Did anybody notice I missed October? Who could tell? When I went into Walmart a few weeks ago to get some Halloween treats, the seasonal aisles had Christmas decorations. I found broken bags of candy in a bin near the exit. What’s that all about?
Hey, I’ve been chin-deep in a sci-fi story. Went upstairs the other day to refresh my caffeine drip and discovered October had come and gone. I didn’t even put out a pumpkin. All those damn doorbell chimes a couple weeks back? I thought they were church solicitors with an urgent need to save my soul. The Halloween candy I bought is still on the counter. I’m surprised my front door didn’t get egged.
I blame my dear wife for this. She was out of town most of the month. Left to my own devices is never a good thing. I ate artery-spackling spicy food, watched movies she doesn’t like (which is pretty much everything), didn’t bother to shave, and woke up every night with the dog French-kissing me after thoroughly cat-cleaning himself with the flourish of a toddler eating an ice cream cone. Laundry got done only when the underwear drawer was empty, and I challenged load limits by seeing if I could stuff the washer like a turkey (it made this horrible screeching sound during spin cycle). The neighbors asked if I’d showered lately. What a silly question. Of course I hadn’t.
Last time I wrote about the insanity known as Thanksgiving was two-years-ago, with Are You Going to Eat That? However, here we are, in the middle of November, and I’m off to do turkey with daughters and grandson for a couple weeks out west.
Yes, I’m hosting the big feed on Thanksgiving and will be a visiting chef in my daughter’s kitchen. Sure, it’d be easier to follow the modern American tradition of buying everything pre-made, but I’m a food snob. I like brining a minimally-processed gobbler that hasn’t had breast enhancement surgery. I always add a couple of turkey leg quarters, because there’s never enough dark meat. Have to have homemade cranberry sauce that doesn’t retain the shape of the tin can, and isn’t made from corn syrup. Gravy is an art form, and shouldn’t be something that tastes like salted backwash from the dog’s water bowl. I still have culinary nightmares of my mother “extending” the half-cup of broth that leaked from a Butterball with a quart of flour-water. I make mine with oven-browned wings, and simmer them in low-sodium broth with savories. Combine it with strained juices from the roasted bird, maybe add a bit of Madeira, then thicken it with a nicely browned turkey-fat roux. Vegetables? Butternut squash with maple and sage brown butter. BYOL (Bring your own Lipitor). No Paleo types allowed.
Of course, I’ve never been a big fan of store-bought stuffing mix with bread cubes compressed from sawdust. I make a mean stuffing (or “filling” as my father is prone to call it), by marinating ground pork in cognac and warm spices, sauté it with apples, savories, fresh thyme, then mix it with oven-dried sourdough bread. Fresh sage is a key ingredient, but I’ll have to be careful in a state that legalized recreational “herbal” therapy.
You can see the challenge, though, can’t you? How do I put this together in my daughter’s idea of a perfect kitchen … one that never gets used? My closet is bigger. Last time I visited, she had a crock-pot, a couple of black encrusted saucepans, a nice collection of blunt kitchen knives, and a well stocked spice drawer with salt, pepper, and … that’s about it. I get to use a wonderful vintage apartment oven with stains that go back to when Eisenhower was president. Roasting pans aren’t supposed to come with cement-like barnacles amalgamated to the metal. And how am I supposed to deal with a counter-surfing border collie on crack? Oh, I use the oven as a food locker. Why does that not surprise me?
My two-year-old grandson will join us this year. Quite opinionated for a young tyke, he’s whittled his dietary preferences to three basic food groups … cheese, goldfish, and apples. Anything else gets the ole heave-ho. His rubenesque golden retriever, who circles the highchair like a reef shark, will no doubt have the feast of a lifetime.
Holiday imbibing is a family tradition. Since I’m on chef duty, I’ll try not emulate my sister’s favorite quote, “I like cooking with wine – sometimes I put it in the food.” I get a little absent-minded when cocktailing in the kitchen. One time, I left paper towels in the turkey cavity while it roasted (I’m not making this up). Or the time when I browned the turkey at 450° and forgot to lower oven temp during the first half of a football game. Halftime ended when the smoke alarm went off. So I tend to wait until everyone is seated, then make up for lost time.
It’s off again in mid-December to God’s waiting room to spend quality time with elderly parents, where we all go to bed when it’s still light outside. Last Christmas, we had the whole clan here at the house. It had been a few years since we’d last had to child proof the place. There was something special about having an eighteen-month-old toddler terrorizing ninety-year-old parents with a rousing game of lap-diving. Stroller walks around our holiday-lighted neighborhood were a favorite, despite the girls vetoing my desire to wear a shirt vest stenciled with “Service Human.” The lawn rake came in handy for raking the carpet from toddler World Series toss-a-lot. Maybe next year, if I can get my grandson to sit still long enough, it’d be nice to have him sit in my lap and tell me what he wants for Christmas.
Which brings me back to the original problem. How the hell am I going to get any writing done? The way things are going, I might miss the annual holiday post in December.
Guess I know what my New Year’s resolution is going to be.
I hope to post my usual holiday greeting next month, but if for some reason, it doesn’t happen?
PS. Thanks to Pinterest Holiday Humor for all the fun graphics.