful, but, considering the ingredients, it was probably just as well. The fish head made an interesting garnish. Before I could even finish photographing the finished product, Bess was on it, licking merrily away.

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She licked. And she licked. And she licked. It was a small, but joyous, sound.

When she finished, she went off to the couch to sleep off the tryptophan. I marched around the apartment a bit to simulate the Macy's parade (without the big balloons). I sprawled on the rug to simulate football. I tried to get her to announce what she was thankful for. But she slept on. Not surprisingly, Bess had achieved Thanksgiving perfection on her very first try.

Home Cooking: 3 (possibly 4), Purina: 6, Starbucks: 0

- Aimee Levitt

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