Sunday, December 5, 2010
Happy Holidays, and Thanks - My 100th Post
My November somehow got swallowed up by my day job, my "other" blog, and holiday preparations. But I'm back, and my first thanks goes to those of you who've stayed in touch, even worried about me for not having posted in a while.
A week ago Wednesday I loaded up the new Eggy-mobile and headed to Tennessee for a cock-eyed holiday weekend at my parents' place, rendezvousing with my sister's family, who drove in from Iowa. If you thought our Thanksgiving dinner included the ingredients in this photo at the top of this post, you would be wrong.
I love the foods of autumn, not to mention the opportunity to pull out all the stops in the kitchen (isn’t that why Thanksgiving was invented – oops, maybe not). But this was not one of those Thanksgivings. So my second thanks goes to all my friends who've shared their T-Day dishes via their blogs - the virtual feast you've offered up has filled me almost as much as savoring them in person would have (and with 0 calories, fat, or carbs).
As much as I enjoy searching out new recipes and putting together a holiday menu, I knew going into this Thanksgiving there were so many "food preferences" to juggle I'd be better off playing sous-chef and letting my mom and sister decide the menu. On the drive back from Knoxville, I also got to thinking about Thanksgivings past.
I've come to love Thanksgiving, and turkey, and especially dressing with gravy. But T-Day appreciation wasn't something I grew up with. As a kid, we lived, at various times, hundreds if not thousands of miles away from the rest of the family. So Christmas was the "big" holiday, when we almost always drove back to Nebraska, and Thanksgiving was the overshadowed younger sibling holiday we spent by ourselves. My dad isn't fond of turkey, so for a number of years we developed our own little tradition of feasting on peel-and-eat shrimp (an exotic treat when you came from the land-locked midwest back in those days).
The first really terrific Thanksgiving I recall was the one I shared with 15 or 20 friends in Estes Park, Colorado in the late ‘70s. None of us had family nearby, and those of us who worked in restaurants were glad they were closed for the holiday. Everyone brought something, and my eyes widened to see two, count 'em, two turkeys, plus a plethora of pies, and more side dishes than I'd ever seen in anyone's house rather than a restaurant. There was also something remarkably freeing about sharing such a feast without having to deal with family holiday dynamics or concern oneself with what Grandma might think.
Ironically, the first time I cooked a turkey and hosted Thanksgiving myself turned out to be for Grandma. She and Grandpa and my parents flew in to spend Thanksgiving with me in NYC (despite their midwestern fears that I had lost my mind by moving to such a place). I lived in a tiny apartment on the Upper West Side, but being young and fearless, was determined to serve a home-cooked dinner, even if seating everyone at my unfolded fold-up table took up pretty much every last inch of space. The good news that weekend was that I lucked out in ordering a turkey that would fit in my tiny oven, and managed to get it cooked through and remain moist - ergo, was not reluctant to try again. The bad news was that said turkey was too large to fit in my under-the-counter studio apartment refrigerator, so a kind friend living in the Village, also living far away from her midwestern family, kept it in her fridge overnight and invited us all to her place for Thanksgiving brunch in exchange for joining us for dinner.
After brunch, we couldn't find a cab willing to take all of us uptown in one vehicle. So Mom and I and the turkey took one cab, and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa took another. As my grandparents' cabbie drove up the West Side Highway at a high rate of speed, the hood of the vehicle popped open so the driver could not see. This is not the kind of impression you want to make on midwestern relatives who already think your life or sanity are endangered by living in Manhattan. Thankfully, they reached my apartment rattled but safe.
Later that Thanksgiving weekend, we went to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas show. I was so broke working an entry-level publishing job that I'd never before been to Radio City. But I was as charmed by the Art Deco decor as Grandma was. It transported us both to another era in time. As the house lights dimmed for the performance, my straight-laced Nebraska grandma uttered words so shocking I will never forget them. "In my next life, I want to come back as a Rockette."
