Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving Before and After

Well, as usual, I tried. And, as usual, Thanksgiving was a disappointment.

rutabaga and friendsI woke up at 8:36 AM after one of my usual late nights. There was a Mass at 9 AM, but for once, sleep seemed more important. I went back to sleep, and didn't wake again until my dad called at 11:30. We talked of Christmas and rutabagas and other things. Thanksgiving talk with Dad and Ruth: check! Adequate sleep: check! The day was off to a good start.

I'd been having second thoughts about using my navel orange as part of the turkey receipe, along with the fresh sage and parsley and baby carrots. I decided to just eat the orange as a substitute for Pillsbury orange rolls. This is one of those weird traditions nobody in the world follows except me. When I was a kid, we always baked orange rolls or orange danish for breakfast at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not this time. I was too late for the parades, but I watched Harry Potter special features on DVD (at John's insistance) and ate my orange while John cooked breakfast sausage and eggs.

Suddenly it was 2 PM, and I hadn't started cooking!  John washed the roasting pan and I did the rest. Once the turkey was in the oven, I took the picture of the veggies and tried to do a little blogging. But no--John insisted that I finish watching the Harry Potter disc so he could put it away. When that was over, I wanted to watch Hook, which we don't have on tape or DVD, but John wanted me to watch the Buffy Season Seven extras so we could put that away, too. Somewhere in there we had the inevitable holiday argument, but I set the veggies and giblets to cooking, and watched Buffage until it was time to mash the rutabagas and fake up the gravy.

The gravy was a problem. Doing the low carb thing, all I had to work with was pan drippings, two undercooked baby carrots, the giblets and a can of low fat chicken broth. I used the mixer, and when that didn't work I used the blender. Never having used this particular blender before, I didn't get the lid on as securely as it might had been. When I turned it on (John had it on the Off switch next to High, not the Off switch next to Low) the lid popped off and the hot not-quite-gravy went flying--onto my face, onto my glasses, into my hair, onto my newly-donned shirt and pants, all over the counter and into John's cup of vitamins.

It looked pretty nice, didn't it?John called in from his (home) office: "Karen...?"

I told him what had happened. "You may want to stay out of the kitchen for a few minutes to avoid the aggravation," I said.

He agreed.

I wasn't injured by the hot ungravy, so I cleaned up (I still have some in my hair, though), finished the blending and set the table. Here is the feast (such as it was) just before I called John in.

John had already announced that he'd gone back to low carb and would not be eating the root vegetables as planned, so all he had was turkey and not-gravy and green onions and undercooked carrots. Three hours cooking inside the bird with fresh parley wasn't enough for the carrots. I should have boiled or nuked them ahead of time. Oh, well. The rutabagas and sweet potatoes (which turned out to be pale yellow) were a little cold, and John said the outside of the white meat was dried out and overcooked. "Doesn't this seem to you like an awful lot of work...?" he asked.

looks more traditional than it is."For about ten minutes of eating?" I finished. "Well, yeah. But it's worth it."


"Because it's Thanksgiving dinner."

"But this isn't Thanksgiving dinner."

"Well, I got my turkey and my rutabagas, so I'm happy. Is there anything else I could have cooked that you could have eaten, given the restrictions you put on yourself?"

"No. There isn't."

Afterward, he ate lowfat cottage cheese with cinnamon, his substitute for ice cream or pie. I snuck into the fridge for the slice of pumpkin pie I bought myself last night at Boston Market. Don't tell John--shh!

John was also annoyed that I got his vitamins wet with the gravy incident, and stressed out generally by all the mess. "New rule. We never cook at Thanksgiving, ever again. We always eat out. It's easier."

"No, I can't agree to that," I said. I reminded him of the once-a-year holiday cooking compromise, and that he'd spent last Thanksgiving complaining about the cost of the meal out, that it wasn't worth it.

"Then we skip Thanksgiving," he suggested.

the aftermathHe doesn't understand why it's important to me. Truth to tell, I don't quite understand it myself. But even if the turkey is stuffed with undercooked carrots and the orange rolls are replaced with an orange, I'm still grabbing for whatever remnants of Thanksgiving tradition I can hang on to. Thirty years ago, the Funk family still ate Thanksgiving dinner together at that house in Manlius. The turkey was served on that platter Grandmother brought from Italy, the same one that John hates and I still use today. Everyone but me had creamed onions. After that it was turkey with sausage and raisin stuffing, rutabagas and mashed potatoes, gravy and dinner rolls, and maybe yams with marshmallows. Now I'm the only one who eats the raisin stuffing, the rutabagas, or the orange rolls for breakfast. But it's a connection, a tiny link to a time when a family cared about Thanksgiving and celebrated it together, part of a family life John never had as the son of an alcoholic divorcee.

So next year, I'll again cook turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, no matter how crabby John gets about the mess, no matter that nobody but me cares. Maybe in a way I'm torturing John, insisting on all these traditions that were never his. Maybe I'm torturing myself, trying for something I can never recapture. I will never have a child or grandchild to eat rutabagas with. Given his own dietary restrictions (not to mention Ruth's medically forbidden foods list), even my dad will probably never eat another rutabaga, even if we celebrate one of these holidays together.

But I'm going to cook and eat my turkey and rutabagas anyway. John's just going to have to live with his wife's weird hangups.



alphawoman1 said...

I think that at least one day (maybe two) (maybe three or four) one should not worry about their diets...I don't!!!Hahahahh.  Joe and I had Hot Browns for dinner, we thought this was okay since we ran the 10K in Louisville in the morning!  Also, our family dinner is on Sunday (as everyone in my family is married and spending the holiday with the spouses family) so my Mom makes it easy on all of us.  Joe's family is ill, so it was called off this year.  Bummer! So, we had Hot Browns...delicious...and the only real fattening thing I used was the cup of cheese! Traditions are wonderful....think we may have just started one!

ryanagi said...

Hmm. Am thinking Thanksgiving might be more fun if you invited some friends over to share mutual traditions. Extra hands to help with cooking and mess. We are free next Thanksgiving. LOL