Last Piece Of Pie Lament

It was a fine Thanksgiving holiday, marked by good food, good company, and another glorious win over That Team Up North.  But as the weekend drew to a close, one last piece of culinary temptation remained, to remind me of one of my weaknesses:  I’m helpless in the presence of pumpkin pie.

Last Piece Of Pie Lament

O get thee gone, last piece of pie!

I can’t resist you and I don’t know why!

I’ve gobbled taters, stuffing and turkey

So much the details seem quite murky.

Yet still with you temptation remains

And once more my willpower strains.

Is it the spice, or the moistened crust

That reduces my resolve to dust?

Or the sweet memory of pies gone by

That causes the impulse I can’t deny?

Whate’er it is, I know I’ll succumb

And have to finish every crumb.

You’ve won again, and your crusty ilk

So now I’ll eat you with a glass of milk. 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Every Thanksgiving, I tend to think of childhood celebrations and family members who are no longer with us.  Uncle Tony, for example, liked the heart and liver that used to come with the turkey (which struck us kids as pretty disgusting, incidentally), so they would be cooked and set out separately for him.  Dad had a cool bone-handled carving set which featured an enormous knife and knife sharpener, which he would scrape together to make sure that the knife was as sharp as possible for the crucial turkey carving step.  And Mom liked to put little wax candles at every place settings — pilgrim boys and girls in their pilgrim garb, and these little wax turkeys, which were my favorite.

I suppose Thanksgiving is all about enjoying family memories.  May you and yours create some fine new memories today!

When Do You Eat?

Most families have their own unique Thanksgiving Day traditions.  Sometimes the traditions come in the form of a special food — like Aunt Sue’s candied yams, or Uncle Frank’s oyster stuffing — but other traditions may involve who gives thanks, who sits in which seat at the table, and who carves the turkey.  One tradition that often differs from family to family is:  when do you eat the primary meal?

us-thanksgiving-me_3510533aI say “primary meal” because, in our household, Thanksgiving Day typically involved pretty much uninterrupted eating, from stem to stern.  There was the initial breakfast period, followed by the light grazing period, the heavy grazing period, the meal itself, and finally the irresistible post-meal, belt-loosened extra piece of pumpkin pie or leftover turkey sandwich while watching the last football game of the day.  So, just to clarify, here I’m talking about the table-groaning meal where you actually sit down together, eat the freshly carved turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and a few rolls, and take a slice of the cranberry relish that still is in the form of a can because somebody has to do it.

In our family the primary Thanksgiving meal came at roughly 4 p.m., depending on whether the turkey was done.  The meal was strategically positioned between the end of the first football game broadcast and when the next game started to get interesting.  At our house, that timing of the meal was so deeply engrained that it never occurred to me that you could eat your Thanksgiving meal in any other time slot.  When I later realized that some people ate at noon, or 2, or (horrors!) 6:30, it was an astonishing revelation.  And I often wondered how you could move the meal and still fit in the other parts of the Thanksgiving Day festivities, like watching the parades, the various grazing periods, the backyard touch football game, and the evening card games.

So, when do you eat?  And if you doubt that the timing of that primary Thanksgiving meal is a tradition, ask yourself why you eat when you do.  If your honest answer is a shrug and the response that you’ve always eaten at that time, that sounds like a family tradition to me.

When Christmas Comes Early

Normally I hate the too-early anticipation of the Christmas season.  When I  walked past a Starbucks this week and saw that the outdoor sign was advertising all of the sugary Christmas concoctions, I groaned.  When I walked past St. Mary Church and saw that they were setting up the Christmas tree holders for their annual Christmas tree sale, I groaned  again.  And when I saw that the Hausfrau Haven was selling egg nog, I groaned still more — and also felt a little sick to my stomach at the thought of the coating, cloying taste of egg nog, because I really don’t like egg nog.

IMG_9059In my book, Christmas shouldn’t be anticipated until Thanksgiving is over, period.  I know that some people can’t resist jumping the gun, and have already started listening to Christmas music. wearing red sweaters with reindeer on them and watching the saccharine Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, but I’m not one of them.

I do make one exception to my no Christmas before Thanksgiving rule, however.  If I see that Great Lakes Christmas Ale is for sale, I’ll always pick up a six pack, whether Thanksgiving has passed or not.  The Great Lakes Brewing Company can be depended on to brew a high-quality, spicy, holiday ale that Old Fezziwig would have loved.  I picked up some of this year’s batch yesterday, and it’s excellent — packed with flavor and a little holiday dash, besides.  After savoring a bottle, I felt more in the Christmas mood already.  Hey — when is the first showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, anyway?

