Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Countdown To Thanksgiving Dinner

[Posted by reader_iam]

This year, we thought we might go out of town for the holiday weekend. It turns out that I need to work three of the four days, so here I am instead, revving up for a feast that I hadn't orginally planned to undertake.

I don't like to do this sort of thing by halves. No matter how many or how few the faces around the table, variety in the feast is the key, so I'll reduce the quantity, but not the array.

Regular readers know that unlike me, my husband and son are vegetarian, so the showpiece of our table, at holiday time, is not a turkey. (Sometimes I also do turkey and/or ham, but there's no point in that this year.) The favorite is something called, uninterestingly enough, a Harvest Vegetable Pie--but it is far from uninteresting and actually quite labor intensive, requiring quite a bit of work (hours!!!!!!) a day or two before. Literally pounds upon pounds upon pounds of vegetables need to be prepped and cooked down and then de-moistured, (for want of a better word) and "rested," before, eventually, they are layered into a tall, phyllo-wrapped creation complete with pastry rosettes and whatnot. In this case, I am cutting it very close, even having decided to go with a late-day meal.

Then there are all of the other various sides to put together.

So .... it's 4 p.m. central, on the eve of Thanksgiving ... let's see if I can pull this all together (and still find time to sneak in some work-time as well as plenty of family togetherness).

And maybe even blog along the way from time to time.



The whole-bean cranberry sauce is just about done and ready for cooling.

I have located the 1996 magazine from which the Harvest Vegetable Pie recipe comes. Every year I say I'll copy it into my computer so that I can print out a fresh copy each time I make it. Every year I don't. This is the 10th year I've used it, and I little wary of putting it down on the same counter where I'm preparing food, given its--shall we say--marks and battle scars. Maybe fasten it to the cupboard above somehow?

I have started my extensive shopping list. One thing about running so late this year is that I won't be doing the shopping, but instead have delegated it to my husband. But that means I have to set up the list in a different way than I would to make sure I get exactly what I want and in the right amounts.

That reminds me of something else I say I'll do every year, but don't, which is to compile and save holiday-meal lists so I don't have to redo them. Well, that's not QUITE right; I did do that one year and spent scads of time inputting into my Palm. Then it went dead or haywire or something and I've never gotten around to repeating that particular feat of organized self-discipline.

Anyway, have to get that list done fast.


5:15 p.m.

The entire menu is planned out, the list is done, and my husband is on his way. I did lose some time when my son decided that he just had to see what babies look like when they're growing inside their mothers. Dumb me!--I had inadvertently left up on my laptop screen pictures of unborn elephants (linked by Memeorandum), which of course caught my son's eye as he walked by. One thing led to another ...

... though not the penultimate question (close call, though).

I Am Thankful!



I see that this year's national Thanksgiving turkey has been named "Flyer" by popular vote; the backup turkey's name is "Fryer." Their "pardon" means an expense-paid trip to Disneyland to "Grand Marshal" a parade rather than an ignominous death-march to someone's dining room table. Am I the only one thinking about C.J.'s distress over the fate of the rejected turkey during an episode of "West Wing"?

I am having second thoughts about making that cranberry sauce so early, just to get it out of the way. Had I waited, I could have had my husband pick up a bottle of nice Zinfandel and made a wicked good recipe I have for a heartier, more festive version. Oh, well. Christmas is coming up.



How dare my son want dinner tonight? He should be satisfied with bread and water in anticipation of tomorrow!

Of course, I'm kidding--and he was so cute when he asked, "Um, Mom, we're still eating tonight, , too, right? Well, in my defense, he said he wasn't hungry at noon and didn't end up eating lunch until 3 p.m.

I have way too many cookbooks. This doesn't matter--heck, I don't even notice--when I'm just recreationally reading them. But when I have to go up and hunt for the recipes which I have in my mind, it's a wh-o-o-o-le different story.

Part of the problem is that back in olden days, I could picture exactly, and pretty much instantly, in my mind the cover of the cookbook from which I used a specific recipe. This appears to have gone the way of other earlier abilities. It took me the longest time time to find the source of a marinated brussels-sprouts and cherry-tomato salad, and I ended up finding it not where I was expecting--or anywhere LIKE I was expecting. The good news is that when I went through a particular cookbook I don't believe I've touched in ages, I found tucked in it a spare copy of a recipe that my grandmother handed down to me (and no one else in the family). This is good, because the copy I've been using for years and years is falling apart. And this is double-plus good because my husband brought home way more pecans than ordered, and the recipe in question uses lots of them.

Nice little walk down memory lane. My grandmother first let me help her make that recipe when I was about 5, which would make this year the 40th anniversary of that wonderful, still-vivid memory. In just a couple of weeks, will be the 15th anniversary of her death, and I still miss her so much, after all this time. Maybe I'll add just ONE more item to the menu (even though I don't usually make this until just before Christmas), and have my son help me whip it up. I've got some wonderful stories to share.

I Am Thankful!


10:45 p.m.

OK, I got off track there for a bit. First, my son was winding down for the night and needed to head up to bed. Second, I spent some wasted time getting annoyed over the overreaching hypersensitivity of Rosie O'Donnell (whose career I started following very early on, and of whom I was a fan for many years); the silliness of Jeralyn's Merritt's latest defense of OJ and criticism of the family of Ron Goldman (I read her regularly, but I've never seen eye-to-eye with her over the OJ thing); and the noxious link that some supremacist commenter had the temerity to post in a comment thread elsewhere on this thread using "Martin Luther King" as his/her handle. (Mercifully, Cal killed it, which has made me feel ever so much better--much more so than did the biting comment I had posted.)

I'd comment more on the former two items, except that I already wasted too much time earlier trying to do just that before deciding it was a real cooking-buzz kill. Instead, I refocused on the tasks at hand, and thus I can now report that I am on the home-stretch with the main dish components. I just put the carmelized onions aside to dry, and the infused and reduced mushrooms are about ready for chilling. The spinach will soon be ready for squeezing out and seasoning, and the tomatoes are draining and almost ready for reduction. Among other odds and ends, I also washed a number of the serving dishes from my set of china, which I generally have a bad habit of forgetting to check until the last minute. Progress!

Time for the first eggnog of the season! Tell me, what do you put in YOUR spiked eggnog: brandy, rum or bourbon (or other)? And do you have a theory about the different sorts of people who gravitate toward each of the choices?



Here's an amusing (bemusing?) exchange that I just heard on the rerun of tonight's Larry King Live show (the guest is James Dobson of Focus on the Family):

"... Marriage has been going on for 5,000 years--"

"War and prejudice [or bigotry, or something like that--or was it poverty?] have been going on for 5,000 years too. That doesn't make it right."

I'm not claiming word-for-word here, given that the show is playing on deep background, so to speak. But that was the essence.

I think it's time to flip channels. I Am Thankful that these are no longer the days of just three channels, at least two of them fuzzy and full of "snow"!


12:20 a.m., 11/23

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

7:50 a.m.

Continued here.