Here in the US, many of us are in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations: turkeys are being baked (or perhaps fried) and basted, potatoes are being mashed, and pies are setting. And people are gathering—which is perhaps the most important part of this particular holiday. During this holiday, discussions abound on the nature of tryptophan, giving thanks, and the importance of food and family.
I thought we'd try something different here on AiP: I'd like to invite you to join S and I as we prepare for our holiday meal. S and I are hosting—as we do every year—and dinner is a late affair in our home. S is the Head Cook, and I am the Official Taster and Dish Washer. I also serve as Line Cook as needed. Come behind the scenes as we get Stan (the turkey) ready for the oven and we'll share the spirit of the holiday with you. I have little doubt that tryptophan, thanks, and food and family will play a large role in our day as well, but perhaps this exercise will let us see how these elements come together to create a sense of holiday.
Wishing you and yours a Thanksgiving holiday filled with few disagreements, lots of laughter, comfort food, football, and whatever else marks the day for you.
I have to do a little backtracking as S and I actually started last night, so hang tight while I get the back-story up. I'll update every hour or so. We're all caught up! Please drop me a line and let me know how your day is progressing.
Thursday, 12:30 AM
Our plans to get started earlier during Wednesday were once again thwarted by assorted commitments: work emergencies, unexpected visitors, and last minute shopping. But S is determined to get a head start on the day. He's working on the desserts (bread pudding and a pumpkin pie of sorts), and plans to do the meatloaf and get the roast ready. Let's see how late we're up—he just gave me the okay to play video games in an effort to get me to stay up. We could be in for a long haul.
Thursday, 1:00 AM
Bread puddings are in the oven, and I can't wait for the house to start smelling like bread pudding! S will prep the meatloaf and roast next. I have my first dish washing duties—and it's not too bad:
Thursday, 2:15 AM
Bread puddings are done! I get to act as Official Taster. Meatloaf is in the oven and roast is prepped. I've also managed to get lost in the mountains in Skyrim and keep getting killed by some sort of Abominable Snowman. Here's where we are photo-wise:
Thursday, 3:00 AM
Meatloaf is done. I'm on dish duty, and I'm sleepy. S just hopped in the shower. We may be winding down for the night. And I think I'm going to have to sneak away from this &%&((%^& Abominable Snowman in Skyrim.
Thursday, 3:30 AM
Time for sleep. Just in time, too: Now there are giants.
Thursday, 7:00 AM
Alarm just rang. My job was to get up and take Stan (the turkey) out of the fridge, and put the meatloaf in its place. DOne. Now I can sleep for another hour. S is getting up in a bit to prep Stan for the big day.
Thursday, 10:30 AM
Okay, I slept for more than an hour. I kept dreaming about dragons and giants. S is already up and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. There are dishes waiting for me in the sink.
Thursday, 11:00 AM
Dishes are done and we've put the potatoes on the stove. Stan is also being prepped. S prefers to inject a concoction into the bird, so that it's flavorful throughout. To assist us in that flavor-making, we'll be using beer!
Thursday, 12:00 PM
Activity comes to a standstill as we watch Santa ride into Herald Square to signal the official start of the holidays.
Thursday, 12:15 PM
How do you peel potatoes? S boiled them and told me that the skins would be easier to remove that way. They were not—for me. I typically just use a peeler. Now I have potatoes under my nails. This might count as our first argument for the day. Fortunately, we laughed it off. But he bumped me to green bean prep. Line Chef Fail.
Thursday, 12:30 PM
Television tuned to Packers v. Lions. Did she really just mess up the National Anthem?
Thursday, 12:42 PM
Green bean prep underway. Oh, and we have cider. Will post pictures AFTER I get these beans done. The Head Chef needs his beans.
Thursday, 1:00 PM
Kitty was mightily amused by the flying green bean ends.
It also occurred to me that I should lay out our menu and plan for the day.
Here's a look at our menu: Turkey, Roasted Pork Loin, Meatloaf Wellington, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Sauteed Green Beans with Slivered Almonds, Bread pudding, and Pumpkin Cheese Cake.
We're cooking for about 10 people—and believe it or not, we've pared down the menu from years past. Dinner will be served at around seven (we're hoping), and any guests who have to travel will likely start arriving around 5:00 PM. In short, we have no plan. It's very informal and we just sort of along with whatever the day throws at us. We've learned from trying to plan in the past that too many things go wrong, and the ensuing stress isn't worth it.
Thursday, 1:30 PM
Was supposed to help mash the potatoes, but the ricer proved too much for me. Or perhaps I just need to work on my upper body strength. S took over an shoo-ed me out of the kitchen, so I opted to have lunch in the lull. I can hear the dishes clinking in the sink though, so that means I'll have something to do shortly.
