This year, Thanksgiving is like some others in that: we drive for hours, stare at the familiar blankness of the Indiana tollway, witness the falling of the drizzle, eat in small + cramped spaces, eat in sticky places that should be closed for family time, put my fingers out the window to feel the air, think of Touchdown Jesus as we pass South Bend, sleep through the chaos of Chicago in the backseat.
We stopped to visit my grandmother, a moment that was eerily familiar to two years ago, when stepping onto the soggy grounds of a nursing home, but this time, the occupant was lucid, her ailment not Alzheimer's but a hip broken in not three places, but four. We had to wake her in the dark of her room to say hello, but she lit up and when Ryan walked in, uncomfortable at participating in the gentle rousing, my grandmother turned to him and said gratefully, "Ryan, you brought my girl!" Oh, to be my grandma's girl. I want to treasure that small moment, keep it safe and close to me.
Tonight is preparing for tomorrow's feast, which will include both of my parents this year, as well as me and my husband, my aunt and uncle, my cousin and his wife and five children, and another cousin:
Winning the husband lottery, we prepared:
:: Brine for the turkey, a first experience for both of us. Ours included plenty of kosher salt, sugar, sage, celery, cinnamon sticks, and carrots.
:: Cranberry, apple and walnut sauce with this recipe (and adding hunks of the orange we grated and minus the pepper as I forgot to get that ingredient):
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cups diced peeled Granny Smith apple
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Stir in apple, ginger, pepper, and cranberries; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat; stir in rind. Cool; stir in walnuts.Tomorrow will be a great deal more: bumbleberry pie from scratch, the turkey, of course, as well as Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, sweet potato and winter squash gratin, and pumpkin pie. My aunt is bringing the mashed potatoes, a ham, and the stuffing.
Have I mentioned this is my last week of poultry? I have a chicken and corn soup that is waiting for consumption at home, and after that, it's just seafood, and fortunately, there isn't a lot left, which means by Christmastime, I will officially be vegetarian again. I would have switched immediately, but because we have such a stockpile of "my" meal accouterments that my charming-but-finicky husband will not eat, I figured instead of wasting them, I would switch. I must confess, he had these beef sticks with cheese he picked up at the butcher that smell so good and every time I spotted them, I was incredibly tempted to cheat, until I remembered that scene from Food, Inc. in which a cow cannot walk on its hind legs naturally (instead, on what appears to be the "hocks," or what, in humans, would be the calves, where the tibia and fibula reside); then, my mind drifts to the chickens whose breasts are so immense they plop over like toddlers each time they stand up, and I think: I am grateful this is my last week of poultry; I cannot have these images in my head and morally consume on. (I must also admit: I am scientifically fascinated, and I love cooking whole birds, because I can then pull back layers and touch bones and see how it all fits together, which is why I am best at eviscerating the creature at the end, prepared to make soup and stock.)
But I don't want to leave a Thanksgiving post on this didactic note. Rather, I'm going to give you a few things, that, in-this-moment, I am grateful for:
:: smelling sage and oranges on my hands
:: the husband sleeping, waiting, helping me today and tomorrow (and always)
:: finding a few biographies on Robert Lowell, who is popping up in the book I'm currently reading and, of course, a major component to my Elizabeth Bishop study
:: my new slippers, which will get me through tomorrow's cooking without drastically exhausted feet
:: you, of course, in hopes of a lovely time spent with friends and family
:: (and to the tofurky-day I missed with my poetry-friends)