Monthly Archive for November 2009
We made it! Our Thanksgiving went off without a hitch, but more on that next time (hint: we’ve got another joint post, along the lines of this one, up our sleeves, so stay tuned!). For now, though, we’ve got more pressing matters to deal with. Leftovers. It’s not all that glamorous a topic, I’m aware, but we’ve all got them. And I’ve got a lot of them, each little tupperware container making me feel guiltier than the next every single time I open the fridge. So, I put an end to it today.
I declared it the day of the leftovers and, if I do say so myself, it was quite a success. First, the turkey carcass went into my biggest stock pot, along with some carrots and onions and such; several softly bubbling, very aromatic hours later, I had myself a mind-boggling amount of turkey stock. Much of the stock went into a Wild Rice-Turkey Soup later in the afternoon, but some of it also served as the base of the filling for these pot pies, which were the centerpiece of our Sunday night dinner.
Today has been full of surprises. I got home from work today (at 4:00! working from home tomorrow! five days away from the office! but, hey, who’s counting?!) and found a big cardboard box, criss-crossed with packing tape, waiting just inside the front door of our building. My eyebrows, I’m sure, betrayed my confusion—first arching, then furrowing. The return address revealed its sender (my grandparents), but that only stumped me more. It’s my birthday on Friday, but my grandparents sent a gift a couple weeks ago (ever prepared). After huffing-and-puffing my way up the four flights of stairs mulling over the box’s contents, I finally made it into our apartment, sliced through the tape and found big bags of my grandma’s caramel corn and my grandpa’s party mix (homemade Chex mix), both of which are holiday harbingers if ever my family had any. My grandparents, it seems, figured that if I wouldn’t be joining them in Minnesota this Thursday, they’d send a little bit of our traditional Thanksgiving to me here in Chicago.
The package promptly delivered a spring to my step and had me practically sprinting into the kitchen to do the Thanksgiving baking and cooking I had on the agenda for the evening. Elbow deep in flour, the oven throbbing with heat and a couple flames dancing on the range, I began cracking eggs for the chocolate pudding that will fill our Thanksgiving chocolate cream pie. Two egg yolks in, I reached for a third egg, gave it a quick rap on the countertop and split it in half. Inside the shell were two perfect yellow orbs: twin yolks! I breathlessly showed the treasure(s) to Kevin, tweeted about the incident and then got back to the pie at hand.
I took a little vacation from Thanksgiving this weekend. While most Americans were just getting ramped up, I was in need of a break—listed out, planned out. Dare I say I was over-prepared? Prior to this weekend, I didn’t think such a thing existed. But I might have jumped the gun, a bit, I admit, in my Thanksgiving preparation.
So, once I finalized my grocery list on Thursday, I barely thought about the impending holiday until Sunday afternoon. On Friday, we spent the night at a favorite dinner spot. Then, on Saturday, we packed our car full of chili and fixings and plenty of beers and some peanut butter brownies, and set up shop in a parking lot near Northwestern’s football stadium, along with a bunch of friends. We cooked Italian on Saturday night and went to bed early. Turkey and tubers and stuffing and such all seemed far, far away. The positively un-November weather added to the illusion. How could Thanksgiving be only a few days away when it was sixty (!) degrees and the sun was shining and the smell of grill smoke filled the air?
First, let me just say thank you for your responses, both in the comments and in emails and even a couple phone calls, to my last post. It felt a lot like one great big virtual group hug; maybe you couldn’t feel it, but I could: firm and comforting and warm. It’s so reassuring to read your cheering-on and so inspiring (and, at times, hilarious) to read your own stories. So, thanks. And a real live hug from my mother-in-law helped tremendously too.
I’m actually in a much better place on the whole topic of Thanksgiving than I was last week—less terrified, more focused on the excitement. I’ve nailed down our menu (which you can see here, on a new page that pulls together various Thanksgiving-y recipes) and I’ve got lists and schedules that I would be far too embarrassed to show anyone but Kevin (because, frankly, I think they even scare him a little bit).
You could say I was born to love Thanksgiving being that I was, well, born on Thanksgiving. Or maybe I was born to love eating or cooking or tradition or big family meals or afternoons spent on the couch with the din of a football game in the background. Whatever the case, as it turns out, I do love all these things. Perhaps most of all, I love Thanksgiving. (Yes, for the record, even on the many years when my birthday does not fall on the holiday.) So I suppose it’s a little odd that I haven’t divulged a big fat piece of news to you all, one that has to do with Thanksgiving and cooking and food. Being that it’s nearly mid-November and being that this is a food blog and being that you and I are basically friends because we both like to cook (right?), I really should have let you in on the secret by now.
So, here goes nothing: I’m hosting Thanksgiving.
I’m fresh off vacation, rested and even a little bit sun-kissed. But I’m also suffering that old post-vacation affliction: The Difficult Return. A vacation I’ve been looking forward to for months is suddenly over, an engagement we’ve been celebrating for almost two (!) years has become a marriage. The real world has been thrust upon me, with all its mundane chores and the requirement that I actually go to work, rather than sip from a boozy, frosty, umbrella-adorned glass all the livelong day. It’s a tough thing to take, I tell you.
Of course, I’m exaggerating. But one portion of The Difficult Return is no joke: I’m feeling completely out of sorts when it comes to the season. When I left for Mexico, the trees were lit up in a palette of red-yellow-orange; when I got back, the leaves were all but gone. Add to that the fact that I just spent a week on the beach, banishing all footwear besides flip-flops and refusing to don even a pair of jeans. Then, I got back to Chicago and braced myself for a chill as I pushed my way out of O’Hare’s revolving doors. But there was no chill. Not even a breeze. And the next two days would be drenched with sunshine and would warm to nearly 70 degrees.
About two weeks prior to any holiday, I receive a card in the mail. It’s usually stuffed inside a brightly-colored envelope, my grandmothers’ loopy script scrawling out my name and address across the front. In February, the envelope might be a deep magenta; in October, a firery orange. Inside the envelope is a card, one out of an 8-pack (the remaining identical cards are sent in different directions to my sister and my cousins and other relatives). The card itself has a little quip or poem about the impending holiday (the most recent one I received featured a dachsund in a witch’s hat and proclaimed, in the inside of the card, “Happy Halloweenie!”) and, better still, a short little note from my grandparents. There’s always a bill folded in half, slipped inside the card, but, of course, that’s not the point.
The point is the thoughtfulness. The dependability. The tradition. Now that I live in Chicago while my grandma lives in northern Minnesota, these cards, knit together throughout the year, make up a part of our relationship. To remind her how special I think these cards are, I decided to send my grandparents a package of cookies.