Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

I'm currently waiting until "lunchtime" to have a turkey sandwich. Time to review A California Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, 5 PM
I arrive at Chef and Baker's house to do some cooking. The kitchen smells of cinnamon and apples. Baker asks me if I want anything to eat or drink. It takes all of my willpower not to ask for a fork and a slice of pie. Instead I call Chef, who gives me instructions about what to prep since he's still making his grocery store rounds. I am soon in tears. But the onions are beautifully minced.

Wednesday, 6 PM
Dinner break. Our night before Thanksgiving dinner has taken many forms over the years. Mostly, it has to be not terribly elaborate because it's a cooking break. It also can't be too heavy on account of the next day's excess. This year, we have freshly caught dungeness crab. We line the counter with newspapers and tuck in. Afterwards, I methodically make my way through the bowl of leftover Halloween candy. Oops.

Wednesday, 7:30 PM
The stuffing is done! Or, as I've recently learned, the dressing is done, because we don't stuff the turkey. This is my favorite dish of the meal, and I've been trying to learn how it's done for some years now. The thing is, every year brings a subtle change. I'm nervous that it's underseasoned since I forgot to taste it. But it looks pretty. And it's really fun to use one's hands to mix things up.

Wednesday, 8 PM
Chef is making his cranberry-orange relish with some tweaks here and there. I want to taste the relish, but Chef bans me from trying it. I grab a spoon anyway. I kind of like the relish this year, but I still prefer the canned stuff. Chef rolls his eyes at me and reminds me about the guests who loved the dish. Baker hands me two more cans of Ocean Spray.

Wednesday, 9 PM
Baker takes over the kitchen and makes buttered pecan pie. I've never made any sort of pecan pie, so this is new and fun for me. Baker is way ahead of schedule since she's usually at the grocery store at 9 PM the night before Thanksgiving buying pie ingredients. She confirms that we are having four pies this year. And pumpkin bread. There is a minor pie controversy. Birthday Boy has requested banana cream pie, but someone attributes apple pie to him instead. Who wins? The table. We're getting both! Incidentally, Birthday Boy reveals he doesn't like chocolate. I am in shock. I've heard such people existed, but I've never met one.

Thursday, 9 AM
The turkey has arrived. Chef and I get to work. Unlike many previous years, we easily locate the paprika. There were several years when Chef and I would scour the kitchen for it. Unable to locate the spice, we would make a grocery store run. This resulted in a severe oversupply of paprika. Possibly three jar's worth. Mum has placed the paprika very prominently on the counter this year.

Thursday, 9:30 AM
The turkey is in the oven. It's oatmeal and coffee and newspaper time.

Thursday, 10:15 AM
Westside arrives and brings a centerpiece addition. Dad completes the centerpiece, which is not so much a centerpiece as a side table piece this year. We put Westside to work right away scrubbing potatoes. I'm struggling to peel baby carrots. I am a new convert to organic squash. The beauty, the elegance, the lovely orange flesh.

Thursday, 12:30 PM
Everything has been going so smoothly all morning. We even break for a bowl of soup around noon. And then the great potato disaster. Chef, Westside and I struggle to peel hot potatoes. It's a funny sight. I pour copious amounts of liquid into the mash, but they remain dry. I cross my fingers that gravy can fix my mess.

Thursday, 1 PM
Baker and Birthday Boy arrive. We stash the pies away for safekeeping. The real chaos begins. I don't remember this hour exactly, except that there's carving, and water pouring, and me frantically dialing Holland because we're about to eat and she hasn't yet arrived. Dinner is early this year because the turkey cooked a lot faster than we had anticipated. Our timing is off. The stuffing doesn't brown like it's supposed to. The potatoes continue to concern me. The squash, though, is beautiful. I make faces at the return of the parsnip and brussels sprouts combination. And worst of all, Ocean Spray has redesigned its cans, making it impossible to turn out a totally can-shaped dish of cranberry sauce. Arugh!

Thursday, 1:59 PM
Holland arrives.

Thursday, 2 PM
We eat. Birthday Boy is a first-time Thanksgiving attendee. We ask him to rate the meal on a scale of 1-10. He skirts the question. It's his birthday so we're willing to let it slide. Instead, I ask him what the weakest link in the meal is. We all play the weakest link game. The potatoes are the first to leave the menu. I'm the first to vote them off. But the turkey and stuffing get high marks. I actually prefer the white meat to the dark meat this year because it's very tender. Holland and Westside support Chef's cranberry-orange relish and I fall in love with brussels sprouts...again. I loved them as a kid because they looked like baby cabbages to me. I guess the whole taste issue never made an impression. We've had them at our table for years now. Sauteed, steamed, quartered, whole, as individual leaves. I'm usually okay with them, but this year they are spectacular in their simplicity, attributable to good produce and good chefing. The broccoli is very snappy. I try to plate my food like a smiley face, but alas, there are too many food groups. I even try to include eyebrows and ears and cheeks but it ends up a symmetrical mess.

Thursday, 3 PM
Food coma.

Late afternoon.
Pie and coffee time! We ditch the dining table and gather around the pie buffet to cut, plate, and eat pie. This is an awesome pie year! I start with banana cream pie and pecan pie. It's heavenly. One like candy, the other like air. I've not had banana cream pie before. It is so delicious! The pecan pie is worth every calorie (and even I was horrified at just how many there were). Next round are warmed slices of cranberry-nut pudding and apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Classics, but oh-so-good. The apple pie, especially. I graze on pumpkin bread with my coffee. I am full. Very, very full.

A lovely day. Yummy food, wonderful company. We have plans for next year already.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought squash always cooked cut-side down.

11:24 AM  

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