Monday, November 19, 2007

Better Than A Pocketful Of Maize

Hoo-boy, it's almost Turkey Day and you can imagine what that means around the Snag household. Screaming, swearing, and vats of wine to fuel it all. Plus enough food to choke a moose.

We'll have a big crew this year, the biggest in recent memory. The Lovely Bride and our three hellspawn, of course. My long-suffering, gun-toting mother, who will spend the day wondering where she went wrong those many years ago. My sister, who offers her own unique take on the neuroses of the Snag family tree, along with her husband and daughter. Last but not least, two sets of neighbors so my family has doesn't have to talk to me.

We do have traditions besides nightmarish behavior. Not surprisingly for this holiday, many center on food. For example, every year the Lovely Bride asks me to make a simple dressing, like the ones with which she grew up. Every year I promise to try and then become entranced by some shiny new recipe. Over time I've tried oysters and andouille, raisins and chestnuts. She gamely pretends to enjoy it and then encourages me once again to try something simple next year. Perhaps this time I will, although I recently saw an interesting recipe that uses an artichoke base.

Much of the meal has become part of our tradition, however, and on this night at least, most of our traditions are traditional. I prepare cran-raspberry sauce and green beans, the Lovely Bride makes twice-baked potatoes and pumpkin and apple pies, my oldest son bakes corn bread. There are various additions depending on the guest list, like last year's Indian rice pudding, but the core food groups are pretty stable.

Most important is the turkey. We're cooking two this year to accommodate the crowd. I suggested poaching one and serving another sashimi-style but was overruled. Instead we'll be grilling one and deep frying the other. Live coals and gallons of hot grease, plus the aforementioned wine vats. Add eight children and a ninety-pound black lab and I expect our Thanksgiving to be the top story in Friday's newspaper. So be it. This is my favorite holiday and I want to do it right.

I like to start with an organic turkey our local grocer gets from an area farmer. It tastes better and I know where the money goes. For the first few years we were married I experimented with different turkey preparations. Southwest chili. Maple glazed. This and that, depending on my normal whim and caprice. Eventually I settled on grilling.

Now I have a ritual. A tradition. The night before the turkey soaks in brine and then in the morning I start the charcoal, make a rub, and spend the day checking the fire and poking at the bird. I'm usually tired from pretending to clean and fight the resulting headache with an early visit to the old bookcase in the basement that doubles as a wine cellar

Besides tasting better, grilling offers the advantage of being an outdoor cooking method. That's no small benefit in this climate, where November weather typically keeps the family inside. I love standing next to the grill with a glass of wine, focused intently on staring at the turkey, while the kids silently fight and howl behind the thick glass of the deck door.

Sometimes my father-in-law comes from out of town to join us for Thanksgiving. He's among the nicest people on the face of the earth and for some inexplicable reason loves our boys dearly. They love him back equally and they can talk sports and play cribbage and spend time together until the cows come home. When the kids listen to his stories about seeing Ted Williams play or going to the Ice Bowl he might as well be telling them he was touched by the hand of God.

He was here a couple of years ago. I was outside, grilling and drinking wine. Hiding. He excused himself from his grandchildren and came outside with a beer of his own. We talked for a while, about baseball and politics and farming and the kids. When we got to the last, I said something like, "They're lunatics."

He smiled and agreed. We talked a little more and then he went back inside to find his grandsons and talk some more sports and play some more cribbage. I poked the turkey again and joined him. I'd never admit it, but I'm a little thankful too.


Anonymous said...

I'll take you on in cribbage!!

If I don't talk to you, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Snag!

Anonymous said...

I love standing next to the grill with a glass of wine, focused intently on staring at the turkey

Me too! I tried the grilling thing once and it didn't work. So, I like staring at the turkey in the oven with a glass of wine in hand while the parade is on TV.

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Your Father-in-law was at the Ice Bowl?

You married into hallowed lineage; I bow to your family's excellence.

I've got an excellent picture of my brother deep frying a gobbler; from now on, that's how I'm going to think of you.

Packers 42, Lions 13.

Brando said...

And this year we have a meaningful Lions game! I may actually stay awake.

Happy Thanksgiving, Snag. Hope you don't get the bird and one of the boys mixed up.

Anonymous said...

Hope you don't get the bird and one of the boys mixed up.

I'm more concerned about a deep-fried Katie!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm not anonymous! Snag, your comment section is messing with me again.

Anonymous said...

Snag = Sensitive new age guy

fish said...

Perhaps you should have your lovely bride hide the keys to the gun cabinet before the day begins.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Mandos! You rule.

fish, forget the weaponry. Keep an eye on the chainsaw.

Kathleen said...

hope you didn't stay awake for that game, Brando!