As previously noted I am fresh and frisky from celebrating my first Thanksgiving. To mark this momentous, and possibly newsworthy occasion I set about making a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. I like the idea of Thanksgiving and would be very happy if more nations adopted the notion. Pondering, however fleetingly to reflect on what one has to be thankful for can never be a bad thing, surely? After one of the most epic Googlings of all time I concluded that this year I would be cooking two turkeys in the space of a month and a day because it is unforgiveable to not serve turkey for Thanksgiving and equally de trop to forsake the fowl for Christmas in England where we will be celebrating this year. Having settled on what I thought would be a good enough array of trimmings to sink a dry-docked battleship and simultaneously feed the navy on the leftovers I set about the bird. The fact is that I have never ever been knowingly under-catered and being in this land of the copious plateful it surely would be hugely rude to break my habit.
Turkey then. The first challenge was to find one small enough for HB2 and I to eat on our own and not have the poor fellow (and The Bean who is NOT poor) gobbling nothing BUT Gobbler for the rest of November, the entire month of December and ad nauseum (potentially literally) beyond. But find one I did and once I had apologised to it profusely and several times that it had not been pardoned by The President and instead had found itself in my poshed up paws, I brined it and roasted it exactly as I always do at Christmas. We don’t possess a roasting pan so we bought two disposable ones and cleverly fastened them together to form a sort of dutch oven with the aid of bulldog clips pinched from top secret paperwork Two Brains is working on. The turkey was duly ready on time, The Bean had welded herself to the the oven door by the snout, intoxicated with the heady cooking aromas of a bird that weighed 1.5 times a Bean. We lifted it onto its plate and one leg fell off. Fortunately my deft husband managed to snatch it in mid-air before it reached the shark-like jaws of the waiting Bean. We managed to wedge the leg vaguely in it’s original position and if you didn’t look too closely it looked only slightly inebriated and wholly enticing. I should own up that our own impending inebria helped this vision enormously.
Some while later and utterly turkey-comatose we drowsily talked of Christmas. For what sort of a Christmas would it be without a fine turkey bird bronzed and gleaming like a drumsticked Olympian God? Well actually last year we were only three for the feast so we had guinea fowl and two years prior to that, our first married Christmas, and alone together in France, we had a collective rush of blood to the head and opted for a fish. A turbot in fact which we bore enthusiastically from the fish store on Christmas Eve, like Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria preparing to set about the unfortunate Tom Kitten with suet and string. On Christmas Day it occurred to us that we had not asked the chirpy girl on the fish counter to faire vider le poisson (to wit, gut the beauty) which would not be a problem for either of us except neither had the teeniest clue where a flat fish stashes it’s innards. Hallelujah and pass the tambourine for Google …. a swift search revealed that they are, indeed not remotely where one would expect them to be. Standing majestic and mighty over the fish like Christopher Lee in role as a High Priest preparing to slaughter a virgin Two Brains plunged our sharpest knife from on high with lethal accuracy and our sharpest knife rebounded like a comedy rubber blade off it’s innocuous lily white skin as though it were a trampolene. After a short pause I rather tentatively suggested scissors. I’m not too humble to share that this was, frankly, a moment of genius. The fish didn’t stand a chance against my snippers and I rather smugly and, may I say, with positively surgical dexterity, cut it open and emptied it’s vital workings. That complete, we stuffed the neat little cavity with herbs and citrus and stood reverently surveying it’s buttered and lemoned and parsleyed allure … it had the air of a slightly macabre still-life …. strangely attractive (something I was once called by a drunk in a friend’s living room and which I embraced as a compliment – one must cherish such delights from wherever they stem, I have always felt). So there’s one personal myth burst … I have merrily told everyone over the years that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a turkey bird but clearly my tongue is forked …the truth is that two out of three of our most recent Christmas meals have been devoid of the indispensible gigantic fowl.
You might ask what has prompted this little sojourn into my various kitchens and indeed what value you have gained (except to know who to call if you ever need to gut a turbot or stick a stray leg back on a turkey) …. the answer lies in this week’s weekly photo challenge titled ‘It’s Not This Time of Year Without ….’ of which a cornucopia of sparkling entries here.
What can I not do without as I join the merry carnage that constitutes the season of goodwill and until this year was all about Christmas but now includes Thanksgiving too in my half-baked paradise?
Snow. I absolutely must have snow. Or at least I must hope it will snow. And that is really what it is all about for me. The notion and hope of decency and delight. The idea that people can be kind to one another. The concept that sharing is the right thing to do. I have always included waifs and strays at my table. And I always will. Maybe in the run up to Christmas I will include a few of their stories. Not because I have a trumpet to toot but because humble stories can speak to good hearts. And because a humble story is where it all started ….
PS: The essential PS. The title is from ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ by the masterly Dr Seuss. My third daughter can still recite it word perfectly having done it as her School Christmas Play at the age of 9 and her younger sister can recite it word perfectly because she sat in on all the rehearsals waiting for this inevitably late mummy to pant up the school drive to pick them both up. The very end goes like this:
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store." "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!" And what happened then? Well...in Whoville they say, That the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight, He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light, And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!
This perfectly Christmassy image of snow covered holly was taken in Cantal. In February. Holly is called ‘houx’ in French (pronounced oo) which I always take every opportunity to say because it amuses me.