Thursday, November 27, 2008

blogging a Thanksgiving away in D.C.

Well why not. Why not create a diary of a day (updates will be added periodically to the bottom of this post). For the lighter Ocean post that deals with the singular issues that arise when you prepare food in someone else’s (spartan) kitchen.

6:50: I’m up. They’re not (“they” refers, throughout, to my wee family that has come from various Midwest places and from Boston to eat together on this day). This is a good thing. It’ll be a while before I get breakfast going. Advance prep failed last night, as I had energy to bake only part one of the required items (“required” refers, throughout, to the “you can’t possibly leave that off the menu!” items, in this case -- the spice cake).

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Molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg... I forgot to bring the allspice and cloves and believe me, no one will notice, as it's a densly aromatic little thing already. Great with morning coffee. Or afternoon tea. Comes from a ripped page of a cookbook. Don't know which cookbook.

7:15: Sunrise over Whole Foods. (I'm staying across the street from one. Bail out for when things start to go wrong.) No good photo to offer, but today isn't about good photos. You get the "whatever" part of a day.

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8:45: Apple puff pastries done and ready to bake. Good thing. The crew is stirring. To add insult to the Thanksgiving breakfast table, there is a Starbucks next door. Don’t need to give up on a morning espresso. Will bring a few up for us. Total indulgence. Supporting the neighborhood economy.

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9:20: All’s ready. Yes, with bacon at the side. This breakfast is all about good kitchen smells. In the morning, people can forgive a lot of food mistakes, so long as things smell good.

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11:25: Well, I took a little pause. Couldn’t really bring out the bird yet, felt a little like slacking. Perhaps this was not wise. Bird in fridge, dinner off schedule. One of the diners has a flight to catch tonight so there’s no margin for error.

When you can’t quite focus on the main meal yet, it’s good to do the cranberries. Easy. Colorful. Essential. Think how blaaah the colors of Thanksgiving table would be without the berries.

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1:15: Turkey is in the oven. Does every cook feel relief when this is accomplished? I needed to bake the cornmeal muffins before and we had issues with the herbs wilting overnight, but all that is less troubling than the sight of the raw bird on the counter when you know it should be turning golden in a hot oven.

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And what is the weirdest component of the meal? Easy. The cornmeal muffins. By the time I was at the grocery store yesterday they were out of yellow cornmeal. But they had the blue stuff. So there will be lavender blue muffins with red cranberries in pink and yellow muffin papers. A real treat for those loving the pastel look at Thanksgiving.

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But, the turkey stock is bubbling the collard greens for the mushroom bundles are wilting and I have a helper to peel and chop the squash. Life is good.

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5:30: And so there you have it. The meal. Moments of doubt – too many wild mushrooms! No, too few! And the smoking turkey. And the need to bake the mushroom bundles when there wasn’t an inch of space in the oven. And so much roasted garlic for the potatoes, and this and that and then it all comes together and you feel so gratified!

It’s a blur of images, flying, one after another, served on a table cloth that has been in my family since I was a little kid in Poland, finished off by pumpkin souffl├ęs. By 6:45 we were done, the dishwasher was on and the departing party departed.

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What a beautiful day!

Thank you.