Saturday, November 28, 2015


On Tuesday morning, it dawned on me that I was living out a fantasy.  The whole going to a farm and getting a real turkey for Thanksgiving fantasy.  My friend, D, and I were headed about 35 minutes north to our friend Elizabeth's farm. I started nagging Elizabeth about Thanksgiving turkeys in May.  We met Elizabeth and her family through the farmers' market and absolutely adore her.  Every week, D and I enjoy our chats with Elizabeth and her daughter while we wait for the horn to blow to permit the beginning of sales.  She and her husband, Bryan, decided they would raise turkeys this year.  Ever since then, they've had to field questions from me about the turkeys.  They would creatively answer my inane questions.  After all, there are only so many ways one can answer And how are the turkeys this week?!  Some of my friends and clients found my interest in my turkeys rather macabre.  These are not my first locally-raised turkeys, but this is my first go-around with actually knowing the person behind the turkey.  Many years, I've tried to snap my fingers and have this experience.  What I hadn't given enough credit is the relationship that makes it all the more special. 

The drive up wasn't exactly my fantasy of covered bridges and frost-kissed brush, it's just a normal highway.  And D was so offended and shocked by something she heard Howard Stern say that she shared something exponentially more graphic and lewd.  But as we turned off the highway, and the road started to narrow and bend erratically around barns, I started to feel a little giddy.  The houses began to drift further apart and vast fields began to dominate.  As we pulled into Elizabeth's driveway, beautiful birds free-ranging rushed around and I parked in a bizarre position to avoid hitting them.  There was a peacock (or peahen?) perched on a pickup truck and a spectacular Royal Palm turkey on promenade.  A big collie, Puffy, greeted us and swiped her paw against our legs if we dared to stop petting her.  Elizabeth gave  us a tour of the farm and we loved seeing where so much of our summer produce grows.  Her garden is huge--probably 150 x 50 and provides a myriad of exquisite vegetables, fruit, greens, herbs, and flowers spring through fall.  A clearing walled-in by dozens, if not hundreds, of acres of corn fields. 
She invited us in for a cup of coffee, with the table bedecked in lovely Limoges china I knew you'd appreciate that she said as I couldn't help myself from turning the plate over to see the pattern name.  We got to learn a little more about her in her happy kitchen.   
I could tell she was a slightly uncomfortable with how much the turkeys cost, but she absolutely shouldn't have been.  After a while, we loaded our coolers with our turkeys and were off.  I managed to get us very lost on the way home, despite it being an easy route.  D has a fail-safe sense of direction and took over navigation and eventually we found our way back. 
If you're local or semi-local, you can get in touch with Elizabeth on her farm facebook here for your Thanksgiving turkey next year.
Smart, talented, and lovely Elizabeth
The rest of the day was spent preparing my turkeys to go in the sous vides.  The advantages to cooking your turkey sous vide are many.  One of the best being that carving is so easy because the bones are out--and because the bones are out, you have them to make stock before Thanksgiving.  So as my kitchen really began to smell like Thanksgiving with the stock starter in the oven, I quite gleefully hunkered down into the final push toward Thursday. 
I think my turkey had a boob job. This is one side of the breast
I like to start my stock by braising the backbone, neck, and vegetables
in a bottle of sauvignon blanc.  Deepens the flavor and color

Dressing prep

My sister and I were in communication all day regarding my mother.  My sister runs our family business (I say our because I clean the chandelier and run over with emergency toilet paper when they've run out) and needed my mom to come in and cover a shift in the evening.  I told her  I would only release my sweatshop labor if the tablecloth had been completed, to which my sister said well god damn it then if she's not done you're going to have to drag your ass in here and work! Someone needs to! The world does not stop because you're fucking obsessed with Thanksgiving! I said oh no! I can't hear what you're... and hung up on her.  My sister needed my mom to come in at 5:30, and my mom victoriously finished at 3:11. 

54 feet of fabric for the skirt, approximately ten inches wide
Is the tablecloth the very embodiment of couture perfection? No.  At least not to her.  She is furious with herself over an oversight in the pattern that causes the top to swoop down further into the skirt than she'd like.  I had to literally hide the seam rippers and scissors, because I knew she was champing at the bit to rip it to shreds. I am so tremendously proud of her for 1) finishing 2) accepting its imperfection.  I'll have it forever and am sure that someday I'll run my fingers along the swooping seam and it'll transport me to this wonderful time. 

Priceless blue and white artifacts from Home Goods Dynasty China,
look away Ellie this certainly qualifies as "bad" b&w.

The china was found on Craigslist in September. Service
for 12 for $60! My sister made the napkins
Though I asked this portion of the pattern not be included.
What the hell is this?

