November is a Turkey.
A fickle creature who hides in the background for most of the year and then suddenly starts running around ubiquitously, flaunting all sorts of colorful, once-hidden feathers, fattening itself - and you - up for a closely-guarded and fiercely-defended couple of weeks a year. One day it's Halloween, all pumpkins and skeletons, and the next there's flocks of surprisingly nimble birds with a waddle wreaking havoc on rural roads while subconsciously also conjuring images of crispy roast skin and giblet gravy to go a-dancing sugar-plum-style inside our little heads. The world seems to, overnight, go into orange-yellow-red-and-brown overdrive. The trees are holding on for dear life and yet screaming with colors you would otherwise swear couldn't exist in nature (at least not on "dying" leaves anyway) and it's sensory overload with the crunching and raking of leaves and the howling of the dry autumn wind and the herds of squirrels hoarding acorns and chestnuts for the winter to come. There is no desert here (well, technically there is) - and Roman seems perfectly happy to allow himself to be overwhelmed and full submerged into the many splendid colors of this cozy month, leaving Abu Dhabi full and firmly in the past.
I must admit the whole thing is paradoxically nostalgic for me. I grew up Mexican in a place where the leaves go from green to dead in a month's time. Nothing pretty about it. And the last Thanksgiving we had was in a desert where we were outnumbered by Brits, Kiwis and Arabs and it was probably 80 degrees outside (no trees there, for the record). And yet, to me, November is always, absolutely, a Turkey.
This year we are hosting Matt's parents at our house for Thanksgiving. I am so excited - and not because this is the first time I'll be cooking up a Turkey Day meal by myself, but because it's the first time I'll be doing it for Matt's family since we've always celebrated at his parents' house when we're in the States (if I wasn't at home). Matt's parents are excellent cooks and have sophisticated appreciation for good food, so the heat is on. And they also have the advantage that they are native New Englanders: there's just something so authentic and true about the way New Englanders cook Thanksgiving. It almost feels like a natural extension of the way they normally eat - as if the Pilgrims and Indians have breathed a special breath of true-ness to the food that grows and is eaten here.
I've had a lot of fun decorating the house for Thanksgiving, with a little help from Roman. I went cheesy and did the Thanksgiving Hand-Turkey with him one day as a craft project. I kept one for myself and sent one to the grandparents. Now I need to teach him to gobble and print out one of those color-your-own-Indian-feather-band things for the night-of. :)
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For my part, I've decided to go hardcore this year: I am buying a Turkey from a local Maine farm (Alewive's Brooks Farm in Cape Elizabeth) that grows them free-range. It's not a heritage bird or anything but they only raise 200 a year and, hey, at least it's a slight deviation (improvement?) from my usual grocery store Butterball. I'm interested to see if it really does taste better, especially given that it costs 5-times as much.
To make sure I don't ruin the bird, I am using my tried-and-tested method of religiously following Delia Smith's "Turkey Timeline." For those of you who don't know Delia, she is the British Julia Child. And even though her article is for Christmas Turkey (the Brits don't celebrate Thanksgiving, duh), it is such an easy, step-by-step timeline and ensures I am totally organized the day of. You can use her traditional recipes (I love the use of bacon rashers to keep the breast moist) or substitute your own recipe. Either way, it always works perfectly. Take note, newbies.
Otherwise, I'm attempting to do a combination of Southern and Northern classics with the menu. Here it is in theoretical form. We'll see how much I actually manage to pull off well but at least I know that nobody will go hungry on my watch. :)
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Homemade Pork Rilletes * (adapted the recipe) served with
Homemade Apricot & Sour Cherry Chutney* (adapted the recipe)
some stinkily delicious Pont L'Eveque
and some Raclette for good measure
Cocktails / Drinks:
Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey & Giblet Gravy
Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey & Giblet Gravy
Kentucky Corn Pudding (the not-so-secret "secret" recipe)
Texas Roadhouse Rolls (yeah buddy!) & copious amounts of their cinnamon butter
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever. Period.
*Asterisks denote recipes I've never tried before. Say a little prayer for me.