12 Dishes, Gives Thanks, Falls Exhausted…

November 25, 2007 at 2:52 AM (Inedible pleasures, random musings)

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.

4)Bengali Kumror Chakka

5)Cranberry-orange relish

6)Hungarian-style lima beans*

7)Spicy nutty cluster beansbut I used common string beans, which reverts back to the original recipe

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! 🙂

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13 Comments

  1. srivalli said,

    well let me get my gun ready..how mean…you described everything so well I was eagerly going down to check on the pictures…:D

    See then? I didn’t need the pictures did I? 😉

  2. shammi said,

    “Bang”! 😀

    A hit! 🙂

  3. Anita said,

    What – we don’t even get a peek? 😦 We are family too you know – virtually. Sisters can be like that…I bet she is sorry already. Must have missed you at the table, you can be sure.
    And you did a swell meal – wish I could have been at that table. Pie – oh pie! I haven’t had a slice of pie in 10 long years [sigh] – my turn to be wistful…
    (Now, who was complaining about missing recipes?)

    Recipes? Why there are so many recipes…and you were at the table, in one form or other! 😉 Now, Anita…there is no reason for you to be without pie! You have flour, butter, ripe orange squashes, eggs, milk, sugar, spices…a working oven! What’s holding you back?

  4. Manisha said,

    Oooo! We got to be a fly on the wall for a Thanksgiving family drama! What is it about Thanksgiving that brings out the worst in people?! Time to give thanks goes for a toss!

    The spread at your table sounds far more exciting and inviting though! Wow! And you must have a really huge cast iron pot to braise a whole turkey in! I can’t wait to hear about the asterisked recipes. Did you like the Bengali Kumror chakka?

    I had pecan pie for the first time. Store bought but it was really good. I was supposed to pick up pumpkin pie but they were all gone by the time I got there! I so want to make pecan pie now!

    And what? No recipe?! So the disease spreads…

    Yes, it is catching! But food is such an ethereal thing really. It’s there on a plate or in a bowl, and then…it isn’t. You know, pecan pie has never been one of my favorites- too sweet, and I have eaten many! But, I do have a good recipe that the pecan pie afficionados adore. Let me know if you need me to dig it out for you; although mostly the recipes for them are similar, just slight variations in proportions can alter the final outcome, and this particular one I find the most agreeable.

    This was just the breast of a turkey that I cooked this time as there were so few of us for dinner, but yes, I have braised a whole turkey (of about 12-pounds) a few times using a large roasting-pan on two burners! Turning one is always a bit tricky…

    I loved the Bengali kumror chakka! I even used a special and delicious garam masala quite similar to the one you probably did! 🙂 As for the sis, it’s odd: no-one on THIS side of the family has ever done such a thing. There seems to be a motto of “the more the merrier, and everyone is odd in their own way so join in with the existing crazies…”…so…I think it might be the influence of her husband’s family, who are definitely lacking in social graces from what I’ve seen. Did I say that? 🙂 But I made fabulous lemonade out of lemons I think!

  5. arundati said,

    families can get like that sometimes….your spread is fantastic and yes i want to shoot you for not taking pictures….infact i felt like shooting myself when i hosted a birthday lunch for my mom last month and didnt have time to take pics…with an aching back and hungry people to feed, that was the last thing on my mind…i can quite understand….with a table full of food and people who love you sitting around it…am sure you had a wonderful thanksgiving.

    Yes indeed, it’s all worth it isn’t it?

  6. bee said,

    so now you have your own tradition. good for you!!! hopefully next year at thanksgiving your sis and you will be good buddies, and you can invite her over.

    That’s the spirit! Who knows? 🙂

  7. Nags said,

    ohh, why no pics? 🙂

    I barely had time to finish making the potatoes and fill glasses!

  8. shilpa said,

    12 dishes??? Oh my god…looks like you were on a cooking marathon….
    Can you post your mashed potato recipe too? I want to make them for a long time now.

    Manisha’s comment above is making me try the pecan pie.. I have one recipe that my friend sent me some 4 months ago..Even though I bought all the necessary ingredients, I haven’t yet given it a try. I am very interested to know your recipe also :).

    Mashed potatoes eh? I think that would actually be an interesting post that, if you hadn’t suggested it, I would not have thought of doing! Yes…I’ll add it to my list. Hopefully you won’t have to wait as long as Anita for it! 🙂

  9. Anita said,

    Yes, when life gives you lemons – make lemonade! And if there are still more, you could try making marmalade too… 😀

    Ah…if only there were lemons lying about here in great quantities to do so! Happily, some people are this fortunate… 😉

  10. Manisha said,

    Oh, I’ll say you weren’t left with lemons!

    I don’t care for sweet pies which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I dug into this one! It was gooey but not very sweet! And, yes, I would love to have your recipe. Although it might be easier to just buy the calories from Sam’s since they make it so well!

    The garam masala you use does make a difference to the kumror chakka! The more fragrant it is, the better!

    Ain’t that the truth?! You reccommend Sam’s Club pecan pies eh? Well…I’d best give one a try then, but I am soooo picky about the pastry crust, so be forewarned! 😀

  11. musy said,

    Hey Pel, what makes me glad is that despite whatever happened, you enjoyed your Thanksgiving day…..like you said, arguements don’t do any good! and that was one real good show you put up, DESPITE the oven not working 🙂 What a hearty menu, dear! I make those pickles too 🙂 have been in love with them since i first tasted the turnip+beets combo at a Falafel place. I pickle onions and cucumbers the same way, they are a total delight! and yes, mashed potatoes are a must 🙂 Your words have filled in for pictures, Pel (to borrow from Srivalli)-enjoy!

    Thanks Musy! And as for being without an oven for awhile, well…I found it isn’t as necessary as I first feared! But I would like to make bagels soon, not sure why. 🙂 Those pickles ARE a treat eh? I sometimes forget they are supposed to be a side dish… falafel eh? Now I’m getting hungry for them too!

  12. neroli said,

    Dear Master of Sweets,
    As the Sweetest Place on Earth is readily accessible to me, you and yours can consider yourself at home/consider yourself part of the family in case you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods!

    I am honored by your graciousness, Dear Lady of the Blossoming Orange Grove [bows], and I certainly hope to one day find my feet wandering close to that tract of earth which assuredly feels the blessing of your radiant presence. 😀

  13. neroli said,

    Excellent! I will look forward to it :)!

    Same here! 🙂

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