Rain is on the horizon for this week preceding Thanksgiving. As my mother is wont to say, “the hour of gloom is upon us”. Gloomy or not, my excitement about the upcoming holiday refuses to be dampened. I can almost smell the turkey cooking and taste the first tangy bite of cranberry sauce. Our guest of honor, Tom T. is resting comfortably on the lower shelf of our refrigerator following emergency surgery to remove his head. Unfortunately, the surgery was not a success from the patient’s birds eye view, so he will be given a gravy side burial on Thursday surrounded by a close-knit group of julienned carrots, French cut green beans, and pearl onions. If you wish to pay your respects please show up at 5:00. A pie would be appreciated. Yum.
Watching the news this morning the anchor was showing a video of people already forming lines outside of retail stores in anticipation of Black Friday. Are you kidding me? There is no price reduction other than a sign reading “free sea-blue Porsche Boxter convertibles to the first hundred customers” that would entice me to park my sorry hindquarters in a lawn chair, eating a bag of chips and holding an umbrella for an entire week. We are so far ahead of ourselves this year it’s unnerving. Last weekend marathon holiday movies began showing up on TV. Every sitcom rerun seems to airing the best of their Santa targeted episodes and catalogs are arriving in my mailbox at an alarming landfill filling rate.
I have purchased exactly two presents and have no idea what I’m getting for anybody. Maybe I’ll take all the intended Christmas present money and purchase two tickets to Bermuda for the other half and I and not leave a trail of breadcrumbs on my way out the door.
Many stores are staying open on Thanksgiving Day, some all night long, to rake in the historically high influx of holiday dollars headed their way. Perhaps we should invent trays to hang around our necks. Instead of wasting time sharing dinner with our families we could grab a to-go paper plateful and hit the stores plastic fork in hand. Makes me feel for people in the retail industry who have to work on their day of thanks. Something tells me their holiday spirit will not runneth over at the check stands. Perhaps retailers should attempt to eliminate Thanksgiving dinner at home completely by offering a huge spread as you enter the mall where family members could gather with their collective credit cards?
As a younger woman I began stressing out about this time. Dinner was often at my house. If not, it was expected the women pitch in wherever it was being held, or if a guest, to provide at least one dish for the host’s table if not several. These days I feel everything that could go wrong has already taken place, so its smooth sailing from this juncture forward. In truth, the turkey has never actually ejected from the oven, but I never discount even that possibility, no matter how unlikely.
Looking back, Thanksgivings in our family have been traditionally eventful. At twenty, I stuffed the bird unaware their were giblets in the cavity, well, unaware there were giblets period. Cooked and still in the bag they appeared while the bird was being carved at the table. Six years later, having mastered the giblet situation, I prepared a perfect 22 pound bird for 25 hungry guests. My husband partially carved the bird, leaving the remainder tented on the bread board while we sat down to dinner. The turkey platter emptied quickly. Hurrying into the kitchen to replenish the platter, I found the turkey AWOL. Not Sherlock Holmes, even I could follow the clues laid out before me. A line of grease and gristle cut a path across the kitchen floor. At the door, the trail turned the corner and wound down my newly shampooed carpet in the hall. Finally. forking right, it led me to the edge of my son’s bed. Fearing the worst, I lifted the blankets to uncover “murder most fowl”. In the dark recesses where unspeakable dust bunnies lurked, my cocker spaniel, Ginger, barred her teeth at me as a warning to “back off the bird” which sat next to her with a gaping hole in its middle resting on an old gym sock. Fortunately we had sides and someone had contributed a ham.
One year it took us four hours to drive what usually took an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the same destination. On arrival we were starving. Minimal appetizers in anticipation of a large meal had been consumed by the early arrivals. Left on the counter were 1/4 cup of congealed bean dip and four tortilla chips which were shortly the subject of a bidding war.
The cook set an extraordinary table. A life-size wrought iron chef held a chalk board laying out the menu. Pumpkin soup led the way, which the hostess explained was to be served in the small gutted pumpkins lined up on a silver tray in the kitchen. Guest’s names were handwritten on the side of each pumpkin to be used as a place card. Creamed peas, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, dressing and, the bird itself were to follow shortly after. Yum.
The kitchen, as is usually the case, was a hub of activity. Women with aprons were sipping wine out of delicate flutes and chatting animatedly with other ladies while stirring this and that. Dishes clattered and pots of goodies bubbled and boiled on the stove causing my stomach to grumble like a storm brewing over the rain forest. In desperation I broke a bit of crust off of a pumpkin pie and shoved it in my mouth like a hunger ravaged rat with a morsel of cheese.
In the end, seated, and the blessing said, it was a raucous and very pleasant afternoon, food being the main attraction. After dessert was served and dishes cleared, the women surveyed the damage in the kitchen like survivors of an earthquake. Men, on the other hand, littered the couches and easy chairs in the front of the TV as though thrown there in a rousing game of Pick Up Sticks. Top buttons on pants were being unbuttoned and plays discussed from games watched earlier in the day. Dissidence was palpable among the ranks in the kitchen, and as if sharing one thought, the Great Turkey Revolt of 1998 was penned in the history books. In unison the ladies refilled their glasses, handed their aprons to the men in the room and retired to the living room to put their feet up and share a bit of conversation. In the kitchen there was talk of an uprising, but in the end the dishes were loaded in the dishwasher amid hushed discussions on the viability of going out to eat the following year. A good time was had by all.
On a sad note, Twinkies may be a thing of the past. As a child my Rocky and Bullwinkle lunch box with matching thermos would have seemed sadly lacking without them.
Every year on my birthday as a tween and teen my parents took me to the North Woods Inn for my birthday dinner. This cheese spread was their specialty. I found this recipe years ago and still pull it out around the holidays when rich food is what it’s all about. I freeze it in an ice cube tray to be pulled out and thawed as needed for potatoes, bread, or drizzled over asparagus or broccoli. I suggest using good quality cheese for best results. Absolutely yummy.
North Woods Inn Cheese Butter
1 lb. cheddar cheese, finely grated
1/8 cup Romano cheese, grated
1-1/2 lbs. butter, (room temperature)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
4 drops Tabasco sauce
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Hungarian sweet paprika for sprinkling
Place all ingredients in mixer and allow to process on low for 50-60 mins. until whipped consistency. Cheese does not completely incorporate.
Note: I have mixed and matched my cheeses as well with excellent results.