Things are under control for the moment. Both cats have now decided that they're done with us and our erratic behavior and are sleeping in the way that cats can. S has the partition between the kitchen and living space open so he can watch football (no Skyrim today; at least not until much later). He's got an ear and an eye tuned to the game (he has Fantasy stakes at play, I think) even while he bustles around the kitchen. I heard the stove go on. I should probably go check on what's coming next. I can smell rosemary ...
Thursday, 2:39 PM
Took the opportunity to go for a quick walk and called some friends and family members who I won't get to see this holiday. From our backyard, I could hear sounds of family and friends arriving at the home of one of our neighbors. Jubilant cries of "Hi Grandpa!" filled the air, which has been heavily scented by the rosemary from our kitchen—seriously, you can smell the herb all the way down the driveway. The street is slowly filling up with visiting cars, so I imagine similar scenes are playing out in the houses that line our street.
Still no guests yet at Casa D'Costa, but while I was gone S got the roast ready for the oven by adding the panko-almond crust, and I found him preparing to flip Stan so he would brown nicely on all sides.
Flipping Stan took some maneuvering, but he's been re-positioned with his drippings and seems to be coming along nicely. The entire process is a labor of love for S, who never fails to put together a fantastic meal. He just admitted that this might be the least stressful Thanksgiving we've ever planned—typically, we produce more food than our small kitchen can handle, and he's tired and unable to enjoy the fruits of his labor by the time dinner is served. The warming process is always chaotic and leaves us all frenzied.
Cat is still asleep, but kitten has gone exploring. What will I do if the green beans attack, now?
Thursday, 3:46 PM
The Lions lost to the Packers and the green beans just got out of their ice bath. Stan is out of the oven and cooling in the pantry. And the roast is coming along nicely. It's just about time to start getting things ready for our guests. I'm wondering if there's time for a short nap before the Dolphins take on the Cowboys.
Thursday, 4:32 PM
The hour finds Stan out of the oven sitting on his plate sans any sort of dressing, and the D'Costas trooping along.
Since Stan and the roast are done, S is working on Wellingtonizing (yes, I made that up) the meatloaf. I've taken to scavenging around the kitchen, and S is fending my appetite off with day-old pizza ... after I wash the latest round of dishes
Many of you on the East coast are likely sitting down to your own dinners right about now. Here's hoping the meal is enjoyable. See you all after!
Thursday, 4:57 PM
In case you were wondering what a precooked Wellington Meatloaf looks like with a bit of artistic exploration thrown in:
The sun is down in our corner of the world and the temperature is dropping rapidly. This means our little apartment is freezing—we have the doors and windows open so we won't have to live with the smell of Thanksgiving Dinner for the next month ;-)
Our guests should be arriving soon, which will be a welcome change for the day.
Thursday, 5:57 PM
Okay, things are picking up, so I may not be able to update again until after dinner. Here's a shot of Stan dressed for the show:
I just finished my latest round of dishes and S is getting our sides into serving dishes. This really is a communal meal—it's not something anyone should undertake alone, and it's not something you are meant to enjoy alone. Food is a social experience. While S has been Head Chef today (and though I failed with the mashed potatoes), it was the two of us working together that will give this meal its essence.
Our family gathering will happen after the meal—when we sit around, too full to move, vowing that next year we'll wear stretchy pants to the table. There will be a word of thanks before we eat. Someone will ask for the one item that we chose not to make this year, someone will undoubtedly say something inappropriate, and someone will undoubtedly be offended. These are the dynamics that will unfold because they're the dynamics that underlie every meal.
Thanksgiving serves to remind us who occupies the first tier of of our social web—not the digital one, but the actual human connections that create first degree social bonds.
Thursday, 9:30 PM
Dinner made it to the table at about 8:00 pm. S took a quick nap after my last update and woke with a fresh burst of energy. I'm on my last reserves—and all I really did was wash the dishes. Speaking of which, I just hopefully washed my last glass for the night.
By the way, that bright light above the turkey is a candle. It's not the Ghost of Thanksgiving Past or anything of that nature.
Dinner went as expected. The same stories were told, and we all laughed as hard as at the punchlines as though it were the first time. The opportunity for obligatory teasing about the possibility of Baby D'Costas in the near future was not missed. Frodo, the not-so-fearless cocker spaniel, whined until he was rewarded with some scraps. And the drumstick was consumed to the tune of high hilarity. In short, the business of being a family was revisited and contracts—if you will permit the metaphor—resigned.
"Family-making" is a major function of these sorts of events where we find ourselves negotiating the primary relationships we hold. The undercurrent for our holiday was change, which will unfold over the next couple of months. And for this reason, perhaps, the same old stories held a little more power this year, and the laughter was a bit more earnest. It was important to reaffirm the things that we know together and those that we'll share because we're connected.
So, the plan for the rest of the night includes watching the rest of the 49ers and Ravens game. And seeing if I can hold out long enough to get some Skyrim in.
Thanks for sharing the day with me. Happy Thanksgiving!