For the past few years, I’ve been the one to cook the holiday meals. My mother is getting too old to do it and she’s a stubborn old broad who has needed knee replacement surgery for at least 5 years now but refuses to do it so I won’t allow her to spend a day continuously on her feet cooking. Honestly, I don’t mind and actually enjoy it. I generally make at least one big meal a week anyway, especially each Sunday during football season. Thanksgiving however is not as much fun as my regular cooking adventures because of my mother’s strict adherences to how things are supposed to be.

Thanksgiving dinner across the US is pretty standardized. Usual requirements are turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce along with maybe yams and some veggies. My mother takes this to heart and despite my yelling at her not to do anything, she still makes a lot of these things and she makes them the way they’re “supposed to be” made. This has always been a common spark for arguments growing up, my mother’s laundry list of how things are “supposed to be”. Anyway, this also extends to how the turkey must be. It must be seasoned traditionally with “Simon & Garfunkle” (my term for the classic poultry seasoning team of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) and come with a very bland gravy. After getting chastised for “improper” cookings before, I did the traditional thing this year only I made my own gravy, one that I think was phenomenal. I sauteed finely minced onion and garlic in butter, then added flour to make a roux which I cooked further until it got a bit darker than peanut butter. I then slowly stirred in some stock, added some salt and pepper plus some Simon & Garfunkle and there ya go. Yummy. I brought my turkey and gravy to my mother’s only to have her turn her nose up at this gravy, preferring instead some nasty ass gravy she made from a mix.

Ok, so in the days following Thanksgiving, culminating with today, we enjoy our Thanksgiving. My wife, frightened by leftovers from my mom such as yams in a butter and brown sugar sauce that would shock Paula Dean with it’s artery clogging buttery madness. She’s cleaned these things off and made a soup from them by pureeing them with some leftover mashed potatoes and stock. For me, it’s turkey. My mom got a free turkey at the supermarket so she gave it to me (which has become a new tradition each year) and today it’s getting cooked, and certainly not how it’s “supposed to be”. No Simon & Garfunkle today, my friends. No, today we’re cooking the bird the only way anything should be cooked on a very special high holy day (Chiefs battle their lifelong mortal enemies, the Oakland Raiders, at home at Arrowhead stadium today), by fire. Yes, I will be properly barbecuing this bird. It’s been quartered, brined, rubbed with a sweet and spicy dry rub reminiscent of caribbean jerk seasoning (allspice, onion powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and brown sugar) and now sits awaiting it’s time to go on the grill. An assortment of aromatic woods (mesquite, grape, sweet maple and apple) are soaking in preparation of imparting sweet, wondrous smoky goodness into the meat and a stock is being made on the stove from the extraneous parts (innards, neck and back). I believe I’ll make some sort of fruity sauce, perhaps with frozen raspberries and maybe mango with spiced rum and under the bird as it cooks I’ll have a pan of apple juice and cola which it’ll absorb along with the smoke.

So I mention all this today because it came to mind reading several postings online by decons talking about how they’re either still in the closet or at least still go through the motions of christian traditions for the sake of friends and loved ones. Although I don’t advocate the secrecy (I for one will not hold back telling my mother how much better this bird will be compared to Thursday’s traditional S&G bird), I do understand the need for and the annoyance of having to go through some of the motions. Now some of you may think my turkey plans today are just nutty. Maybe some are on board but are thinking mangoes suck. The point is don’t be afraid to experiment and explore options in your life. It is, after all, YOUR life, and contrary to what some believe, this is all you get. There’s nothing reasonable for thinking that you’re either going to get a “do over” or a have a “better” one once this one is over. So question how things are “supposed to be”, strike out on your own path and know there’s a much bigger world out there beyond god, Simon and Garfunkle waiting to be explored.

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26 Responses to “There’s More to Life Than Simon & Garfunkle”

  1. Your gravy recipe sounds great. I’ve always liked the Chiefs and hated the Raiders, so I’ll be cheering for your team. In the meantime, my Redskins have been getting beat up by the Buccaneers, but they’re starting to stand up for themselves.

  2. What a shit you are for not inviting your atheist friends to this feast. It sounds fantastic.

    I don’t even care about football, but because I’m so pissed off at you for not being included in your wondrous meal, I’m tempted to pray that the Chiefs lose. You do realize that the team whose fans talk in the most heartfelt manner to god always wins. So if the Chiefs blow it, you can blame your own atheism — and the fact that I’m not nibbling on that turkey right now.

  3. First off Ex, you’re a wanker for speaking sacrilege when you know you wouldn’t have come anyway. 2nd, I’m a wanker for breaking the age old superstition of offering the football gods poultry when their favor is needed. Any fool knows they prefer pork, and in my folly I scorned the gods and paid the price. Argh!!!

    Of course this season is meaningless and they’d best be served with a crappy record and better draft picks for next year, so maybe the gods are smiling upon my feast. The football gods move in mysterious ways.

