Sunday, November 27, 2011

Indulged, indeed.

  Someone once said that it's not so much where you are, but who you're with.  My confidence in this comment has wavered somewhat over time.  When I wasn't where I wanted to be geographically, at least I was with the one I loved.  When I was where I wanted to be, the one I loved was far away (though on his way.)  And this Thanksgiving, I am where I want to be, with the one I love, but without the nearness and warmth of my dear family.
  Don't get me wrong, I love my life and my career, even if they have taken me farther than I've ever been from my loved ones.  Weeks and months pass by quickly, with the normal grind taking over one's schedule, but it's really during the holidays that I have the time to reflect on the fact that I'm several states, and a couple of time zones away from home!  But as a friend also living far away from home remarked, we are incredibly lucky to have such wonderful people to miss.
  Thanksgiving was a small affair for us this year- normally we attend anywhere from three to four in one weekend!  Three of us gathered around our modest table as it all but groaned under the weight of all of the food, and practiced the annual tradition of over-indulgence.  Not one dish was less than wonderful, if I do say so myself, and we have been exuberantly eating leftovers for the past couple of days!

Homemade Whipped Cream  

Parker House Rolls
Tuscan Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

Loaded plate

Classic Double-Crust Apple Pie
Feeling a little ambitious, I decided to make a beautiful, golden stock from the turkey carcass.  Since that wasn't very much work once it was in the pot, I thought I should probably also make some bread in the bread maker Allen's grandma gave us.  It was my first time using a bread maker, and I really enjoyed how you just put the ingredients in the pan, close the lid, put in the yeast and press Start!  I took the recipe right off of the bag of King Arthur Bread Flour- Oatmeal Toasting & Sandwich Bread, and despite the fact that I didn't really follow their instructions, the bread turned out nicely.  It's a little bit sweet and has a velvety, without being crumbly, texture.  I can't wait to use my machine again!

As this was my first Thanksgiving cooking everything, I decided to make a list of  the things I learned and share them:

5 Things I Learned About Thanksgiving
1. Turkey is overrated.
2. A potato ricer is the key to perfect mashed potatoes.  Buy one.
3. Planning, planning, planning.  Unless you want to eat at midnight, when it's not even Thanksgiving anymore.
4. If you must cook a turkey, high temp/short cooking time is the way to go.  Figure about 10 minutes per pound at 450 degrees F.
5.  The simpler the stuffing, the better.

And, of course, enjoy it all to the last bite!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Symphony of hiss, sizzle, and saute. 
Steam-kissed windows beckon with promise.
Edible treasures await:
Crimson cranberry orbs, flaky dough coins, glaringly golden squash.
Today, we eat.
Today, we bow our heads in thanks that we were not the weak, the primitive, the godless.
And we give thanks that our ancestors etched their conquests on the cherub cheeks of history,
Otherwise we might be living out someone else's appreciation;
A different tale of gratitude.
Scrape of the knife, clattering plates, and forkfuls of forgetfulness to sate our
starving, overweight nation.
The corporations have turned my favorite holiday into
a gravy boat segway to Christmas decorations.
But they still can't make Hallmark cards that capture:
Family, friends, food and the feeling of Together.
Grateful and gracious we gorge our collective memory on the fulfillment of unity;
There is no more gratifying dish.

Decadence from a past Thanksgiving

This time of year I'm practically giddy with excitement.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's all about the company and the food.  The pressure of consumerism is just around the corner, and the end of year hustle is beginning.  There is no better time to do some good ol' gut-busting cooking and spend time with the people you care about.

I don't know if it's the fact that I miss my family or that I just want the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but I've taken a bit of a, ahem, how shall we say, detour from my recent dietary changes.  By detour, I mean that we're having turkey.  So really, it's less of a detour and more like I pulled the emergency brake while in motion, but oh well.

My dilemma is that Tofurkey really does not appeal to me.  It doesn't look appealing, doesn't sound appealing, no thank you.  I've been a vegetarian through many a Thanksgiving and was always just fine with eating the sides.  The meat substitute was never an issue, and never really something I desired.  So how did we arrive at the bird carcass, you ask?  Sheer vanity.  I wanted turkey!  And it's really just that simple.  I also wanted real butter and real eggs and real cream for the few recipes that actually call for them.  In a way I feel like I'm giving up on eating healthier and cruelty-free foods, but this is more of a dalliance than it is a lifestyle change.  I'm thankful that I'm able to make these changes in my diet without suffering any serious consequences.

Pictures of the feast to follow!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let Love Rule

I've spent a lot of time in the past few months basking in the glorious light of other people's love.  Friends I hold dear marry new friends to cherish, and old friends join together as they embark on fresh journeys.  Celebrations of love are indeed special and tender.  They are proclamations of sorts, shouts into the noisy, distracted world that:
"We are here!  We are love.  Listen, or don't.  Take note, take heart, or take flight, but this love intends to soar." 
Or something like that.  The result of all of this lovey-dovey, is that I've been thinking about what it all means to me.  Not just love and marriage, but also companionship and closeness.  Far removed from my younger days of poring over wedding magazines and planning menus, marriage has become more to me than pretty dresses to wear and embossed invitations.  What can I say?  The superficial eyes of my youth were drawn to sparkly things.  But of course now I see the emotional symbolism behind it all, and I understand that the importance of marriage greatly transcends the ritual that is the event.

Yet a part of me still wonders what with all of the terrible relationship role models out there how anyone decides it's a good idea.  I have never been partial to the notion that one's 'soul' mate is or should be their romantic partner.  A person with whom you connect on that level is familiar enough and interesting because you are distant pieces of each other, and I don't know about you, but I'd rather not be in a relationship with someone like me!  It's just kind of like been there, done that, you know?  A soul mate accepts you, because not to would be a rejection of itself.  A mate chooses to accept you, even though they don't have to.  A mate even goes beyond acceptance.  A mate embraces, envelops, enfolds, absorbs.  Maybe we spend too much time looking for our reflection instead of our shadow.

So let's say you find the shadow, the absorption of your light.  What do you do with it?  Do you hold on white-knuckled, never letting go?  Do you let it keep its distance, like a kite that you can always reel in if it strays too far?  Do you nurture it with predictability and comfortable routine?  Do you marry it?

Maybe you do, and maybe you don't.  Whichever you choose, let love rule your roost.