Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The other day, the conversation turned to the topic of Thanksgiving and the fact that a large percentage of us only get to celebrate the holiday with blood relatives and/or in-laws. Now, don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade my blood relatives or my in-laws for all of the rice (or tea - whatever you consider more valuable) in China, and P and I both consider ourselves EXTREMELY fortunate that, more often that not, we fall under the “and” part of “and/or” – our families genuinely like each other and, therefore, actually gather TOGETHER for Thanksgiving (I know, weird, right?). I delude myself into thinking that this spirit of cooperation had its genesis in the one and only Thanksgiving where I was charged with making a turkey. That would have been 1999, my water broke at 4:40 am on Thanksgiving morning, and by 9:09 am I had my own Butterball to worry about. Mom and Dad were still living in Houston then, but they were in town for the Thanksgiving holiday when Connor showed up – and, in fact, the day before they were good-naturedly grousing about the fact that my due date was two weeks away, so they would have to come back into town for that, and then Christmas came two weeks after THAT, and couldn’t I just do everyone a favor and double up? You’re welcome, Mom and Dad – ask and ye shall receive. But I think that my extremely traditional mother was actually somewhat torn between (1) staying at the hospital to marvel over her first grandchild and tend to her C-section patient daughter and (2) going home to salvage the turkey. In the end, she and Dad went to Parnell’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. Parnell stayed with me, and the nursing staff, feeling sorry for him, snuck him a turkey plate with all of the trimmings, courtesy of the hospital cafeteria.
Meanwhile, I feasted on Jello and morphine.
Our blended family has been getting together ever since that oddly memorable Thanksgiving. And no one has asked me to make a turkey. I have no doubt that, if any of my frimily lacked a place to go for Thanksgiving, they would be more than welcome at Casa McGlinchey – but, somewhat stubbornly, all of my frimily are (reasonably) well-adjusted individuals, with families of their own, and therefore have their own plans on Turkey Day.
Bully for them – but it would kind of be fun to celebrate the day together. Like Monica and her crew celebrated together on “Friends,” that time when Joey couldn’t go home because everyone thought he had an STD.
Friend Robyn has come up with the idea of having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner-themed Keno night, which I think is FABULOUS. But I kind of want to do more. Thus, I am playing around with the concept of Thanks-re-giving, a wholly non-traditional semi-recreation of Thanksgiving – maybe not for this year, but definitely for next. There would be turkey, but not the kind that you cook in an oven for what seems like a day and a half. I’m thinking Rachael Ray’s Indian Summer Chili, which isn’t really a chili at all, more of a vegetable soup with ground chili and a distinctive barbecue flavor. I’m also thinking that:
I will serve the chili in orange paper cups, which will in turn be served from a (clean) metal muffin pan. (I do not own a clean muffin pan. Mine are all grungy. Hey, excuse to rotate out the grungiest ones!) In fact . . .
. . . all of the food will be served in orange paper cups!
In lieu of traditional sweet potato casserole, I’ll serve sweet potato fries, served standing up (in an orange paper cup, DUH, with a little marshmallow dipping sauce in the bottom).
Dessert will be pumpkin-flavored ice cream . . . served, natch, in an orange paper cup.
Once upon a time Southern Living ran a feature on fall centerpieces. I cannot find the picture anywhere on their Web site, so we’ll have to do with this picture of a picture that I took with my camera.
General concept is you take a long rectangular glass vase (I hear these referred to sometimes as “tanks”), fill it with three or so inches of unpopped popcorn kernels, and stand stalks of Indian corn , tip-side down, in the kernels. How cute would it be to get some of those small “craft” hay bales, stairstep those in the middle of the table, topping one bale with the corn centerpiece and another with a tray of orange martini glasses? Not sure what I would put in the martini glasses, but I’m sure that it would be yummy.
Instead of sharing what we are thankful for, I think that each guest should explain why everyone should be thankful for them (the person speaking). A little good-natured puffery never hurt anyone, and might-be self-affirming . . . plus, Festivus already cornered the market on “the airing of grievances.”
Meanwhile, plans are progressing for the Durham/McGlinchey blended family Thanksgiving spectacular – and apparently I’m not the only one who’s thinking “alternative.” Signs of the impending apocalypse, in no particular order:
1. My mother-in-law is BUYING a smoked turkey and a smoked ham.
2. My mother briefly considered making a turkey, (a) for old time’s sake, and (b) so that she could make her traditional stuffing, but it now appears that the turkey will make its appearance the weekend after Thanksgiving, when family from Shreveport will be in town. Thus, at press time, there will be NO TRADITIONAL STUFFING on the buffet. Typically, we have “Durham Stuffing” (the sourdough bread kind) and “McGlinchey Dressing” (the cornbread kind), and I have always been amused by the fact that my dad eats my mother-in-law’s dressing (because it is more like what he grew up eating in Louisiana) and my brothers-in-law gravitate to my mother’s East Coast variant.
Instead of her usual stuff, my mom is making a panade (a French side dish featuring stale bread cubes, mushrooms and gruyere) – specifically, the panade that I brought to Thanksgiving last year (back when I could eat bread, grr) that everyone looked at kind of funny . . . before they tasted it.
3. My mother has ordered desserts for the occasion. “Order” and “dessert” typically do not go in the same sentence with “my mother.” Desserts are something you MAKE. For the record, she is making a couple of pies – but SHE ORDERED OTHER THINGS. This has me shaking my head a little bit and thinking that (a) the world’s gone mad or (b) my mom is finally embracing the concept of retirement in the more holistic sense.
Don’t get me wrong – at last count, we are still expecting six starch-based side dishes and a greater number of desserts. So it will be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in that respect. But, since I am not supposed to have starch, or sugar . . . it appears that I will be bringing the green to the table. Considering my fall-ish vegetable side dish and salad options now . . . .