Detour to Turkey

Interrupting the travel diary is one of our most American traditions, Thanksgiving! So we were thinking of a completely different set of Indians this week, and I was making my first ever Thanksgiving meal.

Remembering the lessons from Oberlin food co-op cooking I first did my "KP" - kitchen prep. Chopping, measuring, and packing my ingredients in labeled Ziplocs in advance, which I hoped would make game day go more smoothly. It did, although I may have inadvertently made my houseguests feel useless, since there wasn't too much for them to do to help.

The most common piece of advice I heard beforehand was, "Be sure to defrost your turkey!" No problem, I thought, a couple of days. Then I read in a magazine, "Frozen turkeys can take up to a week to defrost in the refrigerator." It was already Saturday! When I pointed out the omission of this important detail in my friend's advice he shrugged and admitted, "Yeah, I probably should have told you that." A call to Whole Foods for a fresh turkey helped me out of this dilemma, but I felt a little tangibly close to the death of my bird, since I was specifically making the call for his execution. My friend consoled me, "At least you know he had a happy life."

I brined our turkey, which is a little challenging in a Chicago condo with no extra fridge in the garage or basement to chill a 12 lb turkey in a 3 gallon stockpot filled with salt, sugar and herbs. I counted on putting the turkey outside on our deck, knowing Chicago temps would be cold enough overnight. Checking our local weather center data online (yeah, geeky) the new worry became temps that would be TOO cold. The night before we had dropped below freezing. Waking up to a turkey popsicle on my first thanksgiving was a small fear that crossed my dreams that night, even after wrapping my sleeping bag around the stockpot on the deck. (I should have remembered my science lessons: salt lowers the freezing point of water.)

It was fine and in the morning the bird was ready for its preparations. The same friend, Jorge, offered a trick to put bacon on top of the bird to keep the breast juicy. Sounds good, everything is better with bacon, right? I mentioned the idea to my other friend Luis and he replied nonchalantly, "Oh, yes, that is a very Latin thing." Who knew? I was taking our meal in a Latin (but indeed tasty) direction. Your chef, and her yummy turkey fresh from the oven.(See nervous anxiety subsiding to relief in her eyes!)

For the table, we had to camouflage our deck table with a new (awesome, 70s, floral) Crate & Barrel tablecloth, and elevate it to supplement our usual dining room table's four seats. I'd like to think it made the deck table look like it was dressed in holiday spats (really, furniture sliders I found a couple years ago at Home Depot.)

For place cards, a index card tucked in each guest's napkin, with a quote about gratitude and Thanksgiving.
Like a little Thanksgiving fortune cookie.

Jason's was a Theodore Roosevelt quote: "Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds." ~Theodore Roosevelt

For Jason's electrician grandfather, "Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all." ~William Faulkner

One of my favorites, "Gratitude is the memory of the heart." ~Jean Baptiste Massieu, translated from French (But I have no idea who said it, for all I know they were chopping off people's heads in the French Revolution.)

Putting together my plate, I gleefully grabbed a full turkey leg like I was at a county fair. Success! I can do this!

Thank you to guests Nancy & Dennis for making the drive from Ohio, providing the pies, mashing potatoes, reading the directions for gravy (which we goofed anyway) and carving the bird. It was great to have you, Bob (aka "Granpda") and little terrier, Hank. Although, our cats are unabashed in admitting they are much more relaxed now that the house is all theirs again. Terriers and tabbies are not one of Piper's favorite Thanksgiving recipes.


jck said...

Nice! Congratulations. It sounds like a lovely event.


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