If you like a seasonal brew, I highly recommend this year’s edition of Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  But be forewarned: consistent with the generous spirit of the holidays, it comes in at 7.5% alcohol by volume.  Pace yourself, or you might not be able to finish trimming the tree.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

This Thanksgiving, I’m especially thankful for:

• My wonderful wife;

• The good health and good spirits of my family and friends;

• A fine Thanksgiving meal with family that will be (hopefully) without any trace of rancorous political arguments;

• Being free from the want, worry, and oppression that troubles so much of the world;

• The many excellent books, films, and TV shows I’ve enjoyed this year, and the creative spirits who produced them;

• The opportunity to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes break more than a few Michigan Wolverine hearts this Saturday;

• The kind words I’ve received from faithful readers of this blog;

• That pre-Thanksgiving piece of pumpkin pie I snuck last night; and

• This chance to count my blessings on a chilly but peaceful Thanksgiving morning while drinking a hot cup of coffee and listening to some baroque music.

May everyone celebrate a similarly long list of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Turkey On The Road

With Thanksgiving only two days away, many Americans are bracing themselves.  They know that, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, or maybe — God forbid! — on Thanksgiving itself, they will hop into a car and try to drive to Grandma’s house through the gnarliest, most soul-crushing gridlock imaginable.

1009114412-turkey-klein-14-1260x800The venerable American Automobile Association is predicting that this will be the worst Thanksgiving travel week ever — which is really saying something.  The AAA forecasts that 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes this Thanksgiving, which is almost five percent higher than last year.  And if you’re one of those lucky  travelers who lives in a select American city, the AAA is even offering guidance on which route at which time will encounter the heaviest traffic and the longest delays.  According to the AAA, for example, if you leave San Francisco between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday and take I-680 north, you can expect 4 times the normal travel time between exits 8 and 21.  In most cities, the worst delays are expected to occur today, between 5:30 and 7 p.m.

Over the years Kish and I have occasionally traveled around the Thanksgiving holidays, and we’ve always deeply regretted it.  The worst incident occurred when we tried to drive from Columbus to Vermilion one Thanksgiving Day and got stuck in a massive traffic jam on I-71, which was like a parking lot.  It took hours to inch along, and when we finally arrived nobody had the placid, Pilgrim-like calm you hope to achieve on Thanksgiving.  If I recall correctly, the pre-meal backyard football game that year was a tad more aggressive than usual.

This year, I’m extremely thankful that I’m not driving anywhere outside of Columbus.  For those of you who will be on the road — well, good luck.

Now Comes Michigan Week

Most Americans think of this as Thanksgiving week, when it’s time to give thanks, embrace our common humanity, and be generous to our fellow man.

Not so in Buckeye Nation. As soon as Ohio State eked out an overtime win over a feisty Maryland team yesterday, Ohio State fans breathed a sigh of relief, wondered what in the hell happened to the Ohio State defense this year, and then immediately thought: “It’s Michigan Week.”

Michigan Week used to be the week before Thanksgiving week, but a few years ago the Big Ten changed the schedule and moved The Game to the Saturday after Turkey Day. I wish they hadn’t, because bloodthirsty thoughts don’t fit comfortably into the expected Thanksgiving mindset. Before, Buckeye fans could hope to kick the ass of That Team Up North, watch The Game, and then after the violent clash ended shift gradually into pleasant, huggy Thanksgiving mode. Now we think about breaking Michigan hearts right up to the point the turkey gets carved, piously give thanks while we’re really pondering crushing tackles and Statue of Liberty plays, and then after the plates have been cleared abruptly return to full Michihate mode for the remaining hours leading up to the tilt with the Maize and Blue.

It’s jarring, to say the least. But hey — it’s Michigan Week!

Three More Things to Be Thankful For

We all have things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The above photo, taken by a news helicopter last night, and the accompanying news story about the worst holiday traffic jam in SoCal history made me realize that I have three more things to be thankful for than I was even aware of:

1.  I’m not stuck in a car on “the 405,” breathing exhaust fumes and trapped forever in angry, soul-deadening gridlock.

2.  I don’t have to drive to some faraway location this Thanksgiving.  In fact, I may not need to drive at all.

3.  I don’t live in southern California.  Sorry, all you people out in LA and thereabouts:  I just don’t see how you can stand the traffic.  What passes for a traffic jam in Columbus would be viewed as a pretty good day on Golden State freeways.

 

The Week Of The Game

In most of America, people woke up this morning, rubbed their hands over their sleep-filled eyes, and wondered aloud that it could be Thanksgiving Week already.

Not so in Buckeye Nation.  Sure, we know there is some minor holiday on Thursday featuring turkey, stuffing, family arguments about politics, and appalling overeating — but our real focus is on next Saturday, when Ohio State takes on That Team from Up North in the latest annual incarnation of The Game.

