Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving is probably, most definitely the absolute greatest holiday ever. An entire holiday dedicated to eating! It’s not religious, so it doesn’t make me feel awkward for pretending to be, or rather for not being, religious myself, and although I guess I could feel awkward about what Americans (colonists?) did to the Native Americans way back when, none of my family was in America at that time. And anyway, what my ancestors did is not what I did. Plus why search for something to feel awkward about when you could be stuffing yourself with a turkey and 5 different kinds of pies?

The other part of Thanksgiving is, of course, all about family, which I also think is great. The thought of gizillions of families all over the country stopping (For An Entire Day!) to share a meal together and keep traditions going and creating new ones. This is a nice thought.

My family, like all families, is crazy.

However, I would venture to say that my family is crazier than most. I have 2 older half-brothers in their 30s, a brother just a few years older than me, a younger half sister, 13, and 2 younger half-brothers, 11 and 7. We’re all close, but it’s a mess whenever we get together.

Thanksgiving weekend started with my oldest half-brother, his wife, and their two kids, our aunt, and me squishing into a van in NYC around 7 on Wednesday night, the day before Thanksgiving, to get to our Dad’s place in Pennsylvania. I was nervous about leaving Wednesday night in the first place, because it’s the biggest travel day of the year. We made it over the George Washington Bridge just fine, but then my half-brother stealthily decided that we would take the local route on 80 West instead of the express and 5 minutes later we were somehow extraordinarily lost in the depths of New Jersey.

An hour later we were still lost, and were stopping for snacks, still about 10 minutes from Manhattan and no closer to Pennsylvania. By the power of some miracle, though, we ended up making great time once we finally located the highway we were supposed to be on, and arrived just after midnight, about 8 hours before my predicted arrival time (which factored in other possible unintended detours...).

Thursday morning, my half-sister, and I were put on potato-peeling duty. After we finished, we counted the potatoes.

13. This wasn’t going to feed 23 people.

I promoted myself to Mashed Potato Master and promptly sent out the troops to get more potatoes. An hour later, we had 10 more pounds of potatoes and I was satisfied.


Natalya’s Mashed Potatoes

(feeds at least 23 people, but most likely closer to 40...)

15 pounds of potatoes, peeled
1 pint of milk (or you could do half a pint of milk and half a pint of cream)
1 stick of butter
1 cup sour cream (optional)
lots of salt and white pepper to taste (white pepper to blend with the white mashed potatoes)

Boil potatoes in salty water until they’re well done. Drain the water. Use a potato masher to do the initial mashing. Add the butter and stir. Put milk/cream on the stove, warm until just before boiling, stirring to keep bottom from burning. Pour some of the hot milk over the crushed potatoes and blend with a hand mixer. Keep adding milk and mix until creamy. Add sour cream if wanted. Then put in lots of salt and white pepper and mix it up, tasting it until you’re satisfied. It’s a good idea to leave it a little less salty than you like it so people who want more salt can add it themselves. It’s a nice touch to put some butter on top when you serve it. It melts and looks yummy.


The place was a madhouse. The 5 kids were running around, playing video games, screaming at the screen, revving each other up. Then my step-mom’s side of the family arrived, and suddenly there were 4 babies under the age of one and about 10 more adults to add to the mix.

Luckily, there was more than enough food to go around: plentiful amounts of turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, corn casserole, yams with marshmallows, beans, rolls, cranberry jelly, cranberry sauce, and of course, mashed potatoes.

Once a year.

Once a year, there’s that wonderful abundance of food and then eventually the feeling where you KNOW if you take one more bite, you’ll burst. Once a year, we indulge, eat ourselves sick.

Come time to eat, I was starving, and so, so very excited. I dug in.

It was all over too quickly, but it was amazing. Everything was awesome: I love the combination of all of the different flavors, sweet yams with salty mashed potatoes, tangy cranberry sauce with tender turkey... I had to fight to finish the last bites and knew that if there was any way I was going to be able to tackle desert, which was approaching rapidly, something drastic had to be done.

My post-dinner, pre-desert solution:

I woke up to someone yelling, "the pies are out!"
I was ready for battle. My step-mother’s mother is a pie expert. I’ve never seen a meringue so perfect as the one on her lemon meringue pie. When I mentioned it to her, her entire family went, "Uh-oh don’t get her started!" Apparently, one Thanksgiving about 30 years ago, her meringues were truly perfect and she’s been striving to get them back to the same consistency ever since. She showed me the meringues on her chocolate and coconut cream pies and showed me how they were weeping and had shrunk back a little from the edge. She thought it had something to do with the dairy in those two pies, and had tried all different kinds of recipes over the years to rediscover the perfect merengue, to no avail.

I thought they were wonderful, though. There was blueberry, chocolate, pumpkin, apple, lemon merengue, and coconut cream, all of them wonderful. Plus cupcakes from Crumbs that my brother had brought with him from NYC (which are awesome cause all of them have a hole in the middle with extra icing or topping). It was all absolutely incredible and tasty.

After desert, I couldn’t move. I had to lay on the couch for an hour before I could sit upright. This can’t have been healthy. It wasn’t. But once a year, right?
Thanksgiving dinner had been around 2 and even at 7 that evening, I thought I would most likely never eat another bite for the rest of my life. My step-mom’s family had to leave to get to another thanksgiving dinner (how they managed ANOTHER one is beyond me), and the ones who were left decided to play charades. We had spent about half an hour writing down prompts to play charades with, when somebody said, "I’m hungry".

This one statement caused the whole family, all 12 of us, to drop the charades game in its tracks and an entirely new round of eating commenced. Somehow I found myself putting together the first Thanksgiving leftover sandwich of the season, when, an hour earlier, I thought I would never eat again. Funny how that happens.


Open faced Left-over Thanksgiving Sandwich

1 piece cinnamon bread, toasted
green beans
cranberry sauce

I’m writing this down because the choice to use cinnamon bread, in combination with the other leftovers was awesome, it’s definitely one of the best Left-Over Thanksgiving Sandwiches I’ve had.

I slept forever that night, soundly on my blow-up camping mattress on the floor of my Dad’s living room. My body needed me to be unconscious to digest all the wonderful food I’d put into it.
Once a year indeed!

1 comment:

Tima said...

Wish I had been there!! Sounds perfect indeed!