I’m sitting quietly at home right now, cup of coffee nearby, reflecting upon the past two days. Allow me to share a little something with you: I can be hard-driven and ferocious when challenged. I will even lose sleep and compromise my usually-even temperament to achieve a solid standing when I feel insulted. So, what my overbearing sister began last week, I finished with a cooking marathon and noteworthy banquet.
My sister. She can be a dear at times, but the terms “bossy”, “controlling”, and “self-righteous” have frequently been attached to her. I really have no intention of using this blog-space to vent family drama- we are here to discuss food after all! But food is enjoyed within context is it not? And after all, I am a real person with little problems in my own little world, so in this post I will spew out some excellent recipes for you with just a little “dishing” on the side.
My mother has for many years been the ever-gracious Thanksgiving Day hostess. She will say time and again that it’s her most favorite meal to make. Years ago, most of the close relatives- both sets of grandparents, a few aunts, uncles and cousins- attended, as well as a few family friends with relatives too distant to visit easily. And then, over the years, grandparents left us, cousins were married and formed new families with new traditions- aunts and uncs following; my sister and I grew up, started dating and moved into our own homes. But she, my mother, and I always managed to come together for this time-honoured meal of the harvest.
But not this year. Since the birth of my nephew, my sister has begun taking over hosting duties for the two big holiday meals of Thanksgiving and Christmas. “Mom’s house is too dangerous for little Jack”, she claims. Our mother welcomes the break from cooking I think, finding new pleasure instead by haunting my sister’s heels as she attempts to direct the flow of dishes from her kitchen, giving little helpful hints here and there, and generally getting in my sister’s way to mop up a little dribble of gravy with a damp cloth and gleeful expression. In moments like these, my sister is apt to shoot me wide-eyed grimaces that convey a helpless annoyance at best. I dart in and out bearing plates and platters, my work as “master of sweets” being done the day before and sitting patiently on a counter-top at the far side of the kitchen, they and I staying far clear of my sister’s path.
But, this year, the feasting party had to go without both decently-made sweets and me. You see, my sister doesn’t especially care for Danny, my on-and-off boyfriend of the last four years. She absolutely forbade his joining us for dinner. Which is fine; it’s her house and she has that right. However, I think it’s very rude, so I declined her offer to come to dinner, but thanked her for the invitation anyway. I don’t really see the point in a messy argument. I withdraw and adjust. It was then that I decided to host my own dinner party.
If you don’t know this by now, at the moment I am living with my mother, and her gas oven with digital controls stopped working a few weeks ago. The range still works fine however. And this “handicap” has actually been a blessing because I can no longer bake Danny’s usual food-offerings of frozen pizza, nor am I able to bake for my mother’s sweet-tooth in the name of cakes, cookies, custards or pies…
Or roast a turkey.
But I can braise a turkey. So a menu unfolded…with just Danny and I attending at first. Then the dining-time was pushed later in the evening, and by then my mother would be returning home from my sister’s soire, for certain that would include some schnibbling (as she calls it) from the table by her. So…three was the count now. And then James called. As I told him of the little family squabble and subsequent change in plans and the final menu, I could feel a certain longing on his part. A longing that included an offer of a case of soda and $20 in store-bought desserts from him. His parents are dead and his sister lives in the next state. He despises her anyway. I can temporarily relate. So I invited him, and we had four now. Plus the wandering felines. And with my mother as witness to both spreads of her children, I became determined to outdo my sister at any cost!
So, on Wednesday evening I began cooking, and finally shut the stove off at 6am. Then I woke up at 11am and casually finished the remaining dishes, saving the mashed potatoes and stuffing for last minute. This was the final, accomplished menu:
1)Braised whole turkey breast with gravy- I placed it in a cast-iron pot with some water, a little oil and ghee, chopped onions, a little garlic, black pepper, rosemary, marjoram and thyme. Simmer covered, turning now and then until cooked. Remove the turkey and brown it in another pan if you wish- I didn’t. Reduce the sauce way down over high heat. Add flour mixed with milk to make a gravy. Adjust salt.
2)Mashed potatoes*- a must! Need I say more?
3)My mother’s home-made stuffing/dressing. She donated this as my sister decided to make her own this year. I rubbed some oil in my wok and fry-steamed it. Delicious as always.
6)Hungarian-style lima beans*
8)Lithuanian mushrooms with beets*
9)Anita’s Ruby Pickles– it continued the red-pink theme at the table.
10)Whole-wheat dinner-rolls from a bakery (these were another offering from my mother…kind of her way of saying: yes, your sister is being somewhat of a —–, but I’d like to go and see my grandson)
11)Pumkin pie– from James. Store-bought, but not bad! Gotta have pumpkin pie….
12)Chocolate cake– also from James.
*(I’ll post recipes and photos for some of these dishes soon, and include links from this post to them as they are completed)
And I forgot all about that other table for the most part. And you know what? A good time was had by all! I forgot how much I love playing host; it’s been a few years. And I remembered something else I had forgotten: sometimes, family isn’t so much to do with blood, but with whom you surround yourself with, and who loves you as you are. And that’s enough to be thankful for.
And yes, I have no photos of the table. I was glad when the cooking was finished, I was hungry, and busy having a good time. So shoot me! 🙂