    Chaplain, I’m sympathetic to the plight of the Redskins because they have our old OC, Saunders.

    btw, best turkey ever! ;)

  4. “because of my mother’s strict adherences to how things are supposed to be.”

    My aunt is excessive when it comes to this. Unfortunately, my whole family falls for the “traditional, like it’s supposed to be” fallacy.

    I’m with you. I love to experiment. If you do nothing more than tweak the recipe a bit, it’s a nice change.

    But your turkey dinner sounds great. I have a Cambodian friend who deep-fries it every year. That sounds good to me. I’d love to try a deep-fried turkey sometime.

    Really sorry about the Chiefs today. I’m with The Chaplain, and am an avid Raider-Hater. That blown field goal from 33 yards out was a killer.

    Please cook the pig next year.

  5. On NPR this morning they were talking about the real thanksgiving dinner. According to the comentator they had eels on the menu along with a lot of other sea food. I relayed this intelligenc to my mother, She said it couldn’t be true, it wasn’t in the history books that way.

    My wife feels that the present “correct” tradition is much, much more to her taste. If eel was ‘traditional’ we’d have lassagna.

  6. If I didn’t have the free bird, today’s menu would have been pork. Oh well. Next week definitely pork shoulder. I prefer the ones you see at the supermarket shaped like a football already. Kinda apropo, no? Clearly a sign from the football gods when you see a nice one at the store.

    I love unagi (Japanese broiled eel). I’ve never had any other kind of eel though. I’d try colonial era eel. I wonder how they cooked it. I remember hearing about indentured servants revolting in NE because they were fed nothing but lobster. Sounds sad, huh? Actually, the last time I was in Maine I had lobster for 4 days straight and, well, it’s very high in protein and when you eat a lot of protein, uhm, well good luck to those around you.

    I’ve spent the better part of my life challenging the ways things are “supposed to be”. I guess it’s in my blood, much to the dismay of my mother.

    Oh yeah, kickers suck. :(

  7. If you were to ask my kids which Thanksgiving meal they liked the best, they’d say it was the year their mother said fuck turkey-we’re having steak. So we had steak with sauteed mushrooms and steamed asparagus. We did have pumpkin pie, but it was only because we all love it.

  8. When I was a boy, I couldn’t stand turkey. (I’m still not fond of it unless it’s well disguised with tons of other flavorings, as Philly’s must have been.)

    Anyway, my Eastern European great-aunt always made me a private little pot of stuffed cabbage. The stuffing was chopmeat, rice, and raisins, and the sauce had plenty of ginger and sugar. So fuck the Pilgrims; I still think of that as the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

    I can’t see the President of the United States “pardoning” a cabbage, though.

  9. It would have been a better thanks giving if the Cheifs would have bear the Raiders, but I guess we have to let them win once in a while so they dont become despondant.

  10. I know a gentleman from Philly (the city, not our good host) who is of Italian lineage, and he scandalizes the other Italian Americans in our area by wanting “gravy” for his spaghetti instead of sauce when at a dinner or some such. Oh, it’s the same thing, just what they called it in his neighborhood. And yet, just the word distresses his co-italoamericans.

  11. Sarge, some of us ItalioAmericans just dont like sauce on our spagetti. It has way too much acid content and I usually get my chi way out of line and get acni and sometimes even a cold if I eat too much of it. Same thing happens with chocolate.

  12. Ah, the gravy vs sauce battle. It’s pretty silly. My family is a bit unusual. How often do you hear of Italian protestants from South Philly? Anyway, I believe you could have a demarkation line at whether there’s meat. No meat = sauce, meat = gravy. Still, we call it sauce regardless. When my mother makes a sauce, it’s a big pot with cuts of pork, beef and lamb. She’s never made one of these fancy, “sexy” sauces you see on tv being made in a pan in like 5 minutes.

    My mother also puts some sugar in the sauce to counter the bitterness and acidity of the tomatoes. This is another point of contention among Italians in America. I had two roommates in college, one Italian one not. We each brought food from home from time to time. His mother was of the no sugar camp. Nasty sauce. I felt validated when our non-Italian roommate agreed. There’s a lot of bickering about what’s proper or better Italian cooking, but I think it pales in comparison to what I’ve seen on tv about the old country. Each town there seems to have a distinctive style and if you deviate in any way from that, it’s like a hanging offense.

    I, like most Italians, have a great deal of trouble ordering anything with a red sauce in an Italian restaurant. First off, I almost never go to an Italian restaurant because they usually aren’t good enough but for an Italian, usually, no one makes sauce better than their momma.

    Oh, one last thing – sauce in a jar is bullshit. That Giada chick on tv (you know, the perky little bimbo with the excessive smile and cute cleavage) is about as Italian as Jesse Jackson. Sauce from a jar! You can stop right there, cupcake. Mario Battali is good (and if I didn’t take care of myself I’d probably look just like him) but the best on tv is Lydia on PBS.

