Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

There is no great way to say this, but I’ve become an ivory tower idealist and I haven’t even hit mid life for there to be a crisis.

Today concludes a rather successful Thanksgiving celebration with my dear family. I say successful because I and my two sisters were in charge of planning for and cooking the traditional festive foods this day is know for, and we managed to pull it off. I say traditional because I am a firm believer in eating turkey and pumpkin pie on this of all days…but that’s a discussion for a later date.

The morning began with food, as any good Thanksgiving morning should. For breakfast I made french toast smothered in 100% maple syrup accompanied by halved and roasted apples sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar topped with a cream cheese pumpkin filling. It was a smashing success—presentation and all. I’m not sure that everyone liked the apple and pumpkin concoction, but they ate it nonetheless to humor me.

Shortly after breakfast, lunch preparations were under way. Yesterday I put together the mixture that would be stuffed into the turkey—a medley of carrots, onions, small potatoes, sage, rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. I made it up really, those were just a few of my favorite things (and least favorite—I’m not an onion person) all thrown together. I stuffed the turkey and set it to cook, then the girls and I worked on what we could in the 2 hours until the bird was ready. Jenny set the table with the special red and white plates, Christi kept watch over the turkey and vegetables in the oven, and I mulled over how I could make everything come out at the same time without getting cold. Ok, I also mulled over how I could make everything as beautifully presentable as possible given space and serving dish limitations.

Picture time. This was not going down without a picture. As hungry as we all were we managed to get some pictures so that we could memorialize the entirety of our spread. I only took three. A person can only plead for so long for a smile from another person who’s determined to be grouchy. My attempted picturesque moment aside, we began to eat.

And what good eating it was too! Turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry salad, rosemary herb vegetable medley, rolls! Yum, yum, and yum! The girls had decided when we went shopping that we would have sparkling cranberry and grape juice to accompany our meal, so along with that and wine, the libations were as plenteous and pleasant as the feast. For dessert there was pumpkin pie and a spice cake in the shape of a turkey with a bourbon glaze. By that time I did not care as much about the presentation, I simply squirted as much Ready Whip on my plate as it could handle. Funny how ideals fly out the window when one has two whole cans of Ready Whip at your disposal.

Arriving home just now after spending a day and a half with my family, I open my computer to reflect on this day of giving thanks. I was immediately greeted by the desktop background I downloaded earlier this week. Picture this: half of a rugged oak table, forest green runner going down the middle, no table cloth, fire in the background just behind the table and slightly out of focus, the d├ęcor on what would be the middle of the table are fall leaves and stalks of corn bundled together and sitting upright. They too are just out of focus. Main scene is the main course—a beautifully browned turkey on a milk-white ceramic platter surrounded by herbs, stuffing, and small crabapples for presentation. Around the platter are goblets some half full of red wine, others half full of water. The place settings are red willow and genuine silver utensils.

Looking at that picture just now I realized that it embodied everything I wanted my Thanksgiving to be. In a word: perfect. This year, due to the fact that my mum went for a visit to see her brother in Colorado, I got to be in charge of the menu. I dreamed big. I was a stickler for turkey as opposed to chicken or Cornish hens because…well, because I could be, I was in charge. I was a stickler for cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie because…well, because I could be. And then there’s the presentation. This was my opportunity to make things look as good as they taste. To look, in a word, perfect.

Do y’all remember the Disney movie Aladdin? This is where the genie comes in on my behalf and says, “PHENOMINAL KITCHEN POWERS…itty bitty living space.”

My dreams of perfection ended when there was no gravy bowl to be had. They ended when one of my sisters put over-cooked baked beans on her plate, and when there was a grouchy face in the picture memorializing the entirety of our spread. In short, my quest for perfection ended when reality struck. When the pinkness of the turkey revealed that it hadn’t quite cooked all the way through. When the potatoes were still a little stiff. When I realized that I was not Bobby Flay nor were any of my family members a supporting Martha Stewart.

The funny thing is, most of this was subconscious. Not until I came home this evening and saw that ideal Thanksgiving spread across my desktop did I realize all along that was my goal. Well, I for one am glad it didn’t turn out that way. Turns out that kind of perfect little cozy scene isn’t for me. That’s not to say that I won’t strive to make great tasting food or beautiful presentations in the future, but what this thanksgiving has taught me is that there’s beauty in just plain ‘ol livin’ and lovin’ well.

There’s no great way to say this, but I’m a recovering ivory tower idealist who is extremely thankful that there’s grace for even the most persnickety of perfectionists.