18 November 2013

How often do infant turkeys eat?

Paul and I were married in April of 2006.  That fall, I decided I wanted us to host Thanksgiving.  We haven't looked back.
This is Thanksgiving numero ocho.  I haven't missed hostessing one yet.  I have a bit of pride in that fact - both the good kind of pride and the kind to keep an eye on - but this year, there is this small speed bump.

Her name is Elsa Gray Forster.  She's 12 days old. 

I am a calendar girl.  I don't know if I had something approximating the Best Day Ever when they covered calendars in first grade, or if it was watching my mother write in red pen and white-out mistakes when things were wrong on her paper calendars every day of every month of every year of my life, or if it's just part of being a J on the Meyers-Briggs, but I love a calendar like white on rice.  (Butchering of similes abounds in my world.  I was the child who readily pronounced "I can read you like the back of my hand," and "I know him like a book," with all amount of confidence.  I treat similes like e. e. cummings treated parentheses.)

So, Paul and I discovered in February that we were unexepectedly (as is Forster tradition) expecting.  And the first thing I did, naturally, was retreat to my calendar. Such comfort in 30 little square boxes.  Such comfort indeed. (I'd say I have a problem, but I think it's more of a solution....)

And I saw that due date, proverbially circled in gold, 2.5 weeks before Turkey Day.  And I quivered and shook and even quavered a bit.  Whatever shall we do.

My step mother offered to hostess at her house.
My husband offered to order pizza.
My mother-in-law offered to just skip the whole thing all together.

But, my daughter (not the speed bump one, but the eldest child) swooped in and declared that no such monstrosities would occur.  "We'll hostess Thanksgiving together, Mutha," she said in her best Anne of Green Gables / Polly from Magician's Nephew voice.    She sounded airy and optimistic, but she had a giant "dammit" look in her eyes that was not to be ignored.  I've created a nostalgia-tradition monster.  And I love it.  Ada Brooks declared sweet potatoes easy to whip and pies perfectly simple to bake up.  She's a funny one that mini-me.  So, I put my big girl pants on, and here we go.

Nursing all the way.  Also laughing, as the song actually goes.  Laughing all the way as well.  Because laughter is a non-negotiable around here.

Wonder if baby turkeys eat every three hours?

'06 was the First Forster-Hosted Thanksgiving.  In 2009, though, I decided I ought to keep up with what we're serving every year.  I'm so thankful - it's so much fun to look back and read.

So - here - if you're curious:  

Last year's Table.  Shall not be repeated this year. 

But - last year - I pulled out all the China and all the Crystal and there were linens and beauty reigned.

I'm going for a simpler undertaking this year - see above - little baby speed bump.

How are we making simpler?  Well, I'm trying, but it's hard to cut corners on a treasured tradition. However, I've come up with a few things. 

Real silverware, glasses, and linens, but paper plates.  There are beautiful paper plates available, and I'm going to buy some.  I have chargers for heft. 

I'm also letting my step-mother, who is local and so it's easier for her than other guests to transport goodies, bring a lot of things.  I usually let her bring one or two.  I'm growing.  I'm trying to grow. 

I've cut out the pasta dish - it is always labor intensive, and I don't think it's all that crucial.

If it comes down to it, I'll cut soup.  Lordy I hope it doesn't come down to it. 

The Pre-Meal Bites
0.  Carrie, my stepmother, is bringing an appetizer or seven if she's acting like herself.  My dad is in charge of a cocktail - maybe a bloody mary - maybe something less filling.  He's in charge.  I try not to boss. 
The Bird
1.  Turkey.  I royally ruined my turkey last year.  It actually did that Christmas Vacation split and hiss thing.  I promise.  But, it resulted in a last minute spatchcocked (look it up) and grilled bird that made us all happy.  So, I'm doing that again.  Going to brine it first and then herb butter under and over the skin and then grill on indirect heat on the grill outside.  This serves the bigger purpose of freeing up the oven. 

