Liz and I, first and foremost, hope everyone had a GREAT Thanksgiving holiday, and wish everyone the best for the remaining holidays and festive times of the year.
Thanksgiving is really our favorite holiday of all…there are no real or percieved societal imperatives to buy anything for anyone, give presents, send cards, dress in silly costumes, attend holiday parties de rigeur, etc. All one is “required” to do is share in the preparation of, then eat too much good food, laugh with family and friends and possibly watch a football game. (Yes, my worldwide friends, the American kind…with a weirdly shaped ball that is rarely addressed by foot).
My family’s tradition for Thanksgiving has morphed over the years, but is still centered around Laughter and Food. This year (as we have for the past several), we gathered at sister Sarah’s stately, renovated mansion in a highly diverse area of Minneapolis. Most people don’t think of Minneapolis or Minnesota as “Diverse.” Salt-as-a-spice Scandinavian with holiday delicacies including and/or limited to lutefisk would be the typical perception. Most people would be wrong! Minneapolis and Twin City St. Paul are a world-wide melting pot of cultures, religions, orientations and even political viewpoints; and Sarah’s Holiday guest list reflects that.
The official Thanksgiving Day Food Extravaganza was reserved for family “only.” This has no biological or genetic basis since it includes assorted friends, inlaws and other hangers-on who have been adopted over the years … total about 35 people. There is a lot of pot luck involved, and many folks have their traditional contributions. Sarah, for example, does mushroom pate and Wild Rice and Sweet Potatoes. Sister Rachel bakes all sorts of family favorites including Cranberry Cookies and Chocolate Pecan Pie, as well as the stuffing that hasn’t actually been stuffed INTO the turkey for many years but is still for some reason called “Stuffing.” Dad’s partner Helen does Smashed Potatoes and an assortment of veggie and cheese and crackers.
Adopting traditions of other cultures would go a LONG WAY towards bridging the divisiveness gap in this country.
This year there was a special Molé that Sarah “made” for Frank. We “made” some too as it appeared without explanation on the emailed list of who-does-what that Sarah circulates. Frank is a 94-year-young Mexican Immigrant, from back when immigration was a GOOD thing (many of us think it still is, but we stay away from politics – mostly – on these pages), who grew up in Gary Indiana and now lives in Minneapolis with lots of stories to tell! He first came last year — the rule is, once invited to a Harris event, you are expected each year thereafter.
Frank disclosed that Molé was a tradition in their family, so of course Sarah sought to add it to the table. She asked Vicki (Frank’s daughter) for his favorite recipe, but Vicki laughed and said it takes DAYS to prepare. Sarah instead ordered online from Amazón (¡Claro que si!) as the preparation schedule did not allow for such elaborate additions. Liz and I also “made” Molé, by which I mean we purchased some at a local Mexican Grocery. Adopting traditions of other cultures would go a LONG WAY towards bridging the divisiveness gap in this country. We do our part.
My job is to cook the turkey; the methodology of which has morphed over the years. Usually I have done this on the Grill, with smoke, having first Brined the bird in Apple Juice and Salt and Vegetable stock for 24 hours. This year I acquired a new type of Charcoal-fired Convection cooker as a result of a margarita-enhanced discussion with our Tampa Friends Vic and Sydney. Naturally, as we ate and drank in Florida, the topic turned to eating and drinking.
Vic mentioned this type of Grill, Called an “Orion Cooker.” Key features: Lite it and forget it – no turning-and-basting-and-turning-and-fretting-about-and-adjusting-temp, while standing out in the weather, which Vic did not see as a huge advantage as we sat on the patio in Florida discussing these advantages, but in Minneapolis usually involves snow and cold. Always looking for new and different ways to prepare foods, and with no suitable winter clothes to wear (they are all in Chicago, where we had not been yet) and 35 captive family folks available to test the result, I thot “Why Not.” Worst case, we could order a pizza and I would be fired from my responsibility next year.
I ordered the grill from Amazon to be delivered to Minneapolis.
I will cut right to the end-result: HIGHLY TASTY and As-Easy-As-Represented. The turkey was done TO THE MINUTE on the schedule promised in the grill’s instructions, which was half the time of the traditional grilling method. The bird was evenly done, moist and smoky-flavoured (not ready to lose my honourary Canadian status just yet). This grill is a definite keeper!