  13. Being a Brit, and therefore not celebrating thanksgiving, I guess this is none of my business. But then, somehow turkey has become the staple of the British Christmas dinner, thanks to some god-awfully clever marketing back in the day, and personally, I hate it. I think my family only had a turkey once, and then declared it to be a particularly unpleasant meat and stuck with chicken, or that old (and genuinely traditional) standard, goose. It boggles my mind why anyone would actually eat turkey unless there was literally nothing else kill-worthy around, considering how disgustingly dry it is.

  14. …considering how disgustingly dry it is.

    Oh my dear, you’ve never had it done right. You have no idea how many times I hear things like that and about a wide variety of things, not just turkey. Americans seem to really hate fish for example. You, as a Brit, probably don’t. This is another thing we make for people who instantly change their opinions.

    The picture I posted was turkey from last year, but this year’s looked pretty similar. It looks bone dry but when I sliced it and when it was bitten into, juice ran out everywhere. Critical steps to take:
    1) Brine it first
    2) Cook with sufficient liquid in a pan under it (as it cooks, it’ll absorb the steam)
    3) Cook low and slow

    If you ever make it across the pond, I’ll change your mind about turkey and perhaps a few other foods you might think you hate. ;)

    I grew up hating steak. My mother would fry it in a pan until you could make shoes out of it. The first time I had a proper steak, I almost cried. I’ll make you a steak that’ll ruin you forever, where every steak afterwards will merely be sad reminders of how damn good the steak you had at my house was. Anyone in the area wishing to test my boast, you’re welcome to come over.

  15. I have to admit that I’ve become lazy. I use Classico mushroom and basil when I make pasta, but not stock or as is. I trick it up quite a bit. I find it is a great base for fresh garlic and fresh (or dried Basil) A little tomato paste and then a little Cabernet to loosen it back up. I think it is just as good as the sauce I create from scratch and it takes about 10 min.

  16. I remember one day I was making chile for my wife to take to work for a contest they have once a year. I was especially sensative to the acid content, but I forgot that a little sugar would counteract that, so I put of all things baking soda (only a small teaspoon)in it and soon had not only a very alkaline chile, but it was all over the stove top. A lesson learned.

  17. Some of my aunts use 3 brothers I think. I’ll grant some leeway for people over 80. If you’re not over 80 and using a jar, you’re, as my wife would say in her mock Asian accent “a razy American”. ;)

    I don’t know what to tell you if you have a sensitive stomach. We generally make spicy food. Chili is one of those things that requires heat. One thing though to remember whenever making spicy food is white pepper is your friend. A lot of people, especially when making buffalo wings, just dump hot sauce in. Most hot sauce is cayenne based and cayenne attacks your tongue and scorches everything, including your tastebuds. White pepper waits until it hits the back of your throat to kick in.

  18. I love hot foods, but it’s important to know this one trick, when you get caught with a four-alarmer:

    Do not drink water. It will only make your mouth — front or back — feel hotter. Both beer and milk contain ingredients that ease the hotness. Of course, I choose beer.

    Beer’s pepper-fighting ability may help explain why so many of the world’s hottest cuisines are most often accompanied by a tall glass of suds.

  19. I don’t think what most Americans drink would help, since it’s practically water.

    My initiation to the world of hot wasn’t nice. My first “real job” was at Popeye’s, which is a fast food chain in the US serving fried chicken and some southern food. Anyway, you can order a jalapeno pepper as a side. A whole one. So my first day, this huge guy walked up munching on one (he was already fully immune to them) and offered me one asking, “you like sweet peppers?” At the time I had no idea what a jalapeno was and I certainly didn’t want to reject what I thought was a friendly offer on my first day so I took it and chomped on it. You can imagine what happened next. Of course then to “help” me, I got offered soda after soda since that only helps the heat burn more.

    It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I learned what Ex just said. Where were you 22 years ago, pal?

  20. Where were you 22 years ago, pal?

    Probably sitting around someplace, having a beer. I like ‘em even when I don’t eat hot food.

  21. What do you recommend for us non-beer drinkers? Will wine help? Chardonnay or Shiraz? Anything but Zinfandel!

  22. Wine would probably make it worse due to it’s acidity. You’re probably left with milk or if you want an adult beverage, try a Bailey’s or Kaluha maybe.

  23. chaplain, Philly:

    There are some — I’m not among them, but don’t necessarily go by my taste — who recommend Gewurztraminer for spicy foods. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gewurz with any kind of wursts or German dishes in general. And it makes great sippin’ just by itself. But I’d much rather have beer with something fiery.

    If you do decide to try Gewurztraminer with spicy food, or even without it, don’t go with one of those cheapy California wines. Get yourself a real Alsatian and sip away.

  24. DaVinci said: It would have been a better thanks giving if the Cheifs would have bear the Raiders, but I guess we have to let them win once in a while so they dont become despondant.

    Funny, but despondant Raiders fans make me really happy! There’s nothing better than seeing the Raiders getting beaten at home with all the Darth Raider costumes sulking at the end of the field! Hilarious.

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