First a nod of apology to all my friends from other lands. I am sure that you also have your unique celebrations that may involve feasting, gratitude, togetherness, sharing, love, and all sorts of tradition and preparations. I am also pretty sure that most of you have stories, myths and fables associated with these celebrations, whether those stories be cultural or familial the traditions that arise from those stories create the opportunity for wonderful times together. In this country that I live in, Thanksgiving provides just such an opportunity.
Giving thanks and filling the universe with gratitude ought to be something that is done with every breath we take and every beat of our heart, and for many of us it is. And it’s not a bad idea to have special occasions set aside that make sure we do that. So every November on the week of the third thursday of the month I block out my calendar for pretty much the whole week. I remove myself from most of my other commitments to myself and others. I put aside many of the agreements I have made to myself around moderation and restraint when it comes to food, especially when it comes to preparation, and I dive into a tradition that has been going on in my country for centuries and a tradition that is building in my life with Karen and the Thanksgiving Family that is growing around me for this celebration of gratitude.
Our tradition begins with Karen and me banging our heads sometime in September when we notice that Thanksgiving is coming soon. We send out email invitations to our “family” and look for extra spots that might need to be filled with future “family” members. I am the chief cook and Karen is the chief of clean up. Both are family affairs that need to be partnered on and organized. When the RSVP’s come back we begin to co-ordinate with everyone what they will contribute to the feast. Karen and I start putting together the shopping lists and planning the flow of it all. We want it to be easy, loving and full of flow on the day. We want to be able to spend time with people and still set a gorgeous table with an amazing spread of food, and then we want to have the flow into the dishwasher and the fridge run joyfully and smoothly without anyone getting overloaded or stuck at the sink too long. During all this time we want people to be having wonderful conversations and connections, eating good food and drinking good wine and feeling connected and grateful for this great meal and great company.
Our menu and the contributors. 19 people total.
Appetizers this year were made by Henry and Karen.
Spiced Nuts – mmmm roasted nuts caramelized with sweet and spicy spices.
Bloody Mary Shrimps – Shrimps cut up in a pepper vodka and tomato sauce with some good seasonings. Served on Chinese soup spoons.
Cold Pea Soup with mint and cream. Served in shot glasses garnished with mint.
Biscuits topped with chopped ham, cheddar and peach chutney and heated up in the oven.
Champagne contributed by Michael was my fav.
Two 16 pound Turkeys – Both brined over night.
One barbecued and stuffed with a savory stuffing made from 4 dozen fresh shucked oysters and 2 baguettes of french bread.
The other roasted in the oven and stuffed with Anne Grete’s cranberry, kumquat stuffing.
Artery clogging mashed potatoes – which I make every year – On my prep day the day before thanksgiving I peel and boil the potatoes, mash them and add butter, sour cream and cream cheese and hit them with the mixer until they are just shy of too creamy and put them in the fridge over night and into the oven the next day at the same time as the turkey on a lower heat.
Yams and oranges with marshmallow on top. I, or more accurately my incredible assistant Christina who I am completely thankful for every week, halves, segments and cleans out the Navel orange skins. Leaving me with two cleaned out halves and a bowl of orange juice and segments and a bowl of pulp, which I throw away, I mix the orange juice and segments with the cooked yams and throw in some butter and brown sugar and then fill the orange halves with them and throw on the mini marshmallows and voila the perfect thanksgiving dish.
Doug makes the most incredible gravy with all sorts of good stuff like roux made with the organ meat and drippings of the birds along with some sherry and white wine.
Caroline brings a delicious homemade cranberry relish and Jeff’s (who was a “family” member but moved to Seattle) Beans.
Elaine made an amazing salad with avocados, almonds and all sorts of good stuff.
Lisa made a trumpet mushroom and kale dish that hopefully will become a permanent addition to our table.
Athena made a wonderful asparagus, red pepper and mushroom deliciousness.
AG contributed another tongue tingling cranberry relish with pomegranates in it.
After all that is enjoyed and we sit around watching the sun set over the ocean on the most gorgeously clear day and we all are in silence feeling grateful and looking for the green flash. We clear the dishes and start the washing dance while conversation and playing with Sam, Thomas and Lotta while they dance around and climb on people and bring the delight and joy of childhood into the space.
Then out comes the coffee and the deserts.
Marjoleine and her children made a mouthwatering cheesecake with berries on top that Lotta made in the shape of a heart.
Athena made a tantric chocolate cake with whipped cream that was on the edge of sin and a spiritual experience.
Karen made a pumpkin pie with a walnut crumble on top that was one of the best pumpkin pies ever.
And Anne Grete or should I say Princess Prunella presented the perfect persimmon pudding with brandy whipped cream on top.
Too finish it all off Jan brought some delectable belgian chocolates all the way from Europe.
Paul and Chuck contributed to the decorations with a beautiful wreath for the front door and a piece of chinese calligraphy that will hang in our bedroom.
Seven or Eight hours after it all began people began heading back out to their cars with a lighter step and a fuller belly and major hugs all around. Then you get to hang out with the folks who want to just hang out in ride the tryptophan high together. The jokes start coming out and then the yawns start and the last car goes and we head off to bed fat and happy.
The great thing about Thanksgiving is that it is on a thursday. You have a couple of easy days of puttering around and tidying and cleaning up mixed with watching good movies on TV and LEFTOVERS of all that stuff. Now we have gotten really good with leftovers, an essential part of the whole thanksgiving experience. We buy a bunch of those plastic containers and as part of the cleaning up experience we have folks packing doggy bags for everybody. So that everyone can have some leftover experiences and we can have just enough ourselves without having too much. Friday and Saturday become this wonderful easy dance of leftovers, tidying, movies, and hot tubs. Then this morning any of the leftovers that still remain that are not smart for the program of moderation and restraint, Smart People and watching the body (in other words everything except the turkey) get tossed and we get back on the program with joy and gratitude in our hearts.
So this very long post is to explain to myself, my readers on my Bear and Turtle blog and my Spark People blog where I have been for the last week and what I have been up to. For you Spark Friends out there Karen and I were NOT tracking the last few days and are starting today. A nice long walk is happening in another hour. For my Bear and Turtle fans I am back to practicing what I choose to practice for the continuing expansion of my consciousness and the integration of mySelf. I am grateful for you all and extraordinarily grateful for this life I get to live.