Family Reunion

Cooking together is even more enjoyable than eating together. The Thanksgiving meal takes days of planning, preparation and coordination, but it does faithfully draw the family together for the feast. I ordered a 10-12 pound turkey from our local butcher, Heights Prime Meats, at the beginning of November.  On Monday I bought the necessary packaged and bottled goods at the supermarket. On Tuesday morning, I went to the farmer’s market at Boro Hall for vegetables, herbs and fruit. I also picked up the turkey from the butcher and started a two-day brine in water, salt, sugar and crumbled bay leaves. It’s true, brining makes the turkey moister but reduces the amount of drippings for gravy. On Wednesday I bought fresh bread for the stuffing and made the soup– it always tastes best the day after. No cream in the soup this year. My kids came home from college on Wednesday night, we ate Greek and Middle Eastern food from Sahadi’s in Brooklyn and Snack Taverna in the Village – food they missed while away at school and no cooking necessary. Sahadi’s is a madhouse, even at 9 AM pre-holiday, but their nuts, dried fruit, chocolates and dips are worth it. While waiting for the girls to come home, I finished reading Keith Richards’ “Life.” The girls slept until noon on Thanksgiving. (I can’t do that!) I woke up early, peeled, diced, prepared the spiced nuts and cooked anything that had to go inside the oven, and covered it with foil. When the girls finally got out of bed, they helped me truss the turkey, and cooked the pearl onions and Brussels sprouts. We move around each other well in the kitchen, stirring and tasting together. Recipes for the nuts and Brussels sprouts come from the first Union Square Café cookbook. My mother brought two kinds of cranberry relish, my mother-in-law brought pumpkin pie (both room-temperature dishes that are easy to transport). My mother-in-law made the pie with Kabocha squash from Halsey’s farmstand in Watermill instead of pumpkin because it has more flavor. My husband did his duty carving the turkey, serving and cleaning. Whew! Now I can relax and visit with my daughters before they go back to school.

Our menu:
Appetizers: Radishes, Carrots, Spiced Nuts (Bouké Perlant)
Soup: Butternut Squash Apple Soup (Bouké White)
Main Course: Turkey, Gravy, Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing, Dried Cherry and Pecan Stuffing, Creamed Pearl Onions, Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds, Cranberry Relish (Bouké Red)
Dessert: Pumpkin Pie, Espresso

I started the Keith Richards autobiography on the way to Tucson last week and finished it on the eve of Thanksgiving while waiting for my daughters to come home from college. It’s long (547 pp), but a very enjoyable, entertaining fast read. It would make a great holiday present for almost anyone. It has loads of big themes – trust and betrayal, living like a prince but being pursued like a common criminal, love/hate relationships, the huge gap between music that comes from the heart versus calculated performances. But, there are also stories that I found most interesting: I didn’t know that Keith Richards tuned his guitar in an open G chord like a 5-string banjo for a lot of songs, taught Ike Turner how to do it one night in his dressing room (“Show me the five-string shit”), and then Ike and Tina Turner released “Come Together” with that tuning. I play guitar and banjo, and now listen attentively for the open G tuning in the Stones’ songs. I was interested to hear Keith Richards’ instructions to his NZ doctor, who received unsolicited advice from neurosurgeons around the world about how to remove a blood clot from his brain after falling off a palm tree: “You talk to me first and you can tell everyone else to get fucked.” He certainly has clear, confident ideas about what is important and what is noise in a life/death situation! I was also interested to hear the story about his reunion with his father after 20 years, and the awful feeling of having humiliated him because of his history with drugs and guns. The anxiety was met so simply, directly and effectively with “Hello, son” and “You’ve been a bit of a bugger, haven’t you?”

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