I really hope that everyone else had as great of a Thanksgiving as I did. Mike (my brother for those unaware) was able to come home from school and spend Thanksgiving with us for the first time in two years. Actually, this was the first time in years we’ve all had Thanksgiving together. Last year, no brother. Two years ago, Dad and I were in St. Thomas for the Paradise Jam and the team played on Thanksgiving. My dinner consisted of a turkey sandwich and Diet Coke. Three years ago, Dad was in Italy with the team. Four years ago, some other trip. So this is the first one in a while that we’ve been all together, celebrating the day.
And as most of you are aware (or at least those of you who read Rich Elliot’s blog), we were not alone this year. About half the team came to our house for the dinner, which really made me happy. Last year, simply because there were more people who couldn’t get out of CT in time, we ended up having the entire team over for Thanksgiving. This year we have a couple people who live close, so it ended up being Caroline, Kelly, Kaili, Tina, Tiffany (along with her mom and brother), and Kalana. A few people over on the Boneyard expressed surprise at Dad’s willingness to let the team come over, or surprise at the team’s acceptance of it. In fact, this is a common occurence. Dad has a great saying: “If I can’t have you over to my house with my family for dinner, then I can’t have you playing on my team.”
Last year was a ton of fun with only one scary moment. Nonna came up from Philly to spend Thanksgiving with us (she alternates, this year she’ll be here for Christmas and New Year), and while she was doing the dishes (after kicking everyone out of the kitchen because she insisted on doing it herself) a plate broke and cut her hand open. It was pretty deep and she ended up going to get stitches, but thankfully she’s fine out. It’s turned into a bit of an inside joke…this year I texted my cousins, “Happy Thanksgiving, hopefully Nonna didn’t bleed on anything.”
After about an hour of socializing wherein Kaili and Kalana tried to fix my iPod (and failed), we were ready to sit down for our first course, manicotti. I’m slightly lactose intolerant so I passed up this option, instead giving my piece to Mike, who ate it (and everyone else’s). Dad made everyone hold hands and asked for a volunteer to say grace, and ended up picking Tina. Tina then looked around and said “Kaili, you do it.”
Along with the manicotti, Mom served Nonna’s antipasti plate: peppers, celery, olives, and anchovies in a sort of ceviche, olive oil/vinegar reduction. I hate anchovies so I had to pass this up too. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever eat again.
Now for the piece de resistance, the big Kahuna of all birds. I came into the kitchen to help Dad out (Dad ALWAYS carves. If you get the in the way, God have mercy on you), and Mom and Dad were poking at the bird with forks and knives (BUT THEY JUST CAN’T KILL THE BEAST).
It looked gorgeous and crisp but…bony. Really bony. Whenever Dad put a knife on it, all you could hear was the clack of knife on bone. Bones and skin, everywhere! Dad was so confused. “This thing is all bone! Where’s the meat?!”
Right at the moment where I nearly erupted into a panic attack the size of Mother’s in A Christmas Story (“No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey gravy!”), Dad looked at the underside of the bird. I did too. We both looked at Mom, an incredulous look on our faces. Slowly, Dad asked the question that we both had in our minds.
“Did you cook this upside down?”
Naturally, I fell on the floor laughing. After realizing her mistake, Mom mentioned she had actually seen an article where cooking it upside down helps the meat get juicier, but Dad brushed it aside. After my laughing fit, I began praying that we’d have a cooked turkey! We crossed our fingers and flipped it…and by God, Mom was right. It wasn’t brown on top, but by cooking it upside down the turkey’s juices stayed where the bulk of the meat rests, making it incredibly tender. I think we’re going to cook it upside down every year. I had mine with green beans and roasted carrots, and it was absolutely delicious.
After dinner, Jenna and Todd came by from Todd’s parents, where they had already eaten. Jenna said she was nervous about her wisdom tooth operation the next day, and I tried to make her feel better by saying she wouldn’t feel a thing and that the aftermath is usually worse than the actual operation. Needless to say, I didn’t help her at all.
Dessert was an assortment of pies from a local bakery we love, but I skipped them. There was only one thing I wanted for dessert: Mom’s sweet potato pie. It’s not the kind you see magazines with the marshmallows, pecans, chocolate chips, peanut butter, whatever crap else they throw on it. I’m always surprised (and a little grossed out) when I see that stuff, because that’s not the pie I grew up with. My mom’s pie is almost like a a pureed sweet potato souffle, and it’s the simplest thing in the world to make (sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, tada!). Every single year I have it on the side of the turkey but I end up being stuffed with no room for any other dessert. This year, by forgoing everything I could normally have at any other time of the year, I could concentrate on the one thing I really love, which is this pie. And it did not disappoint. It was a glorious concoction, made only better with some ice cream I had had stocked in the fridge.
After dinner, the girls were heading back to school when Mom suggested I drive Tina and Tiffany back up to the apartments, making it easier on Tiffany’s mom. I obliged…it’s a good way to get me away from all the leftovers. The girls did take a lot of it. I’m guessing most of it will end up with Maya.
Yesterday I got up around 8 to see Mike off on his trip back to school (and I forced him to pick a name from the hat, so he’d know what Secret Santa mark he got for Christmas. Every year, instead of Mom and Dad doing the stockings, we draw names, including Todd, and just stuff their stocking. Some years I hit paydirt with my picks (Jenna!) and some years I bemoan my existence (Dad!).
Also, Black Friday is our annual “Christmas Decoration Day”, so after saying bye to Mike and making him stick the angel on the top of the tree, I went to work. While mom put up the rest of the house decorations, I blasted Christmas music to keep me awake and danced around the tree, hanging up our ornaments. I still haven’t quite forgiven Mom for switching out our homemade decorations for the really nice Pottery Barn ones, but some of them are so darn pretty I can’t help but acquiesce. There’s a few shiny gold ones that turn me into the crow from The Secret of NIMH when I see them. “Sparkly!”…
PS. No I was not at the game last night, I had work. But I hear it was a nailbiter.