Twisted little fucker
The truth is that I always push to give holidays their due.  To some, holidays are just another day--and that's fine.  I don't think anyone should do holidays any certain way.  I sometimes wish I had a more nonchalant attitude about them.  For whatever reason, they are very important to me.  This Thanksgiving felt different because it is a transitional time in my family.  I can feel things changing and, of course, don't know where they'll go.  Overall, it's a very good time.  We often wait until years later to realize when times were good--often when it's too late to really celebrate them.  I learned this the hard way with my great grandmother.  A few years in a row, I mulled over the idea of having a Mother's Day brunch.  My GG, grandma, and mother could all be there together.  Well, the perfect time never came.  So I never had my perfect Mother's Day brunch.  Within a few short years, my GG had passed away and my grandmother was very sick.  I just hate myself for not having that brunch when I could.  It would have rained and my sister would have bitched about having to be here by 11, but in the end it would have been wonderful--or at least it would have happened.  It was a good time then and I couldn't see it clearly enough to know that it was worth a push to acknowledge. 
Since  I cannot go back in time and change that regret, I have a hell or high water attitude about holidays and mile markers now.  I've yet to regret it. 
By Wednesday morning, much of the food prep was done.  I planned it that way so I could casually enjoy the day.  Running errands, feeling the bubbling holiday energy, arranging purchased flowers, lunch with a friend...and...some grand theft floral. 
I had been eyeing these beautiful yellow crabapples since September.  I would check on them a few times a week to make sure they hadn't fallen due to frost or inclimate weather.  Usually by this time, crabapples are squishy and gross-looking.  This year, with our mild weather,  they are still looking gorgeous.  Unfortunately, these crabapples are not in my yard.  They are at the entrance to a neighborhood.  A big neighborhood where people come and go constantly.  If I had any shame or dignity, I would be much too embarrassed to blatantly go steal fucking crabapples from a neighborhood where I don't even live!  Buuuut I don't.  So on Wednesday afternoon, I pulled my happy ass up, rolled Barbie's window down so she could watch her pathetic father in action, and began snipping away.  Now, listen,  I didn't decimate the trees or anything.  You could hardly tell I even took anything.  Because I couldn't exactly keep a low profile, I opted to keep a high profile.  I waved at people driving by, yelled Happy Thanksgiving! to people running and walking on the adjoining path and just sort of held court there at the entrance to the neighborhood where I was stealing crabapples.  No one seemed remotely bothered. 
I was up late Wednesday, working on the flowers and the table.  I had a terrible time deciding on napkin folds.  Ultimately, I just opted for something simple that showcased my favorite section of the toile. 

Thursday was calm and easy and followed my schedule.  What was unbelievable was the weather.  It was almost 70F! Unheard of for the end of November.  It could have easily been snowy.  Having the fresh air from outside swirling through the house made the day all the more spectacular.  Because it was so perfect, my grandpa called to ask if we could delay so he could golf.  I was happy to oblige and give myself even more time.  So my guest list has fluctuated so many times--from seven to twenty one, that I just planned to cook for 100.   I ended up having the perfect number: eight.  One table, one conversation, a quick-moving buffet, and a manageable amount of dishes.  I was so, so pleased.  Especially for my mother.  The tablecloth was the star and every guest got to experience it.  There were photos taken and questions asked and accolades galore for her and I know she loved it.  Sewing is not something everyone can comprehend, because unless you've done it, it can be hard to understand just what skill and work go into it.  So she doesn't often get the credit she is due for her work.  But because this tablecloth was so visually commanding in color and form, it was awarded much praise. 

Apple-Cranberry-Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange Buttercream

I wasn't thrilled with my platters for the roasted carrots and parsnips, but didn't want the carved turkey to get cold while I was fussing with them.  Other than that, I was so pleased with how the day went.  It was casual and easy, but ceremonial and special.  My best friend, M,  was happy to fold into my family, and we didn't even argue politics.  My grandpa told his story about sneaking behind the Berlin Wall for lunch one day (the food was bad, the women were beautiful), and M showed us YouTube videos of a girl we went to high school with who is apparently a sensation in South Korea.  The prosecco flowed and we lingered at the table. 
I trust my friend and turkey farmer, Elizabeth,  so much that I took her recommendation on a different pumpkin pie recipe.  It was phenomenal.  L gave it high praise and said it's not "barfy" like normal pumpkin pie.  I've never found pumpkin pie to be barfy, but if you have, you may love this one.  The only problem with it is that the brown sugar makes it look a little burned. 
So--from turkeys to regret to barfy pie--that's Thanksgiving 2015.  Or I thought it was until yesterday when M texted me that she was making a feast after all.  She was at the grocery at 1PM and served by 7PM.  I helped with mashed potatoes in her cramped kitchen with insufficient bowlage, spilled shit everywhere as we worked on top of each other, and she topped my wine off whenever I turned my back.  We debated on whether muscular guys look better with big butts or small ones and she tried to tell me that Joanna Barnes was not in the original Parent Trap.  When we started doing the Spider Dance or how we think it would look,, I knew I wouldn't be driving home.  I was called on to carve her turkey and did a pretty good job for three-too-many glasses of wine.  I arranged alternate transportation home and woke up giggling.  Her Thanksgiving couldn't have been more different from mine in preparation, planning, and equipment.  And yet it was every bit as fabulous.  That's the beauty of Thanksgiving, isn't it? 
M's feast

Never too hungover to appreciate a beautiful sunrise

How was yours? How many people did you have? Who got the drunkest?