Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving for Three

Due to a variety of extenuating circumstances, good, bad and otherwise, the size of our family left in the great Northwoods for our annual Thanksgiving feast was reduced quite spectacularly this year. I have had a variety of Thanksgiving experiences, large and small, but this one still fit into the “new” category.

My father, my uncle and I were three bachelor(ette)s left alone for the holidays. I had such an intense week of things running up to the holiday that I had seriously threatened that, if left to me (and obviously, it was going to be left to me), Thanksgiving dinner was going to consist of either 1) macaroni and cheese and Spam, or 2) Chinese take-out.

My mother, calling from far, far away admonished me to at least take them out to a restaurant in town that does Thanksgiving meals. That sounded like I would actually have to take a shower and brush my hair, which really seemed more work than getting some food on a table at home. I suppose there was the option of picking up an actual Thanksgiving meal from said restaurant, but if there’s one thing I’m not crazy about, it’s a stranger’s version of a Thanksgiving dinner on my plate, even when all of the necessary pieces are there.

Miraculously, the day before Thanksgiving (on what was technically a “day off” for me), I suddenly got motivated. (Granted this motivation was in large part due to a stupidly forgotten work task on my part that required me driving the 20 miles in to work to do one measly thing.) I made a mental list (a written one would have been too much like committing to a course of action) and drove to a store and grabbed shopping cart.

The meat section had me flummoxed for a while. I don’t cook meat (I eat it, I just don't cook it). I’ve really never done more than a chicken breast. There would only be three of us. Even a small turkey would be huge...a turkey breast left no opportunity for dark meat...leftovers are good...but...thawing, cleaning, cooking, meh. Not appealing.

Then I saw the little Cornish game hens. Two for $6. One each. Decision made. Done.

So, Thanksgiving morning I made my presence known in my parents’ kitchen. We cleaned up from my father’s bachelor week, and I set to work making something happen. And, amazingly, it did.

Nothing fancy. I didn’t go out of my way to spice up the recipes with anything I wouldn’t normally use. But there were Cornish hens (that actually turned out pretty well for my first attempt at really cooking meat), mashed potatoes (with skins left on and not whipped, thank you very much), stuffing (okay, I cheated and go pre-seasoned bread crumbs), cranberry sauce (that at least was homemade with local cranberries and my own recipe), homemade bread (well, a half-loaf leftover from the weekend before), apple pie (that mom made and left in the freezer, figuring if we had nothing else, we’d have that), and two pumpkin pies (I just couldn’t let the holiday go without making a pumpkin pie, especially when it’s so easy). Oh, and green beans and assorted raw veggies.

And fortunately I didn’t have too critical of an audience to work with. The three of us would’ve eaten raccoon, probably. My one big slip was timing in getting everything on the table - thought I had it down, but then decided the chickens needed more time. Ah, well.

So, my first solo venture in the kitchen at Thanksgiving was not discouraging. Still not thrilled about the idea of taking on a turkey some day, but we people will generally just eat, even if it’s not gourmet and half burnt. There’s something to be thankful for.

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