It's been a glorious weekend in Central Ohio. It's gotten up to the mid-60s every day, and on Thanksgiving, the sky was impossibly, flawlessly blue, the color of television tuned to a dead channel.
Poor William Gibson. The guy writes one of the all-time great opening lines of a novel, probably the best in science fiction since "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time", and 10 years later, the metaphor's been broken by digital cable. Ah, sic transit somethingorother.
I'm pretty sure I stole this insight from Wil Wheaton sometime in the last few months. But Neil Gaiman hit on it in Neverwhere 10 years ago, so we're in good company.
Nice tangent. Where was I? Oh, Thanksgiving.
That perfect weather did make me long for the days of the Turkey Bowl. The year after we graduated high school, something like 35 of us reunited on the Good Counsel High School field for a game of pickup, full contact, no pads football. (An uncharitable person might refer to this as "criminal trespass.")
Full contact only lasted for a year or so, and we went to 2-hand touch. The group dwindled down as we went our separate ways. (The Best Turkey Bowl of all was '92 or '93, when my friend Chris was the only other one who showed up. He rolled down the window, threw the football to me, and said "good game, let's go to the Royal Mile Pub." He never cut the engine to his car.) Eventually, my friend Matt rolled Chris, Pat, and myself into his family's game. That was really all the high school reunion we needed anyway, and you can have some fun when the 60 year old quarterback is making completions to his 14 year old grandson (and all the guys pushing 30 are sucking wind).
The traditions are different now. For my folks, this was the first Thanksgiving none of the kids came home. They hosted some of my mom's family, and it sounds like they had a good time. For us, we had friends over, and discovered why Thanksgiving is the Holiday of the Traditional Casserole.
The nice thing about a traditional casserole is that you know how the recipe goes, and it only takes up oven space. Whereas if you think the New York Times had some interesting ideas and start trying new recipes, you can run out of burners on the stove real quick. And then there's a little stressing, and some raised voices, and lots of randomly standing smack in the center of the kitchen wondering just where the hell you're going to put this pot of boiled sweet potatoes.
Strangely enough, it all turns out well. Nobody knows how. It's a mystery.
The hashed brussel sprouts with garlic and lemon zest turned out fantastic. (I honestly had no idea you could serve sliced brussel sprouts... I figured there was a law protecting the cole slaw manufacturers or something.) Shirley's
recipe for mashed potatoes worked like a champ, again, and Alison's idea for mashed sweet potatoes with crab boil seasoning was just about perfect. We decided to forgo in-the-bird stuffing this year, and I did miss that savory mush, but we had a darn nice cornbread dressing anyway. (That loaf of cornbread was a golden dome of beauty when it came out of the oven - almost a shame to crumble it up.)
We weren't bold enough to try the Cook's Illustrated
salted turkey, but we used their recipe for spice rubbed turkey. And here's a testament to brining for you: their procedure calls for a 14-pound bird, and ours was only 8. Almost a glorified chicken. We put in the instant read thermometer, and the needle spun around until it said "is this trip really necessary?" By rights, it should've been a charcoal briquette with wings, but it was fragrant and moist and just right. (And our friend Bruce smoked his 10-pounder into the best poultry barbecue I've ever had in my life.)
And at the end of the day, with the guests gone and the dishwasher running for the umpteenth time of the day, my beautiful wife found my favorite thing on TV: a countdown show. Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies ever. Something to argue at and laugh with... what could be better?
I never got last year's overwhelming moment
. Maybe that's OK. How could surprise be a tradition anyway? Last year was about being in the moment, but this year I can see that where I've been was good, and it's all leading up to something wonderful.
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving, and I still thank you for your support.