Guest Post: Feeling Thankful

jennifer

Nana’s Whimsies is happy to feature my sister Jen’s thoughts about our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner….

By Jennifer Sanchez

When I arrived first thing in the morning Bill was busy in the backyard with fall clean up. The backyard looked beautiful. Kris and granddaughters Kaiya and Mylee had set a beautiful table earlier in the week, including turkey place cards.

thanksgiving-2016-table

Kris and I had debated which dishes to use since her good china has to be hand washed and we had a lot of people coming. The Christmas ware was on the docket for a few days but then I got a text from Kris earlier in the week including a picture of her good china saying, “Bad news, Sis. I made a decision and I’m sticking to it. I never get to use my pretty dishes.”

When I arrived, Kris prepped the oven turkey and I decorated a cheeseball.

kris-basting-turkey-2016thanksgiving-food-table-2016
I saw this cheeseball  on Pinterest and had to give it a try. Kris declared it looked like ET. When the grands arrived, they were not overly impressed. Mylee’s only comment was who gets to eat the candy corn. Grandkids are always thinking.

While prepping the turkey, Kris and I wondered how it came to be that we are now the grandmothers cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Weren’t we just 30-something and going to Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner?

Every year we do an oven turkey and a fried turkey. Kris made Ina Garten’s roasted turkey this year. The cavity is stuffed with lemons, onions and thyme and basted with herbed butter while it bakes. This was the result.

thanksgiving-2016-turkey

While cooking, we were listening to Christmas carols and alternated between football and the National Dog Show on the kitchen television.

Dinner was scheduled for 4:00 and early afternoon the guests started to arrive. First was Court and his family. They brought a cranberry salad, a corn casserole, and a sweet potato casserole. Court had also volunteered to fry the turkey which he had never done before. I love watching him cook!

court-frying-turkey

Before the rest of the guests arrived Kris and the grands decorated the angel tree. There was much discussion about each ornament.

kaiya-mylee-cole-angel-tree-2016

cole-with-angel-ornament-2016

Next Allen and Emma from Paris arrived. Emma is Allen’s girlfriend. Why do I refer to her as Emma from Paris? Because 1) I’m obsessed with Paris; and 2) she was born and grew up in Paris and has only lived in the US for a few years. They brought their food assignment which was a cheese plate and crackers for our appetizer. And as a bonus, Emma had made and brought delicious butternut squash soup.

The final guests to arrive were Alyx’s daughter Jada, as well as Alyx’s mother Manith and stepfather Tony. They brought the green bean casserole. Soon, the turkey went into the fryer and we all were reheating the dishes we brought. I was assigned Mom’s stuffing and dinner rolls. I tweaked Mom’s stuffing just a bit, and as I write that, I can almost hear the gasps coming from Bec’s family. It was delicious!

The next few hours can best be described as “all hell broke loose.”  Honestly, it’s a blur. The heating of casseroles and getting everything on the table. Water in the goblets. Wine bottles open. Lighting the candles. Carving the turkeys.

Manith patiently carved both of the turkeys.

Manith patiently carved both of the turkeys.

What I do recall from the whirlwind just before dinner is Mylee sitting alone at the table, in her assigned spot, devouring an entire turkey leg. Man cannot live on candy corn alone.

mylee-turkey-leg-cropped

A few thoughts on our dinner:

* Tony (Alex’s stepfather) said a beautiful prayer before dinner.

* The food was amazing. But why do we all bring such a huge quantity of the dish we are assigned? There are so many dishes and everyone serves only a small spoonful to taste.

* Having to pass that many dishes around the table is crazy. What is the answer to that dilemma? Serving the food buffet-style?

* Sitting next to and explaining the dishes to Emma was fun. She was a big fan of sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Oh, and I heard her ask Allen at one point why we deep fry a turkey. Allen responded, “Welcome to America.”

For dessert we had coffee, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. Every year that I can remember, Court has whipped the cream before we served the pie. This year he passed the baton to Kaiya and it was a lovely rite of passage.

kaiya-whipped-cream-cropped

My final thought is: ALL OF THE DISHES WE HAD TO WASH! We had many, many helping hands and yet ALL OF THE DISHES!

Thank you Kris and Bill for hosting. It was a lovely day filled with food and love, and for that I am very thankful.

First Last Shop

Yesterday I did what my sister Bec calls my first last shop for our Thanksgiving dinner. You know, the grocery shop where you carefully prepared your list, absolutely certain that there’s not a single thing you’ve forgotten.

Yesterday morning, I even recited to Bill all of the items various people are  bringing to our dinner, asking him to see if I’m forgetting some important Thanksgiving food group – you know, the sweet potatoes or the gravy or the whipped cream for the pies. He pretended to listen, but I soon saw his eyes begin to glaze over. So I released him to go back to reading his morning news and will hold him wholly responsible if we don’t have jellied cranberries. (We do.)

So, of course, I’m absolutely certain that I have everything, but I won’t. And there I will be on Wednesday looking forlornly at the empty shelves and wishing I had remembered that one secret spice that makes the difference in the pie or the mashed potatoes.

At the store, I got behind a 30-something man and his daughter who looked about 8. His basket was overflowing with All Things Thanksgiving Dinner. But as I nosily perused his basket (I had already read the front page of the National Enquirer and knew that Tom Cruise is choosing Scientology over his daughter Suri), I began noticing  things like bags of fresh cranberries, and organic milk and cream, and bags of fresh carrots and fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary and mint. There was a fresh pie pumpkin and a bag of Brussel sprouts and some fresh kale and a bag of apples.

Not a can of green beans or mushroom soup to be had. No cans of corn for the corn casserole. No pork sausage for the dressing.

Most notably, NO TURKEY. Since thinking about being a vegetarian on Thanksgiving makes me too sad, I am going to imagine that he had a fresh organic turkey that has been fed nothing but acorns, hickory nuts and crabapples on order from a farmer in nearby Brighton, and he and his daughter were stopping there next (well, after they go home and put away the organic milk and cream).

I began thinking of that poor man getting up at dawn Thanksgiving Day and preparing a pumpkin pie from scratch without benefit of a Libby’s can or its recipe. I imagine the hassles involved in shredding the Brussel sprouts and browning the pancetta. And then there is the whole picking the pinfeathers from the fresh organic turkey. He will NOT be watching the Macy’s Day parade.

Jen sent me this following text a few days ago: I am watching Giada’s Thanksgiving show. She says the side dishes need to be fun and playful as that will make them conversation starters at the table. She ended her text with an appropriate disgusted emoji.

Fun and playful?  Every Thanksgiving of my life, I have had a green bean casserole. You know, canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, French fried onions. If you’re feeling really devilish, you can add a dash of soy sauce. This year I outsourced the vegetable to one of my guests and didn’t specify what kind of vegetable. If there is no green bean casserole, that will cause me not a moment of angst.

I found this photo on Campbell Soup's web page. It looks like nobody's green bean casserole ever.

I found this photo on Campbell Soup’s web page. It looks like nobody’s green bean casserole ever.

And I certainly hope that the conversation at our dinner table will be more interesting than a playful kumquat side dish.

Oops. Just remembered that I forgot to buy evaporated milk for my pumpkin pie. Time for my second last shop.

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