Clotilde looked small and unsuspicious and seriously out of place in my kitchen filled with thrust and G force way beyond her means. After all, she was only a 13-pounder turkey, and the kitchen gang had long gotten used to handling birds of more hefty stature. But Clotilde was the fleshiest of the flock for the post-Pilgrim holiday. I like to think of myself as an out-of-the-box person, most definitely cook, so, it was no surprise to me or my friends when I announced my Thanksgiving meal would be taking place three weeks after the holiday had passed.
No one seemed surprised. And no one said no. How could they? They knew it would be an ocean of culinary delights, from the turkey, to the stuffing to the mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry relish, cranberry port sauce, and on and on and on. Ending with pies. Many pies because one is never enough.
My house is colorful and bright, every tile, art work, or cookbook holds a fun and usually tasty story of the life that bonds Yeshua and I together. However, my house is a wee bit tight and breathes easier with the help of our huge backyard, which, for the ocassion, was decked out and ready to accomodate people, particularly stuffed ones. Plans, of course, are made to be broken, for that day was grey and blustery and, fifteen minutes before our dinner party was to begin, showcased a true Florida rainstorm, the kind where your windshield wiper is on overdrive and you still can’t see beyond your nose. Outdoors: cancelled.
Clotilde looked lovely for the event: evenly browned and dazzling with her accessory of Mom’s Famous Stuffing (both cavity and neck). As I set her aside to rest on her own board, she seemed to reassure me that everything would work out, my parties inevitably gravitate around the kitchen. I laughed out loud. Clotilde was right. I laughed again. I am listening and taking advice from a cooked turkey. I must be a chef. Or insane. Or both.
But you read this and you know at some point you’ve done the same (haven’t you?) And you know how this ends, Clotilde was correct: the party did gravitate to the kitchen, where, impromptu butts sat on countertops, stood, chatted, drank delicious champagne and noshed on treats brought by everyone, awaiting for our moment of thanks.
I had added a Hanukah component to the evening, given we were smack in the week of that celebration and as I stood watching my dear friend Ana Paula fry up our latkes, I smiled in agreement when she coined the evening Thankshanukah: a bit of blessing, a bit of grease, a lot of friendship and food.
I’d like to think of myself as being a modern, evolving, and accepting human being, one that is open to change, considers other’s ideas and suggestions, and constantly alters set patterns of behavior in hopes of achieving self-growth and a new perspective. However, there are some things I just don’t mess with. Take Thanksgiving dinner, for instance. I know, I know, it’s a wild and changing world out there—many others are achieving growth by glazing their birds with exotic fruit juices, smoking them in the backyard in big old garbage pails or even taking the plunge and tossing their ode to our country’s heritage in frightfully deep vats of boiling oil. They all make for delicious meals, I am sure. You just won’t find them in my home.Call me a foodie hypocrite, a culinary closet conservative, or whatever you like. On this day I don’t budge on my traditions, and, year after year, sit my family down to a classic meal of roast turkey with herbed stuffing, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, baby peas, and pumpkin and apple pies, respectively, all just like my mother made when I was a kid. I confess to one tiny slip-up in my traditionalism: my sister-in-law’s cranberry relish: too good not to introduce into our family ritual, even though, I still put out the jellied can stuff so as not to offend the die-hards.Occasionally, I get the 7-year turkey itch and my Thanksgiving routine temporarily feels boring. My mind may stray for an instant while looking at glossy magazine pictures exploring the new twists on bird stuffing, side dishes, or pie crusts, imagining what it may be like to prepare and eat these. But, before I can do any real damage in disrupting a solid and loving food family, my innate culinary instinct (a solid chunk of my DNA structure) kicks in, demanding and driving me to produce the traditional Thanksgiving dinner year after year. So far, I have heard no complaints from my family, just a whole lot of chewing.