Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cooking For the World's Most Discerning Food Critic the Day After Thanksgiving

Over the years my family has become accustomed to never celebrating any holiday on its actual date. We try to accommodate every one's work schedule and travel plans and choose the best alternative day. As a result, we have been emancipated from an enormous amount of unnecessary tradition and stress. This year we were invited to another family's Thanksgiving dinner, held on Thanksgiving Day, which set us free to gather on Friday.  Driving home together on Thanksgiving night, my son, a bachelor, was grilling me on what I had planned for the big meal for our family. When I told him a hearty beef stew, he was apparently disappointed and began to give me a hard time. He berated my cooking abilities and entree selection. He proclaimed my choices were plain and simple. I am not certain what he was hoping I would prepare, but it was too late to change the menu. He said, "You aren't a very good cook, are you?" (I think he was teasing...)

Mr. Ramen Noodle Chef apparently thinks he knows enough about preparing a large family meal that he can throw around criticism like confetti. To hear him, you would think he had cooked for a family all his life. I did not bring it up, but while he was denigrating my culinary skills, I thought about the full fried chicken meal I prepared for my brothers (step and otherwise) when I was in sixth grade, and our father/stepfather was in the hospital. When I called my four brothers to the table, all had the same suspicious, complaining tone of voice as my son had Thursday night. The only horrible thing about that fried chicken meal was the gravy. I did not know to only use a scant portion of the oil in the pan to make gravy. I used it all! I must have used three cups of flour to soak up the oil. The gravy tasted fine, but you could stand a spoon up in the middle of the bowl and it stayed there. Otherwise, the meal was edible and no one starved or even suffered for one second in the absence of our parents at meal time that night.

As it so happens, Mr. Food Critic apparently enjoyed his non-traditional food on Friday. I made a large pot of beef with barley and wild rice simmered all day with herbs and diced tomatoes and thick mushrooms and new potatoes. It was delicious. When he asked for green beans with bacon, I had it covered. There was also rosemary bread, deviled eggs and delicious whole milk from a local dairy sold in thick glass bottles. There was cranberry relish, black olives, and smoked gouda, too. We had pumpkin pie baked that morning with genuine whipped cream. My daughter brought a homemade pecan pie and ice cream. Later in the evening the fresh mulled apple cider finally broke down my son's disappointment and despair.

In the hours after the main meal, the horses received a huge amount of love and attention. I asked for help moving the round pen while everyone was home. With five adults, the entire process took all of ten minutes. I would have struggled and labored all afternoon to move it myself, hampered by the horses interfering in the process, getting in the way, and worrying that a panel would fall against one or both of them. As it was, Ginger escaped through the walk-in gate we all failed to notice was wide open. After a short trip down the path toward the house, she came right back and entered the big gate, unable and unwilling to get too far from her beloved Wally.

Wally was penned in the newly relocated round pen so everyone could pamper and love on him without Ginger's jealousy. All the cockle burrs were removed from his mane and tail, which of course, only lasts until he walks past the next cockle burr plant. Sadly, Miss Snot Face was mostly left out of the loving attention and grooming. Wally is the rock star and that is fine. Ginger is still my own little red mare who will not suffer fools gladly, and I lover her.

After the sun went down, the men gathered wood and built a fire so we could enjoy both the warmth outdoors and toast the giant marshmallows I had discovered in the baking aisle of the grocery store. I am not sure that anyone actually ate any of the large marshmallows, but it was fun setting them aflame.  

My daughter called soon after she left, asking if I knew where her gloves were. She thought she had left them by the fire. Though I looked long and hard for them using the headlights of my car, I had a feeling Jake had already found those gloves, and I would only find the sad, ragged remains in the brutal light of day. I decided that when I did find them, I would throw them away and tell my daughter I did not know what happened to her gloves.  A lie was not necessary. In the cheerful early light of a cold dawn the next morning, from my office window I witnessed Jake the dog joyfully tossing one of the gloves high in the air and chasing around with it in his mouth. I bolted out the door in my sleeping apparrel and rescued the glove. Miraculously, it was dirty but otherwise undamaged! It was easy to spot the other glove, also intact. After being washed in cold water and Woolite, the gloves were 98% good as new. It was a true day-after-Thanksgiving miracle.

It was a fine, fun day and no one starved - not even Mr. Food Critic.

Wally and Guests of my daughter.

Note "The Gloves" of knitted lambs wools and the faux fur cuff.  How did they survive a night in the wild with Jake the Destroyer?

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I loved this. So glad your family shared this wonderful day. Let Mr. Food Critic learn to cook, himself, someday. And glad to hear the Wali Lama got some good lovin'.