Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Autumn Leaves: more of my favorite maple

Please excuse my brevity and / or lack of posts this week. It is, as perhaps everyone knows, Thanksgiving week here in the States. I have to go procure a frozen turkey, get those last odds & ends for various family dinners that I haven't yet gotten, and then tomorrow I have to make a bunch of food... and then turn around and do it again on Friday. On top of that, by Thursday morning I will have worked 8 days in a row...

I would like to see a nap in my future.

Anyway, these are some more shots of my favorite maple...

Yeah, I took like 60 shots of this tree — hey, it was a cool looking tree.

Anyway, I hope you all have lovely Thanksgivings. Hopefully, there are no food catastrophes or mishaps.

If you enjoy cynicism or sarcasm: read on... otherwise, I am about to be snarky (it's working 8 days in a row with no days off coming up on a series of dinners that is making me neurotic)

This Thanksgiving my inner-cynic is hoping that some of the people on my Dad's side of the family + extended family will have sharpened up on their culinary skills. It's not that I'm a food snob, but if you're going to bring something to what is essentially a potluck, then it should be edible without hassle. When a steak knife with teeth is required to cut your "home-made" apple pie, this is a learning moment. You should feel a little embarrassed looking at the mess in the pie plate. You cannot add extra water to pie crust (whether it's regular or dutch) it just turns into cement.

I'm serious, this has actually happened multiple years in a row: apple pie that cannot be cut with an ordinary knife. And I sit there at the table and wonder how hard it could possibly be to make apple pie. And I say this as someone who has made a number of pies in my day (in fact, I have made apple pies). Because if we can't crack the crust of your pie with a regular knife, how the hell is a fork supposed to tackle this problem once its on my plate? Just ponder this with me for a moment (and laugh). I mean, there is no shame in walking into the grocery store and walking out either with a frozen pie shell or Betty Crocker pie crust mix in a box, and then following the directions. Hell, apple pie filling in a can - have at it.

I'm cynical, but honestly, I don't understand how I'm supposed to appreciate the "hand-made" effort that went into a food item that in the end is inedible, especially when it's apple pie of all things...

And then there's Grandma's new found recipe for "chocolate pie." I wish Grandma would lose the recipe for chocolate pie, or that someone would have the heart to tell her that it's terrible and that in her 70+ years on this planet she has made some excellent food items, but this is not one of them. You know, I like those frozen triangular patties of fish (the ones that come in the blue box) — but I also know they're 'horrible,' and I only buy about 4 boxes of them a year.

You might be thinking — chocolate pie — that sounds fabulous. Sure, it does. I mean, there's like chocolate cream pie, Boston cream pie, chocolate mousse pie, chocolate pudding pie, chocolate cheesecake... but this chocolate pie is none of these things. It's like if you could suck all the fun, taste, and chewy-deliciousness out of a brownie - and then throw that in a pie shell. It barely tastes like chocolate, it isn't chewy, it crumbles apart, and like the aforementioned apple pie - it's a mess to cut.

Every time we have an event and this "chocolate pie" thing appears, I want to run screaming in the other direction.

Don't get me wrong, I have made some terrible food blunders in my day... there was that time when I tried some recipe involving cake mix without making it as cake mix — it was terrible. It has not since re-appeared in my kitchen... So, yes, figuratively, my fingers are crossed that cement-crust apple pie and chocolate pie will not be appearing on Thanksgiving day.

Don't get me wrong, I am being snarky, but man, do I hope Thanksgiving goes off without the same weirdly annoying dessert blunders this year... and in the even that it doesn't, in spite of the fact that I'm working 8 days in a row - I am bringing a pie. All things left to chance, 1 out of 3 desserts will be sliced without turning into a mess and have an edible crust. How do I know this? Because my pie filling comes from a can, and because graham crackers + butter is pretty hard to screw up. When all is said and done, the thing that matters most about a food item is that it tastes good and you enjoyed eating it, without guilt, shame, hassle, or having to use inappropriate utensils to apportion it.

Yes, I am confident in my ability to follow the directions on the can.
Anyway, on Friday is when I put on Thanksgiving. The menu is as follows:
• turkey
• bread stuffing (bread cubed, craisins, diced apple, onion, celery, sage, parsley, chicken broth)
• pink jello salad (strawberry jello, sour cream, whipped cream, pineapple + coconut)
• cranberry sauce salad (whole cranberry sauce, raspberry jello, diced apple, walnuts)
• Betty Crocker cheesy scalloped potatoes
• Betty Crocker cranberry-orangebread + cream cheese
• Pumpkin pie / cheese cake hybrid (garnished with walnuts) for dessert

Anyway, we'll be eating Turkey for the next week...
Enjoy your Thanksgiving — I hope your food is good and edible, and hassle free.


Out on the prairie said...

Sometimes I like to ask what each is bringing.When Grandma says her pie, say you really like her.... and already have lots of desserts.Did you know desserts spelled backwards is stressed?This way you have control, and if there are not enough desserts it is on your sholders to supply the needed ammo.Your menu sounds nice, I like the salads this year for some reason.

Now the rotten part. I had to do 3 meals for a few years before I could coordinate family.I made a big dinner party Christmas Eve and invited the world to it, so if I didn't get to the one Thanksgiving celebration I could enjoy families at mine.This worked well and saved the need to eat turkey again and again.My family has dwindled completely and now is my 2 daughters and myself.My daughters are doing a celebration with their boyfriends as usual and not having days off from work and I will maybe go to eat Chinese.My holiday for the last 6 years has more been giving the basic dinner ingredients to families in need( we did 4 this year), or serving at a mission and sitting home.I might relish gnawing on the dessert, but would always tell them I really like their... and being with family.You are a trooper taking on the masses.Happy Thanksgiving

Hilary said...

Sarah, you're quite brave to take on such a large group. I've done similarly over the years and my take on things is that whatever anyone else brings is a bonus.

Regardless of how it tastes, cuts or looks, they've put their personal time, effort and love into it and they believe it's good. You might want to try asking those two folks in particular to just bring wine (or bread rolls, or pickles..etc) this year or just try not to stress out over what to them, is something they think is desired and appreciated by everyone.

It's lovely that you have so many family and friends gathering at your home for a feast. Don't let a couple of poorly prepared dishes come anywhere near that in the importance meter.

Enjoy your family.. your Thanksgiving. I'm sure it will be lovely - just as your photos always are.

CherylK said...

I think we've all been there, Sarah, and there's just no way around some of this stuff happening!

What works for me is to ask each person to bring a specific item of MY choice. Like a bottle of wine or something purchased. They can hardly refuse :-)

Hope it all goes well, this year and that you have a wonderful day!

SouthernSass said...

I don't mean to laugh - but I am LOL because we have had the same thing happen in our family. My mother used to be a great cook, but now ?? Anyway, we all pick out our favorites and make sure that one of us brings it.

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you get some rest!