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.