Our Lives

Not enjoy Turkey day? Say it ain't so

November 24, 2012 

CHRISTINE.AL.030612.JEL

Christine Gilbert.

JULI LEONARD — jleonard@newsobserver.com

When you read this, we all will have stuffed ourselves on turkey, stuffing, more turkey, more stuffing, turkey sandwiches with gravy, turkey stuffing sandwiches with gravy, and turkey stuffing sandwiches with gravy as a late-night snack. With, of course, your beverage of choice.

I have grown accustomed to integrating the Beaujolais Nouveau into the Thanksgiving menu. Not only does it help to predicate the red wines for the year to come, but it also helps me predict the quality of the meal. When repeating my mantra, “This is not happening, this is not happening,” has proven to be ineffective, those perfectly aged grapes marry the meal and the experience.

I learned early in my life that Thanksgiving is not a holiday to enjoy. During one meal, my mother cooked liver in the stuffing, and we three innocent children went into catatonic shock upon tasting this alleged delicacy. To this day, I still suffer from Post Traumatic Stuffing Disorder. Note: Mother denies trying to poison us, says she was trying to enlighten us to new culinary experiences. Skepticism persists.

While living in rural Alaska, there were several important things to note. First, Black Friday has no meaning if you live in an area of 125 people and a gas station. Second, as much of rural Alaska is inhabited by Alaskan Natives, Inuit or Aleut, Thanksgiving is not really a holiday. (Columbus Day is not either). More to the point, the question becomes “what is this turkey creature that everyone carves?” I spent many Thanksgivings enjoying salmon soup with moose roast because turkeys could be hard to find. Once, I did buy a turkey and left it outside to keep cold. The nice thing about winter in Alaska is you can freeze food outside; the unfortunate thing is you can also freeze car tires, engine blocks and yourself if you are not careful. What we all forgot is that it takes days to thaw a turkey that has been sitting outside in 20 below and colder temperatures. . Needless to say, that Thanksgiving, we ate everything but the turkey for fear of hypothermia and dental injury.

While living in Alaska, I also experienced the making of a pumpkin pie from the stringy brains rather than the shell. Now I make sure that my pumpkin pie is seedless. Apple pies were generally safe. Apples are easy to transport in the winter although they tend to be very small and bland. The pie’s spices may change depending on the cook. I have met several Alaskan chefs who believe salt belongs on everything.

I won’t bother you with all the details of the famous “green bean casserole” cook-off one ingenious soul devised as entertainment. It’s amazing the lack of originality in that dish. I suspect the Pilgrims never ate it since Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup had yet to be invented. I’ll leave it at this: When you live in an area that believes salmon blends well in any dish, that does not mean it belongs in green bean casserole.

Then there was the Thanksgiving when I nearly killed my dog. Actually, he has suffered from several Thanksgiving-related injuries. Once, he tried to jump into the oven to sample the bird. Once, he discovered he could open the garbage pail and pulled out the carcass, eating bones and all. But the most memorable event was when the pan of turkey drippings was placed in front of him like a platter of roasted lamb before the Duke of Cornwall. The next two days were spent doing emergency trips outside as he attempted to recover from his overindulgence. To this day, I can put the basting pan – meat and all – on the floor and he will not approach.

This Thanksgiving will have been spent in the quiet of my home, surrounded by friends both furry and not. The stuffing will have had no liver. There will have been be no salmon in the green bean casserole. The pumpkin pie will have come from a bakery. It will have been the most boring, uncreative, mundane feast ever celebrated, and with that, I shall have smiled and had just one more glass of wine.

Gilbert: c-gilbert@live.com

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