This year’s version of The Game promises to be a humdinger.  Both Ohio State and Michigan have ten wins, both are ranked in the top five nationally, and both harbor hopes of being selected to be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoffs.  The Buckeyes have had an up-and-down season that has seen them crush some teams and squeak by others.  Yesterday’s nail-biter against a rugged Michigan State squad fell into the latter category.  That Team from Up North, on the other hand, has been a lot more consistent in thrashing just about everyone they’ve faced.  Both teams have one loss, but Ohio State’s defeat, to Penn State, means the Buckeyes don’t control their own destiny in their bid to win the Big Ten championship.  Michigan can get to the Big Ten title game by beating the Buckeyes, but if Ohio State wins it has to hope that those same Michigan State Spartans who gave the Buckeyes such a tough time yesterday can beat Penn State.

Regardless of the Big Ten title game implications, this will be the most eagerly anticipated Ohio-State-Michigan showdown since 2006, when the Buckeyes and Wolverines were ranked 1 and 2 going into The Game.  Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh may be quirky — OK, downright weird — but the guy obviously can coach.  In two years, he’s turned around the Michigan program and has Wolverines playing with swagger and toughness, especially on defense.  Ohio State, on the other hand, has to figure out which team will show up on Saturday — the one that has been almost unstoppable offensively, or the one that struggles to score and finds itself trying to hang on by its fingernails come the fourth quarter.  Members of Buckeye Nation are hoping it’s the former.

So bring on The Game.  Oh, and on Thursday throw me a turkey leg, willya?

Lights Out

One of the nagging questions this time of year is:  when should you put out and turn on any outdoor holiday lights?

Because I’m about as clumsy as they come when it comes to ladder work, and I don’t really want to risk any broken bones for the sake of a festive lighting display, we use a service that hangs the outdoor lights for us.  They came this week, strung the lights, and we are ready to go — but lighting the house before Thanksgiving seems way too early to me. So, the outer lights remain off, and will stay that way until Thansgiving weekend.

However, the lights around the ceiling of our screened-in porch, that only Kish and I see, are on. We feel like we could use some early holiday cheer.

Family Time

   

 It’s Thanksgiving, the quintessential holiday for American families.  
It’s a holiday where each family tends to develop its own rich trove of traditions.  Maybe it’s a family football game before or after the feast.  Maybe it’s a particular food, like Aunt Gertrude’s oyster stuffing or cranberry sauce still maintaining the shape of the can from which it came, sliced to produce red hockey pucks.  Maybe it’s the rickety, riotous “kid’s table” where everyone under the age of 30 has to sit because the real dining room table can’t accommodate the whole clan.

But one of the biggest and most closely held traditions has to do with time — as in, when do you sit down for your meal?  Newly married couples learn to their astonishment that not every family eats at the same time.  Some people eat at noon, right after the parades end.  Some people eat at four, squeezing the meal in between the football games on TV.  So the newly married couple might eat two meals, one with each family, until they start to establish their own traditions.

I’ve never heard of anyone waiting until a more standard dinner time — say, 7 p.m. — to eat their turkey.    By then, most of us are chowing a cold turkey sandwich, pounding down a second piece of pumpkin pie, and groaning at our gluttony.

Wherever you are, and whenever you eat, Happy Thanksgiving!

Double Oven Dreams

Lately, when I go into our kitchen, I am drawn to the shiny, aluminum-clad appliance in the far corner, next to the outside wall.  I look at it, and think about possibilities.  Happy, hopeful, heated, holiday possibilities.

It’s the double oven, of course.

IMG_7516_2A double oven may not be a big deal for those who’ve always had  one, but I’m not in that category.  I’ve only had a single oven, which has been . . . sufficient.  There aren’t many times when you really need two ovens.  But the holiday season is one of those times.  And now, with Thanksgiving only two days away and the Christmas cookie season right behind it, I think of what I might be able to accomplish with deft use of the double oven.

For Thanksgiving, the benefits of a double oven are obvious.  The turkey can be cooking away in one oven, perhaps with one or two other dishes, and the other oven can be used for warming pies, candied yams, rolls, a green bean casserole, and on and on.  No more desperate attempts at oven space management, trying to jam every course into the nooks and crannies around the turkey in a doomed bid to get everything hot and ready to serve at the same time.  In short, the double oven affords the luxury of ample space.

For Christmas cookie baking, the potential benefits are different.  The double oven should allow me to maximize efficiency and eliminate the down times, when I’ve got a sheet of cookies ready to bake but I’m waiting for those in the oven to finish.  I look at the shiny aluminum facing and I think of Dutch spice cookies turning a rich golden brown in the top oven as I’m loading a tray of Cranberry hootycreeks into the bottom unit.  An efficiency expert would undoubtedly be able to calculate how much time I might save by deft use of the double oven options.  It will require careful planning and sequencing, of course, but I’m eager to tackle the challenge.

And now I wonder — do I have enough counter space for all of these cookies?