Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Yep, it's overdue. Badly. I realize this, and am genuinely sorry. I've been a bad blogger and will endeavor to keep up with the Joneses, so I'll start by recounting my very first Thanksgiving in My New Home.

It began and ended with a turkey, and why not? It's a thanksgiving story.

I started getting notions of turkey day grandeur when I found out that Grow Alabama was taking reservations for buying free range turkeys from them. Now, I'm at least some part vestigial country boy, and the sort of guy who appreciates what wild turkey has and what butterball does not. So when I had a shot at a decent turkey, I latched on. I told the wife, and the rest of the family. We eventually conspired to do the big grub at our new house. Fun!

Hol' up! I have to work on they day before Thanksgiving, and worst off, I work pretty late, getting off at 8:00. To make it more scary, due to other-family issues, we penciled in the meal for lunch. At 1:30 PM. Aaaagh. I had very little time to belt out a lot of food. Fortunately, we all chipped in and made different things. Mom made cornbread, my late-grandmother's famous ugly chocolate cake, green bean casserole, and brought a few little nibbles. My sister made my late grandmother's turkey dressing (hint yankee people, this is southern for stuffing) and a tasty southwestern corn dip thing.

That left me with just a few things. Pumpkin pie with a ginger snap crust & maple whipped cream, french baguettes, mustard greens, country potatoes*, and of course, the turkey, full of yankee stuffing*.

The asterisks denote parts of the process that I nearly drop-kicked my carpetbagging wife from my back deck. She insisted on mashed potatoes with the skins on. Now, in my vernacular, these are country potatoes, lumpy and crudely mashed taters with hunks of skin, and they suck. I was mad that I was making crappy potatoes. I made her crappy potatoes, only to find out that she was wanting something entirely different. She wanted milled, creamed, silky mashed potatoes that are all that is good and just in the free world, only with the skins incorporated into them. I still think it's goofy and that you should just go ahead and peel them, but it was a lot better after a clarification. After we sussed out our creative difference, the potatoes tasted wonderful.

Next came yankee stuffing. She insisted we had to make stuffing, yankee style. Every time I've had this, it's been hot garbage, dry and cakey with too much breadcrumbs and celery and too little anything else. I was mad at the world until she gave me her mom's recipe, which had a cornbread base. Okay, it's only slightly heathen-ey, but cornbread is good grub, so that's fine. It actually tasted good, so I'll admit I'm wrong on that.

This is a segueway from the main gist of the story. You see, I had a turkey to emergency thaw, and a bazillion other things to make, and on the day before thanksgiving, the only thing I'd already taken care of was the pumpkin pie. I proceeded to don my cook's coat, load myself with enough caffeine and alcohol to make Johnny Cash sweat in church, and essentially turned into Tom Berringer in Platoon. Remember, "the machine breaks down, we break down."

I may not have machine-gunned Vietnamese civilians in a rice farming village, but I did the culinary equivalent of a few war crimes, all the while becoming an avatar of pure piss and vinegar. I cat-napped long enough to get angry at the world, woke up, stuffed the shit outta that turkey, and got it in the pan with just enough time (I calculated like Dr. Strangelove) to get a proper roast & rest in before people were ready to eat. Snipped rosemary, because rosemary owns in poultry, and that went in the mix. While the bird cooked, I thawed pre-made baguette dough and began to proof for baking, then turned to the punishment task of trimming greens for the pot. This brings me to an important rule, and one I cannot stress enough. Profanity is the best seasoning for food. My wife disagrees but she does not understand. Food does not taste as good unless you goad it, yell at is, and say things you'll regret later to it. My late grandmother was a Picasso of the art, and my childhood is a rose tinted paradise of waking up to grandma's house, smelling of bacon and sage sausage, and filled with the sounds of "SHIT HELL FIRE DAMN SON OF A BITCH!!" Nobody believes me, but I swear it wouldn't have been as good if she was nice in the kitchen.

I practiced the inherited art, albeit not with such grace or power as she had. Somehow, despite all opportunities I had to fall into the weeds and totally screw the pooch, I actually got my portions done, just about as the rest of the family came over. I was exhausted, feeling a residual angry beer run's effects, and kind of sweaty, wearing a dirty cook's coat, but it was done.

And it was all worth it. I felt such unreal sense of pride and togetherness bringing my family together at our table. Even now, it boggles my mind that my wife and I were able to pull it off. She helped to clean up after my messy self, and kept her head on straight when I was prone to hyperbole and drama. It's one of those great firsts that we get to enjoy as a new family coming together, and even though we were a trio of couples, we were all one big family. Fitting for a day of thanks, because when we finally gathered around the table, I had a moment to come down from all of the hype and to appreciate everything. Appreciate what I was raised with, what I was given, and what I have now. With all the sleep deprivation, craziness, and chaos, it was absolutely, overwhelmingly worth it, and I can't wait to do it again.

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