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Monday, November 22, 2010

Kicking it (Cooking it) Ol’ Skool—aka my Thanksgiving dinner

…By the time I sit at the table Thursday, I am relaxed knowing everything’s done, and appreciating the fact that I will probably enjoy the experience nearly as much as our guests. 

I’ve been baking Rosemary Bread for the holidays since my husband and I first got married.  I realized that my Thanksgiving menus and the work it takes to get them on the table are a metaphor for elements of who I am…That bread is the first thing I cook Thanksgiving morning; it smells so good.  The aroma as it bakes is the scent signature of our holiday, my burnt offering sacrifice to the effort I am about to undertake. 
I enjoy doing some things the so-called “hard way,” from scratch, with all the steps.  Not everything.  For example, I cannot put together IKEA furniture.  Well, I probably could, but I choose not to…too many steps, too many parts, not interesting to me.  IKEA furniture assembly is a task among many, at which my beloved husband excels.  It is a talent our son joyfully inherited, and therefore one I can live without.  Entertaining with dishes that are unique, lovingly made, taking NO shortcuts, gives me as much pleasure as I hope it gives my guests when they partake. The kitchen is my playroom. 
My daughter graciously typed up the following, which waits obediently for execution on my refrigerator door…
Thanksgiving Menu 2010
Turkey Swedish Meatballs with Gravy
Warm Rosemary Bread with Artichoke Dip
Fruit and Cheese Platter with Crackers
First course options are straight forward, requiring no more than proper shopping and a creative eye for the cheese and fruit platter.  The Swedish meatballs belong entirely to my first born.  I am proud that this is a recipe she discovered, offered to make one year for a holiday gathering which now commands its own audience.  Her dad and little brother have to be threatened NOT TO EAT THEM ALL.  They are tasty, and I am genuinely proud.  We occasionally have them for dinner.  Brava, my not-so-little girl.  The meatballs are my metaphor for letting go.  I can be more than a little territorial about my kitchen, and as in matters of faith, often mistakenly believe I’ve so got it together that I try to handle life’s little challenges without giving them to God.  That never works. My rallying cry, both for Thursday, and for life will be, “Remember the Meatballs.”
Finally, regarding appetizers, this list is final. I will resist the urge to make my mother’s cheese ball and/or a chicken liver pate this year. My menu is sufficient, like God’s Grace.  So I need add nothing else.  I will have either cheese ball or pate or both for Christmas. And for the Karamu.
Main Course
Cranberry and Sage Brined Turkey Roasted with Apricot-Bourbon-White Pepper Glaze
Herbed Spelt and Cornbread Stuffing
Caramelized and Candied Ginger Yams
Sautéed Kale with Smoked Turkey
Macaroni Pie*
Pigeon Peas with Pumpkin*
Ginger Beer*
Sparkling Cider
Assorted Wines
The main course is our trip across the miles, the continents, and the cultures.  We are unified by traditions faithfully honored, evolved, updated, newly adopted.  We go
Southern, Caribbean, full on Gourmet, Ol’ Skool, you name it.  Brining turkey is a lesson in planning and patience, and the yield is a breast so juicy and flavorful that even turkey-haters love it. I make white meal cornbread like my grandmother taught me.  I just hung up with her, because although at 92 she is no longer able to board a plane to be with us on Thanksgiving, over the next several days, I will call her to share the conversations we’d have in my kitchen while cooking.  I never even cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal until after my Grandmother was well into her eighties.  Her excuse for taking over was “giving me a break.” At my age, I cannot believe that my grandmother is still around.  That alone is reason enough to be Thankful.
My yams and my greens are not the ones I grew up with, and neither is my faith.  Both the recipes and my relationship with God have evolved, for the better. 
Anything with an asterisk I don’t even have to make.  Became my husband’s family is geographically close, some of the menu is a collaboration.  It has always been that way, and I really don’t mind.  I don’t even have to remember the meatballs.  Besides, my mother-in-law, whom I genuinely love and respect, is legendary in the kitchen. On more than one Continent. When Ruth said “Your People Shall Be My People,” that wise wife knew what she was talking about.  I don’t have in-laws.  I have family.
Drunken Pecan Pie Bars
Sweet Potato Mousse Cheesecake Tarts
Grandma’s Pound Cake

My mommy picks pecans for my pie from her best friend’s tree in the Gulf.  She mails them to me and I drop them in the freezer.  If they have gotten dry, or even if they haven’t, I plump them in a little Kentucky bourbon. The alcohol will cook away, but the flavor will not.  The dessert is complex, distinctive, and killer with coffee and fresh cream.  We never stop counting blessings, so why start counting calories? My grandmother’s pound cake is the only one my husband enjoys.  No glaze, no icing; straight, no chaser. My man likes his dessert the same way he likes his jazz, straight ahead, and from me, that’s the way he gets it.
If I keep sitting here, nothing else will get done on time.  I have a turkey to brine, kale to clean, and a hardwood floor to wax-today.  I paint the kitchen tomorrow.  Being “hostess with the mostest” doesn’t happen on its own. So, while there is always something to do, never enough time, things that will be forgotten, or could be done better, I clearly live an abundant live.  Further evidence that God is good. 

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

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