‘A few stories that got pushed to the back of the fridge’
I know, I know. It’s Christmas Season. And has been since around Halloween, it seems. And while I like the tinsel and the lights and the music (well, except for ‘Little Drummer Boy’) and, most of all, the sensationally savory scent of evergreen, I’m just not quite ready to let go of Thanksgiving.
For one thing, I have a big ole pot of turkey soup to ladle out. But that’s it for leftovers of the edible kind. Absolutely nothing else is left: not the stuffing, not the mashed potatoes, not the non-powdered-sugar gravy, not the cranberry sauce. And especially not the pies. Which were basically gone by breakfast on Black Friday. (Incidentally, I like to think it’s called ‘Black’ Friday because everyone is sad because the pies are gone.)
And for another thing, I have a few more Thanksgiving stories up my sleeve. Speaking of pies. Long ago, in my pre-feast-hosting days, my mission one Thanksgiving was to contribute pies to the Whitmore Family Feast. I duly provided a couple of apple pies (I hadn’t ‘invented’ the cranberry-apple yet, and Whitmores aren’t crazy about pumpkin).
This was such a long time ago that I only owned one pie plate, so I baked the second pie in a square cake pan. Didn’t matter. I discovered my bro-in-law Bill standing next to it and attacking it with a fork. Which would have been A-Okay, eating standing up being a preferred eating technique of mine as well, but this was before we’d had Thanksgiving Dinner. Like, at 9 in the morning (that pie-for-breakfast thing, you know). Needless to say, I was irked.
Bill: (masticating enthusiastically while issuing little moans of pleasure) ‘Huh?’
Me again: ‘That’s supposed to be for dinner!‘
Speaking of Whitmores, there’s another good story from the Era Before Whitmore Fils and Co took over. This was back in the Eighties, when The Dude’s widowed Dad bravely took on Thanksgiving Duties. Well, with more than a little help from his daughters and daughter-in-law (Me).
That particular year he had consulted with Aunt Eleanor, the Best Cook on the Planet Earth and veteran hostess of many a Thanksgiving, on how to procure the best turkey for the feast. She told him that the secret was to get a fresh turkey.
Now, these days you can get a fresh turkey just about anywhere. I got mine from the Amagansett IGA, as a matter of fact. But back then, you had to get one from a farm. But if Eleanor said that was what to do, why then that was what The Dad of the Dude did. So he went to a local farm and got him a fresh turkey, goldarnit.
Thanksgiving Morning rolls around, and We Girls are up and ready to pitch in. We open the fridge, and go ‘Hey, where’s the turkey?’ ‘I got it last week, and put it in the freezer’, says The Dude’s Dad.
Well. I don’t know if you’ve ever cooked a frozen turkey (we had them all the time when I was a kid), but let’s just say you can’t just put it in the oven. You can’t even plop that puppy in the sink and run warm water over it like you can with a couple of pork steaks. It takes hours, sometimes days, to thaw those guys out.
So Linda, I think it was, or maybe Polly, was dispatched to the afore-mentioned IGA, which back then most definitely did not sell fresh turkeys, to get whatever meat-like main event she could lay her hands on. And I’m happy to report that hamburgers go quite nicely with cranberry sauce and stuffing. Oh, and we did have some of that mutililated-by-Bill pie, too.
One more story before I leave you to your Cyber-Monday or Twofer Tuesday or whatever Holiday Shopping Events are going on today. This one is about a turkey, but it took place one Christmas. (See? I am getting into the Christmas Spirit!)
Let me explain. The Petersons (my Mom’s family, the Swedes) served turkey at Christmas. They may very well have served it at Thanksgiving, too, for that matter, but we didn’t make it for that event. It’s hard to whip up enthusiasm for a six-hour drive with five kids in the car in November and December.
They also served korv and lutefisk, but this story is about the turkey. See, back in the Seventies, it was rather a craze to cook turkey in a bag. This was supposed to make the turkey nice and moist. I believe it was the Reynolds Aluminum Company who invented this method, though it was done with a plastic bag. Seriously.
Well, my Aunt Marilyn got wind of this, and thought it would be terrific to try. But, get this. Being a Swede (and I can say this because I’m one too) she must have been thinking something like ‘why spend good money on a fancy store-bought bag when I can use one of these perfectly-good bags I have right here?’ But, yup, it was a paper bag. And, sure enough, that year the turkey caught on fire.
Okay, enough is enough. But before I sign off, I’d like to share an artifact I discovered while preparing last week’s Thanksgiving feast. It was buried in the midst of the hand-written sheets of Instructions given to me by my mother to guide me through my first time as hostess.
There at the bottom, you’ll see part of a sentence that reads ‘Some people have tried powdered sugar but we don’t recommend it.’ If you missed the gravy story I keep going on about, check out last week’s ‘In the kitchen with Dad (and the Coal Miner’s Daughter)’.
Enjoy that evergreen scent, don’t stress out (too much) over shopping, and see you here next week with a new story. Speaking of evergreens, it might be the one about how I got Other People to decorate my tree every year. And speaking of decorations, check out this gorgeous centerpiece:
New York City. December 2015