Archive for November, 2011
Stella came home from college last Wednesday amid my Thanksgiving Eve baking fiasco (a yearly event). The pumpkin pie passed the family inspection with only a few points docked for an ugly crust and the nasty scrape I made across the top with my oven mitt. But as usual, despite my intense online recipe studies on making cheesecake, the dessert still turned out looking like a replica of the Sahara Desert with intense crevasses zig-zagging across the top. Why?! Why?! Whyyyy?!!!
As I stood in front of it cussing, my husband, Ron, reluctantly strolled over to take a look at the thing, then reminded me, “It doesn’t matter what it looks like. Every year you complain about how the cheesecake looks and every year it tastes good.”
“But I wanted it to actually look good this time,” I whined.
Thanksgiving morning we began loading up the car with all of my so-called food concoctions in preparation for the drive to my sister’s house where we’d spend the day. I had the ugly pumpkin pie tucked inside of my 1983 vintage Tupperware Pie Taker and the cheesecake still safe inside of the spring form pan with a protective sheet of heavy duty Walmart aluminum foil across the top. Both desserts were nestled securely in a box that we placed in the cargo area of our crossover.
As we made our last trip out the front door with our arms loaded with Thanksgiving goods, I glanced down at the dog, Annie, who was looking me with hopeful eyes waiting for an invite to the feast. Stella had mentioned something about bringing the dog along but I nixed the idea since she hadn’t gotten the green light from my sister. But awww…she’d have to spend the entire day inside of the house by herself. And she was 10 years old so she probably didn’t have that many Thanksgivings left, right?
Without even as much as another thought about phoning my sister, I called the dog out to the car. She ran down the sidewalk and instinctively lept into rear of the vehicle. After doing a few confused-looking circles around the boxes and bags of Thanksgiving bootie that we’d loaded in hatch of the car, she apparently decided she didn’t want to sit in back by herself so she hurdled over the seat to join the kids — using my cheesecake as a spring board.
[Insert expletives here]
Later that day at my sister’s, when we were ready for dessert, we strategically cut around Annie’s footprint (Duh…of course we ate it! And by the way, her paw print was a stark reminder that her toenails needed clipping). But you want to know what was really weird? The next night we went to a comedy theater and my husband pointed out an ad printed inside of the program for a local bakery named Muddy Paws Cheesecake . The image included in the ad was one of a scraggly dog wearing a chef’s hat. Could it be that ours wasn’t the first cheesecake leaping dog? That another animal – possibly one of Annie’s distant cousins – actually inspired the launch of bakery business?
Anyway. Thanksgiving weekend is over and we are settling back into somewhat of a normal routine before the Christmas frenzy really begins in a week or two. Noah is back to school and is actually staying on top of his homework assignments. On Sunday, Stella boarded the bus for the University…or maybe I should say she hightailed it back to the University after four solid days of “blissful family togetherness.”
I ate the last piece of pumpkin pie a couple of nights ago and that was very distressing to me. Pumpkin pie is my favorite and I become almost mournful when the I down the last bite. But on the upside, there is indeed one piece of cheesecake left but I think I’ll save that for Ron because really, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. It still tastes good, right?
If anyone has tricks for baking a perfect, crackless cheesecake, please fill me in. I have tried placing a pan of water inside of the oven, reducing the baking time, greasing the springform pan, casting spells on the batter, acupuncture, fairy dust, and hypnosis. Please help!
I just had to share a recent post from Wendi Aarons’ blog, They’re Not All Gems. I’m so glad these things don’t just happen to me. Sometimes reading her blog can be like acute therapy. Laughter really is the best medicine and this Thanksgiving week I’d like to say I’m thankful for the extra dose.
House For Sale, Poop Not Included by Wendi Aarons
A couple of months ago, my husband and I realized we didn’t have enough stress-induced stomachaches in our lives, so we decided to sell our house and buy another one. We’re always coming up with really, really smart plans like that. (See: Hooters Appalachian Resort time-share, 1998-1999.)
The first thing I had to do to make this happen was get our house in shape so someone would want to buy it for trillions of dollars. So I immediately enacted “The Tub Offensive” in which I put everything we own into plastic tubs from Target. That way, when a potential buyer opens up a closet door, instead of getting hit in the face with 50 pounds of junk, she gets hit in the face with 50 pounds of junk in an attractive blue tub. I know… continued
Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought it may be a good time to sit down and have a little chat with you.
(I’m pulling up my chair so don’t go anywhere).
Many of you are heading out or returning from a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Awesome! Me too! If you can find it in your heart today, please consider “giving thanks” by making a contribution to an organization that will put your hard-earned money toward a cause that will really make a difference in the life of another person – feeding the hungry (Wait…are you still there? Hang on. There’s more!). These organizations appreciate monetary gifts of any size. I know times are really tough so many of you aren’t able to afford to give this year. But for those of you who can, even a dollar can go a long way to help those in need! Yup! It’s true!