Flash forward to this Thanksgiving, one of those alternating years where my sister's family spends T-Day with us and Christmas with her husband's family. Which also means we celebrate our Christmas together at Thanksgiving. I decided to let family be my focus, letting go of my usual food inclinations.
We were graced with an amazingly warm day with temps in 70s - so warm we could not forgo the opportunity to eat appetizers outside.
For all of those "food preferences" my sister's kids have, they made an interesting discovery this summer when my nephew spent a summer internship in California and my sister and niece went to visit him. You see, my brother-in-law is seriously allergic to shellfish, so the kids had never really tried it before - until this. Turns out they rather liked it, so for our Thanksgiving Day main course we settled on surf and turf: peel-and-eat shrimp that harkened back to that earlier family tradition and beef grilled in a marinade for shishkabobs that always seems to please everyone.
For sides, my sis made roasted potatoes and I made scalloped corn (one of those nostalgia dishes for me), while plain frozen corn was as much veg as others could be persuaded to eat.
For dessert, Mom made another one of her scrumptious apple pies (too few takers for pumpkin). Some of us enjoyed it with ice cream on top. Some enjoyed ice cream sans pie.
Next up was our "Christmas morning" the Friday after T-Day, where remarkable menu consensus was achieved with Mom's homemade cinnamon rolls (although some have preferences as to whether nuts or "goop" are included).
We had a jolly time and gave each other some really cool stuff. My niece was thrilled with her Glee DVD.
Dad was also the subject of this year's pranksterism, the old package inside a package inside a package . . . I think my sister outdid herself this time - we stopped counting at 7, and I don't think anyone captured pics of all however many were involved, but this will give you an idea.
The other truly memorable gift, of which I am the delighted recipient, is a custom Ingredient of the Month concoction my sister is putting together for me, with my first installment being Maytag blue cheese, from near where she lives in Iowa.
We also played a silly card game called Garbage, which always results in hilarity (and me running out of poker chips). Dad put together a slide show from long, long ago, which was a fun trip down memory lane for my sister and me, and may have widened her kids' eyes - especially the carousel of slides from my sister's high school theater days.
Alas, the festivities were over all too quickly, as my sister's family had to return to Iowa on Saturday. I stayed until Sunday morning, and managed to cook up a couple of "my dishes" Saturday night. I had fun inventing a casserole of butternut and kambocha squash, mushrooms, red onion, apple-wood smoked bacon from Eckerlin's in Findlay Market and apple-wood smoked cheddar from another Findlay vendor.
last summer's Culinary Smackdown (I know how much my dad loves sausages, especially from Avril's). The croutons I made with Busken's rye and onion bread from my neighborhood Remke-Biggs this time didn't turn out quite as well as the ones I made from Blue Oven salt rye last summer, but that may have had more to do with me just not preparing them as well.
In addition to thanking my family for a great rolled-into-one holiday, and their support for my blogging endeavors, since this is my 100th post, I have more thanks to express.
Thanks to all my blogging buddies, near and far, from whom I've gained much inspiration (and realized that sometimes we all need a little blogging downtime).
I'd especially like to thank Velva from Tomatoes on the Vine for being kind enough to feature a couple of my photos in her Wordless Wednesday posts, and to all the fine bloggers whose food photography inspires me to keep trying to improve.
Thanks also to my new pals over at AllTopChef, who invited me to join their blogging team in September. Somehow our little blog managed to place 4th in the Mobbie Awards in the pop culture category, which surprised the heck out of this Cincinnati girl. Wrangling the ATC mailbox and pulling together posts about my favorite show is both a joy and a challenge.I hope to figure out how to balance ATC with my own blog (and if Top Chef took a hiatus of more than two weeks after All-Stars, that would be fine with me).
Much appreciation also goes to all the Cincinnati food vendors who have me excited to eat their food and talk them up - more to come, soon, I promise :)
And special thanks to Cindie, my BFFF - best foodie friend forever - for joining me in checking out what Cincy's food scene has to offer and being a good listener when I get overloaded from all my efforts.