Friday, November 23, 2012

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

I will not review the strange, complicated, and unusual circumstances that left me, at 83 years of age, responsible for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, a task I had never before undertaken. It was an interesting, rewarding, and even educational experience. I would do it again although I would prefer not to have to do so. You should understand that my wife, who recently died unexpectedly, was a true gourmet chef and had for thirty years produced one spectacular Thanksgiving dinner after another. Although I felt I was a passable cook the thought of being compared with her was rather nerve-wracking, and I confess I was already a bit nervous.
First, there was the question of just what was wanted, turkey or ham. After a couple of days of argument and politicking it was finally decided we would have ham. I was confident I would be able to bake a ham and finding one was not difficult, although I soon learned the price of hams, even hams from the exact same Company, vary greatly in price depending upon where you buy them. I finally found the exact same ham a dollar a pound cheaper than elsewhere. I was proud of my comparison shopping and ignored the fortune I had spent on gasoline during this quest.
Although the decision to have ham had been a clear majority decision there was a great deal of confusion over what else to serve. It turned out that although ham was the choice it would be necessary to also have stuffing and cranberry sauce. While this struck me as odd I knew that stuffing could be served with many meals other than turkey and cranberry sauce was easy. Of course I had never made stuffing so I looked up stuffing recipes on the internet. I learned that you cannot always trust recipes you find on the internet. I picked one that sounded reasonable but when I tried it in advance (I told you I was nervous) it produced something I could only feed my dog, if I had a dog. It was dry as the Gobi desert and certainly unsuitable. So I wasted time and ingredients but it paid off because my final stuffing, made after spending another fortune on gasoline trying to find turkey sausage, and also from a recipe from the internet, was virtually perfect and everyone loved it.
Then my ambition got the better of me. I decided to bake pies, one apple and one pumpkin. I am partial to apple crumb pies and I created a beautiful example except that it was so loaded with apples that as I put it in the oven a couple of apple slices fell off onto the floor of the oven where they could not be rescued, thus somewhat dirtying the oven even more than it already was. I had been intending to do the self-cleaning oven for several days but of course had procrastinated. Thus I was fascinated to learn that my wife’s overly expensive stove apparently has a mind of its own. Apparently outraged at my lack of compassion and attention for it, on the afternoon before the big day it decided completely on its own to clean itself. I was on the one hand pleased but also somewhat frightened by this (I am by nature frightened by machinery of any kind). The apple pie turned out well enough, it was the pumpkin pie that barely averted disaster. Having never before cooked a pumpkin pie I was unaware that when it is ready for the oven it is liquid rather than solid. So having filled the pie crust up to the very edge with liquid I had to maneuver it from one side of the kitchen to the other to place it in the oven. This proved to be a nightmare for me as I am not too steady on my feet and my hands sometimes shake a bit, so there I was slowly, one step at a time, precariously balancing this liquid time bomb before it covered the entire kitchen floor with pumpkin. It was rather like being on a narrow path three thousand feet above a deep gorge with no hand rails for support (one of my recurring nightmares). I am proud to say I managed without spilling a drop, but the pie didn’t turn out very well although it was edible enough.
The green beans were easy enough and the mashed potatoes (with parsnips, I never make mashed potatoes without parsnips ) were delicious. The problem was with the gravy. I confess I had never heard of ham gravy before and was a bit skeptical. But according to the internet there are ham gravies of various kinds. I selected an easy version, and although I did not like the look of it, I duly served it in gravy boats and learned another important lesson. You may well be aware there are two different kinds of gravy boats. One kind has the top part independent of the bottom part and the other type is fused so it is all in one piece. You may feel this is unimportant but I assure you it is very important. If you have ever seen anyone pick up a gravy boat expecting it to in one piece when it is not you will find a very surprised guest quite likely having spilled hot gravy on your fine tablecloth and perhaps him or herself or someone else. Gravy boats are dangerous, one of those items that should be carefully regulated by whoever is in charge of regulating such things. I suggest they only be allowed to manufacture one type, I don’t care which one it is.
Anyway, my ham, also done from an internet recipe, was absolutely delicious as was the stuffing and cranberry sauce. Everything thing else was quite satisfactory as well. However, as no one ate any desert I find myself alone with two pies, not a very good situation. Ah, well, Thanksgiving only comes once a year. By the end of the evening I was exhausted but content. But I am not going to repeat my success any time soon. I shall merely rest on my laurels and retire from a competition I know I cannot possibly win.

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