These organizations are happy to accept your donation via an online contribution. So, think about donating today. Check ‘em out and let your kids help you decide which one to choose! And if you decide to contribute, OR if you did something kind for another person who needed a pick-me-up today (or even some time this past week), please share. We’d love to hear about it.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!
Feed the Children
Dedicated to feeding the hungy in the United States and Internationally.
The Hunger Project
Empowering women and men worldwide to end their own hunger.
Feed My Starving Children
A non-profit Christian organization committed to “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.”
I think I’m in love with Thanksgiving. Seriously, I do. Probably because somehow since birth, I’ve gotten incredibly lucky and every year I’ve escaped (sometimes narrowly) the role of playing holiday hostess and have been able to simply bask in the aroma of someone else’s cooking.
After my husband and I got married, we always had the good fortune of spending Thanksgiving Day at my dad’s house with my siblings and their children. Then after his passing, we began spending the holiday at my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s house, a day spattered with relatives from across the spectrum: in-laws, cousins, great-uncle, great-cousins, friend-in-laws, granddogs…you name it, they were all there. Ron and I have never had to go far and that’s made the day blissfully relaxing.
But when I was a kid, we usually traveled to my grandma’s house which was fun because there was always lots of family and a mountain of food. As a child I had sort of an “expectation” for Thanksgiving. Today television viewers are bombarded with commercials touting Black Friday deals and grocery bargains, but back in the 1970’s when I was a kid, it was a completely different story.
Some of you may remember those weeks preceding the holiday when we were treated to television advertisements heralding succulent roasted Thankgiving turkeys – specifically Butterball turkeys. The ads portrayed a smiling family gathered around the dining room table as Grandma, adorned in a ruffled apron, single-handedly presented a hulking browned turkey to her family on an oversized silver platter. Then the man of the family (either a beaming father or grandfather) gracefully sliced off perfect portions of the bird’s breast and placed the servings individually on each family member’s plate.
As a child, I would sit in front of the TV set dreaming about this perfect family dinner (well, mostly the turkey). I was always jubilant each November when the six of us piled into the Monoco station wagon on a Wednesday evening to make the hundred-mile journey to Grandma’s house for our Thanksgiving celebration.
Before I awoke on Thanksgiving morning, Grandma would peel endless bags of potatoes and bake quick bread. My mom’s yearly contribution to the dinner was a her specialty: a wriggling can of gelled cranberry sauce that she slurped onto cutting board with one swift shake, meticulously sliced into too-perfect round disks, and arranged on a glass plate.
I was 8 years old and vividly recall walking into the kitchen where my aunt and mom were assisting my grandma with the dinner preparations. I remember standing in the middle of the room, scanning and sniffing while turning in a slow deliberate circle.
Where the heck was the turkey?
“Mom…?” I asked in a hushed voice, probably two or three times before she broke her gaze from slicing the cranberry circles to look at me. “Where’s the turkey?” I asked nervously.
She glanced over at Grandma who was digging for something in the freezer drawer before saying, “We’re not having turkey. Grandma’s frying chicken.” My eyes must have been the size of large eggs because I could clearly see my mom’s panic when she witnessed the horror on my face. She knew how for weeks I had been glued to the Butterball television commercials. She knew was going to blow a gasket.
“Whaaaaatt????!! No TURKEY?!” I said with my hands clasped together, eyes wide in dismay.
My mom leaned over to me and whispered sternly, teeth tightly clenched, “Grandma’s making chicken. We’ll have turkey another time.”
I was stunned. Shocked. Crushed. And pretty darned mad when I finally noticed the electric pan near the stove was filled with your average Hy-Vee fryer chicken.
My mother sharply “Shhhh’d” me with a tight arm squeeze and “reminded” me to be thankful. Then, she pointed toward the dining room which meant I should keep quiet and join my sisters and cousins setting the table.
When we finally sat down and dinner was placed on the table (which I pretty much expected to be served from the colonel’s red and white cardboard bucket), I stuck to the mashed potatoes and gravy, some corn, and a few cloverleaf rolls slathered in butter. If I wasn’t getting turkey, I decided I was going to be on a poultry strike. But then I looked across the table and thank goodness, along with the Thanksgiving chicken, my grandma also decided to serve Easter ham.
Isn’t it interesting the stuff we remember from holidays of our past? When I mentioned to my siblings my chicken memories of yesteryear, they didn’t remember a thing. I think this is what psychologists call dissociative amnesia – extreme memory loss caused by a traumatic experience. But sometimes, isn’t it the weird stuff that memories are made of?
It scares me a little bit when I think about the recollections my kids will take from this house when they finally have families of their own. But, just in case, I’m thinking about frying up a little bit of Thanksgiving chicken just to make sure they have something to reminisce about in years to come.
Do you have Thanksgiving memories that you’ve never forgotten? Does your family have any food traditions for the day that are considered “out of the norm?”
Please comment and share!