The night AFTER Thanksgiving has also become a family tradition for us. Not “just” the usual leftover-fest, Sarah (and everyone else in the family) invites all sorts of friends and relatives and folks of all flavours and persuasions. The diverse neighborhood becomes even more so, and this cultural extravaganza is represented well in the pot-luck dishes which were not solicited but brought anyway. Our contribution to culinary diversity this year: Lassie Bread for brekkie – part of our repertoire since Newfoundland.
This year, there were somewhere between 80 and 150 people expected, including all of Nephew Chet’s basketball team, their families and all sorts of friends. Probably some folks wander in off the street, as well. Who would know (or care)? We even had the pleasure of seeing California cousins Cecily and Kevin/Nancy/family whom we have visited on the road. Speaking technically, Cecily is no longer from California, having moved back to the Twin Cities in the past year.
Naturally, there would not be enuf “left overs” for this crew – even if you discount the implications of 20 High School Basketballers/Athletes, who are ALL taller than I am, some by a foot or more (i.e. Chet). So Sarah prepares Beef Tenderloin(s). And, armed with the new “Orion Grill,” I cooked 15 lbs of smoked Pork Butt. And THREE MORE TURKEY BREASTS. And Sarah makes 6 Huge Pans of Mac and Cheese, because no amount of left-overs and additional meat products could fully sate the B-monsters. And, of course, most of the 150 attendees brought something. No one went hungry or was ever in danger of this.
After all that plannning and sourcing of enuf food to feed a small (well, actually in this case, a TALL) army, the B-Monster horde did not show! Speculation was that they went to another team-member’s house, where perhaps there might be a little less supervision? Liz and I are once again glad we have nieces and nephews vs. children of our own!
After that whole description of our family’s Thanskgiving events, you might be wondering how the title for this post (“Hair-on-fire-emergency”) was derived. Or, possibly you have fallen asleep. About that…I am sure it was the turkey, not the story-telling. Be assured, there were no “emergencies” around any of the above. HOWEVER…
One evening we all walked over to a nearby Thai restaurant with Sarah and her family/kids. In Sarah’s neighborhood, we could have walked to Thai, Mexican, Jamaican, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese, Vegan, Somali or to any of several other great eateries of the “urban-Chic” ethnicality. Chet ordered a Coconut Soup, which came in one of those metal pots with a sterno tab and little chimney in the middle – to keep the bowl meant for a table and ordered by Chet for himself — hot. At one point, I looked across the table and there were wisps of smoke rising – not from the chimney, but from Chet’s head!
In leaning over to investigate the soup more closely, the sterno had begun to singe his hair! Chet had a moment of angst (unrelated to the fact that his head was on fire — this was extinguished quickly) since he had just had a haircut. Worried that it would just RUIN his new doo, I told him to be thankful for hair, which he had far more of than I do EVEN if it was singed.
A little bit of melancholy to temper the sociality. My mom is not doing very well, health-wise, and we had to spend some of our time and quite a bit of emotional energy getting her settled in a Long Term Care facility after a fall, ambulance and stay in the hospital. Her condition is very fragile and increasingly cognitively impaired. The latter may be exaggerated by her fall, by the disorientation of being in the hospital, by medications or just her ongoing decline. But even with that said, there was a moment or two of connected-levity.
“Gee, I wish you were better looking…” .
Mom had lost/broken her glasses on the way TO the hospital this time, and she can see absolutely nothing without them. The disorientation we all observed at the hospital certainly was enhanced by this – shapeless faces talking to and about her at random moments during the day and night – doctors and family and friends. OF COURSE she had difficulty locking in on the moment.
I was able to arrange with her optometrist to have a set of glasses made in the same frames (which they sold us for 50% off – Mom was just there the week before and they were sad to hear about her new circumstances) from the lenses she had just replaced (they still had them!!). The MOMENT I put them on her face, she looked at me (and I had not been sure up to that point that she knew who I was), and she said, “Gee, I wish you were better looking…”
Hard not to smile, which she was certainly doing.
Once she settled into her new facility, we took plates of leftovers for her enjoyment. Not sure if that helped her cognitively, but the smile continued.