A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

My ancestor came to this land 390 years ago. Half the colony died that first winter. Can you imagine how sad that must have been, after that long journey with all of the hardships, to finally arrive only to lose so many. The first Thanksgiving, so it is said, was celebrated after surviving a year with a harvest. Our family in this century like to celebrate our being together after much time apart and cook a killer meal. Most of the fun is being together in the kitchen with gentle jostling and teasing, collaborating and handing off tasks seamlessly, and many tastings. A common refrain is, “Are you sure that has enough salt, let me try that again!”

As a special treat this year I purchased a Happy Thanksgiving produce box from Happy Girl Farms, my first experience with them, and hauled all the produce up on the train in a duffle roller bag, also filled with wine. Of course one wheel on the bag broke as I was leaving my apartment and I had to drag that beast around like a mobster hauling a dead body, woof, what a long trip!

It was quite the adventure in what one would consider a relatively simple task of picking up the produce box. I was given an address saying there would be prominent signage near a gate in a fence of a lovely home in Castro Heights. I took a taxi after work; it was 5:30 pm and already inky dark outside. In a dimly lit street, the taxi driver said that he thought a long dark fence was the right one. Thankfully I had a tiny flashlight on my house keys and turned it on and headed towards the fence. On the fence near eye level was a quarter-sized sticker that said Happy Girl Farms, visible only after illuminating it with my tiny light. I saw a door in the fence and pushed it open, saw below me a foot-plus drop down to a dirt slope, and three boxes lying on the dirt. I carefully stepped down and promptly slid on the mud (it had rained heavily that day) and slid to a tall shrub straight below me. I grabbed at it, wrenching my shoulder injured previously from the tragic high-fiving incident at the World Series celebrations. I badly scratched and punctured my hand from the 1″ spines from the shrub which turned out to be a bougainvillea bush! But I prevented myself running into it by a fraction of an inch with my face or falling in the mud. Swearing loudly, I retrieved my keys and baby flashlight from the ground and looked around for the clipboard as instructed in the email but didn’t see anything. There was one large produce box, opened to the elements, so I peeked inside and saw some of the veggies listed on my receipt. I heaved the box off the dirt and transversed the slippery hill up to the gate and sidewalk in the pitch black dark. I managed to lift the box up to the sidewalk level. As I hauled myself out some pedestrians walked by almost knocking me back inside the gate down the slope but one man grabbed my arm to steady me. Whew. Thoroughly shaken, muddy and bleeding, I stood there for a moment, and the cab driver came over and said, “Are you okay??” He helped me into the cab and loaded the muddy box in the back, and drove me home. I called Dirty Girl and got voicemail, then rang up my mommy and whined about the things I do for fresh produce! The cab driver handed me a paper towel to staunch the bleeding and wipe up some of the mud; either it was a kindness on his part or a defensive measure to keep his hack clean. Once home, cleaned up and disinfected, ice pack on my shoulder and a glass of wine consumed (for medicinal purposes), I received a call back from a rep at Happy Girl Farms. The guy informed me that I actually came on the wrong night, despite their email confirmation that clearly said the pick up day was Tuesday. He said something about their having computer problems and asked me to check the box. I did and found that many items listed on their receipt were not in the box. He again mentioned it wasn’t my box, and so I offered to forward him their email to me. He said I could keep the box (how generous!!) and I felt rather exasperated at this point and retorted, “Look, I’m leaving tomorrow at 5 am. If you want to come by tonight and pick up this box and give me *my* box, I would be really happy with that.” After hemming and hawing a bit he said he’d refund me a portion of the price and next time they would put some flashlights in that yard. I think I will pass on using this pick up place on the premise of preserving my health from a broken ankle or bougainvillea-related flesh shredding, and spare the homeowner any litigious opportunities. Ah, the adventures of supporting local farms.

On a positive note, all of the product was fantastic. We have apples, pears, garlic and onions, carrots and parsnips, bunches of herbs, a variety of potatoes, celery and some squash. Once safely at the parents, we stashed it all in the garage and got ready for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

We talked about the Big Day menu while feasting on our usual Dungeness crab, sourdough bread schlepped from the city, mOm’s Louis dressing and iceberg lettuce wedges, augmented by crisp-tender asparagus spears. Truly though, any excuse to eat crab is a welcome one. Or Louis sauce. That sauce rocks!

Thanksgiving morning dawned with the fiery blaze of the liquid amber tree and frost everywhere, a brisk 32 degrees.

Just WOW. What a tree!

After lots of coffee and toasted Acme sourdough bread and butter, we hopped to work in the kitchen and I posted the menu and to-dos for each menu item on the fridge.

Our Menu:
o Dry brined turkey roasted with bacon and sage
o Granny’s “Aunt Emma’s” dressing
o Giblet gravy
o Mashed potatoes
o Potato butter buns
o Roasted whole onions
o Carrot and parsnip coins in a beef-butter reduction
o Green salad with roasted quince, pomegranate, pecans and goat cheese, with a quince syrup white wine vinaigrette
o Pumpkin chiffon pie

Mom started with the pie crust. I loved mOm’s comment, “If this pie pan could talk… It is older than you and has seen many pies.”

I started the brown sauce, part two of the three-part gravy process, and prepped the veggies and fruits for the dressing. My sis made the dressing while Mom made the filling for the pumpkin pie elbow-to-elbow with me as I prepared the dough for the potato buns. I love these buns, we all love these buns, in fact, I plan to make more tomorrow. Can you see why?

Everything was going so smoothly, we had time to take a break, take a nap and knit (just me). Around 3:30 pm we put in the turkey, and three and a half hours later the turkey was done!

Mmmm, bacon..

I decorated da boid with strips of bacon and fresh sage leaves. The little onions roasted happily under the roasting rack. Everyone was liberally slathered with butter.

My sis gently tossed and arranged the salad, I dolloped spoonfuls of butter and sour cream onto the mashed potatoes, and mom made the gravy. There was liberal sampling going on. Bliss.

This gravy is so good, you could eat it like soup.

The carrots and parsnips were perfectly done, not mushy but toothsome, cooked with beef stock and butter and reduced to a syrupy glaze.

The potatoes were creamy and showered with parsley and a lake of butter. Mmmm, butter….

The table looked so festive. My sis put a cinammon-spiced cranberry sauce in her pretty Spode turkey dish, with the spoon in a compromising position. Squawk!!!

I tried carving the turkey this year, and overfilled a platter to the point of ridiculousness with the juicy meat. And bacon.

Every single dish was outstanding. I poured an ’09 Serenade from Casa Rondeña in New Mexico (a Gewürztraminer/Reisling blend) and an ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap (a lovely gift from the winery, thank you!!). We filled out plates to match our hearts filled with love, and were too full for pie! Desultory conversation followed and then bed, with blissful turkey dreams.

Today was the culmination of a year-long dream, pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast (and a few leftover buns slathered with butter) and the leftover turkey sandwich. And a nap. We traded stories all afternoon, about family history, and country and city living oddities. It is so delightful to relax with my family and get to know them better, year after year.

What a great holiday we had, and tonight we get to do it all over again, the only work involved will be gentle reheating!

I’m off to go hang up the outdoor Christmas lights now with my sis, with my stepdad’s supervision, another post-turkey day tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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