Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving Thanks

It is not often that we get to spend Thanksgiving with my family out in the Valley. We typically opt for the bigger Christmas holiday to make that trip and plan our huge family holiday meal. This year, the missus and I will be abroad for Christmas (more on that later) and wanted to spend at least one of the holidays around my parents' dinner table.

Typically, we would be cooking for a crowd of a dozen or more, but this year was just us; my parents, sister, the missus and I. Believe me when I tell you we had plenty of food to go around. And around. And around. You get the idea. Definitely something to be thankful for. A big step for us was ordering a free-range turkey from Mary's Turkeys, a local farm that makes free-range birds available by special order through their website and local markets. Another departure for us was choosing to try brining the turkey this year instead of just oven-roasting it. When we arrived Wednesday night after battling holiday traffic on the I-5, my dad had the bird nestled comfortably in a cooler packed with bags of ice and a dark aromatic brine.

We stuck to mostly traditional Thanksgiving staples like cornbread stuffing, biscuits, cranberry relish, deviled eggs prepared with care by my sister, and of course mashed potatoes and gravy. Really, what holiday is complete without gravy?  And since we had such a stockpile of fresh veggies to play with, we threw together a mix of roasted vegetables with herbs and balsamic vinegar.  The simplest things prepared with the least amount of fuss always turn out to be the best.  For desert, instead of the traditional home-baked pie, we brought a treat up from San Francisco to share with everyone, a bread pudding with whiskey sauce from Cajun Pacific.  After dinner, we even threw the turkey carcass into a pot of water with some chopped vegetables and made a big, beautiful bubbling pot of stock, some of which turned into a fantastic and simple leftover turkey soup two days later.

Our family has started to get pretty good at putting on a holiday meal.  We figure out a menu, work out what is going to be in season and what local farm we should buy our ingredients from.  Like this year, we use the bounty of our CSA subscription and of course my mother's prolific garden to prepare our feasts.  Together, we have become quite the culinary team.  

While all of the food is wonderful, and brings us together as a family as we dance around each other chopping and peeling and boiling, the meal isn't the only thing that makes these days special.  It's going out to the garden and picking bushels of vegetables as a family.  It's sitting around the kitchen table after dinner, playing a traditional game of Scrabble.  And it's being there, with our family, talking and laughing, finding out what each is looking forward to, what we are struggling with.  (Oh, and it's also giving my sister a hard time about her new boyfriend.)  It's being thankful for the gifts that we have been given, and the people we have to share them with.

I hope everyone had a chance to give thanks with your families and friends, and that you all ate very, very well.


Dodger Fan said...

Wonderful post, Joel. Great photos. Yep, that is what it is like being a family. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Pastor Dennis said...

Joel, I'm a friend of your dad's and I used to belong to the church in Gridley. But we've met since then, too. I saw your dad's mention of your blog. Food is a source of great pleasure for me. I like flavors, but don't cook anything fancy, myself.
You are a good writer, and a a fine photographer as well.
Dennis Evans

Anonymous said...

That dinner looks scrumptious! I like your blog- I will be stopping by now and again!