The First Course
2.  Asparagus soup with Herbed Goat Cheese.  If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.  However, we had soup last year for the first time, and it was such a success, from the hostessing point of view.  In addition to being yummy, it served as a great way to gather everyone to the table, sit down,  pray, have a little minute before going through the line.   It meant that there weren't eleven people in my kitchen as I was pulling things out of the oven - there was only me - everyone else was at the table, having butternut bisque. 

The Side Board
3.  Cornbread Dressing.  Traditional.  Non Negotiable.  I try to ask each of our guests for something they really want on the menu.  My father and baby brother both always say "dressing"  - as though we'll have Thanksgiving without Dressing... what are we? Yankees?

4.  Sweet Potato Casserole.  Traditional.  Non Negotiable.   We have established a split-topping tradition now - half marshmallows, half pecans.  We have opinionated guests, and the hostess's job is to make her guests happy.  Two years ago, I did stripes.  Last year, I did a cornucopia of marshmallows surrounded by pecans.  Maybe chevron for 2013?  Or is that already dated?

And now comes the excitement -  The Six Sides.   

[Now that we have six Forsters, mayhaps we shall let each person pick one?!  Oh, the traditions develop - it's sort of like doctrine...]

The six sides are usually:  A fruit, a white potato, a pasta, a green veggie, a salad, and something orange for color. 

But, rules were made to be broken.  Especially if I made the rules...

5.  Winter Fruit Salad - a recipe from a friend - combining the fruit and salad dishes into one.  A rebel, I know. 

6.   Scalloped Potatoes - For Paul Forster, the love of my life.  (Earlier this year, my friend Ragan taught me how to spell scalloped.  One p.  Who knew.  Not me, my friends.  Not me.) 

7.  Corn Pudding - taking the place of the Pasta Dish this year.  I love Corn Pudding.  Or Corn Casserole as we call it in the south. But pudding is better - see- because it's British. 

8.  Creamed Spinach.  So, while I was in the hospital having Elsa Gray, they brought me a lunch tray which included turnip greens.  I don't like turnip greens.  Not at all.  And I ate every bite.  Best thing ever.  So, I'm cooking some greens.  Not turnip, and I'm also adding cream and cheese (look up the definition of "Feast"), but warm greens all the same. 

9.  Green Beans with Goat Cheese, Tomatoes, and Almonds.  Southern Living talked me into it.  It wasn't hard. 

10.  Carrie is bringing a squash dish - taking care of the color orange for us!  I know it will be yummy, as she is a most excellent cook.  She regularly puts me to shame.  She's just deliberate with her cooking - not cautious, but intentional - and it always shows.  She puts the salad plates in the freezer so they're cold for goodness sakes.  I keep telling myself when all the urchins grow up, I'll have time for such things.  I think I'm fooling just a bit. 

The On-The-Table Condiments

11.  Gravy.  Since I'm smoking the turkey, I will likely make gravy from chicken drippings.  Don't tell.  Please don't tell. 

12.  Cranberry Sauce - I may do the Apricot sauce we did last year - it was good.  Or I may do my mother's ol' cranberries, water, sugar method.  Especially if I can get some superior cranberries.

13.  Our homemade hot/sweet pickles. That are already made! Slam dunk, Forster Fam!  'Twas a team effort.  Elsa on the bench. 

14.  Spiced Peaches out of a Can.  I'm done apologizing. 

15.  Bread Basket - Carrie's job.  I let go.  I did.  It feels good.  She's a better baker than I am anyway. 

The Dessert Cart

16.  Pumpkin Pie - for my dear mother in law.  Some Nutmeg Cream for the top. 

17.  Caramelized Apple Cheesecake.  I did it a few years ago. It was so pretty, it needs to be done again.

18.  Salted Pecan Pie w/ Butter Pecan Ice Cream - for my dear father in law.  I'll not be making the ice cream.  Rather, I'll be purchasing it.

19-20.  Carrie bringing dessert.  I always ask for one.  She always shows up with two.  I'm done fighting.  I resign.


Gobble Gobble. 

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