Monday, October 13, 2008

Giving Thanks for Friends, Farm Shares and Home Improvements

It's been a longish dry periods between updates, with one of my all-time favorite holidays in the meantime -- which means, I think, we owe a decidedly longish entry today. And luckily, I am sitting at home dreading doing the 7th and 8th sinkloads of dishes (Nate having done the same amount over again before leaving for work), so conditions are perfect for blogging. So let's start with Saturday ...

Nate left early on work on Saturday morning, so I tackled a day sure to be full of work and chores in the only sensible way: having my breakfast and watching home makeover TV. After the coffee and oatmeal were but memories and the various living rooms and kitchens had been repainted, I checked my email and got some bad news: Nate had emailed to say his store had no turkeys of any variety, whether fresh or frozen. This year's Canadian Thanksgiving dinner is the 10th I have hosted, and while the paucity of turkeys in the U.S. has given me a few dicey moments in those 10 years, I have always found one of appropriate size in time for dinner. And, not to give away the whole show, but this year was no exception -- but it took phone calls to every Whole Foods in New York City, and a two-hour round trip to the farthest one to bring my 15-pound beauty back to the welcoming confines of our fridge.

Needless to say, that put a bit of a cramp in the flow of the day, but I persevered through the highs and lows. Example: I did the laundry (high) but dumped out an improperly-closed container of OxyClean all over the floor and into my laundry bag (low). I made the best damned spice cake I have ever made in my life -- moist, spongey, excellently spiced (definite high) and then fumbled one of the pans taking it out of the oven and broke the top layer into many a piece (definite, curse-filled low). I facilely whipped up a pie crust -- my personal culinary Everest -- but made an unsatisfactory filling. I also labored to put our living room, kitchen and bedroom into a semblance of order in advance of company. It was a long day, so when I finished my pie crust I rewarded myself with some Champagne taking up room in our fridge. (Two birds! One stone!). Said Champagne was leftover from the batch I bought to sip on our wedding day. Creating a pie crust with good texture: as happy a day as the day we married? I'll never tell.

Nate came home around this time, and we had a few hours more of work before Jeff, our guest for the holiday weekend arrived. We had planned for a dinner out in celebration of Jeff's birthday the day before, but by the time he arrived and found parking (apparently there was a major entertainment event in the Heights that night, so parking was far, far away), he was exhausted and the hour was late. So we ordered some Plum Pomidor (plantain chips, calamari, bolonaise and fettucine) and enjoyed some 365-brand Merlot in a box we imported from Chicago. Dinner was delicious, despite the expressions on our faces -- even the delivery calamari was good:

And the 365 Merlot was fab AND came in an ecologically correct box and spigot.

After we supplemented the merlot with some birthday cake for the birthday guest -- the traditional wacky cake with buttercream icing (a little too crunchy in the icing, actually, since we ran out of icing sugar and supplemented with white sugar) served with untraditional drink umbrellas in it. Note the cake stand in use: a delightful feature of this weekend was getting to put into effect all the wedding gifts I registered for and was told would never get use. Let it be witnessed: I have used my cakestand at least once, and it was glorious and totally worth it.

Afterward we watched some of the Red Sox games.


The next day dawned late -- or rather, we greeted the dawn late -- and we began the preparations for the evening's dinner. By eating toast.

Then came the next-most important task: reinstalling some shelves we had hung earlier in the week and that were drooping unhappily. Can't have drooping shelves. Obviously, Nate and Jeff enjoyed this task immensely.

Jeff eventually hit on an ingenious solution of bracing the shelves with washers, and we could turn our attention to the main dish of the day.

You may note that Nate is holding the turkey in a fantastic roasting dish. This is, as I said, the 10th Canadian Thanksgiving I/we have hosted, and the 15th, I believe, overall we've celebrated, and this is the very first time we have had a roasting pan to use in place of a foil pan. And guess what? IT WAS AWESOME.

Then, while Nate labored in our one-bum kitchen, Jeff and I decided to use the aforementioned broken spice cake for a recipe that I created with Nate: a spice cake pear trifle with pumpkin-butterscotch sauce. Ridiculous easy -- just tossed some farm-share pears in amaretto and layered them with the cake, some whipped cream and the sauce (converted from the butterscotch icing made for the ill-fated spice cake) -- and with the double benefit of looking highly impressive AND letting me use the trifle bowl I registered for. Zing!

Here I am while we assemble:

And here's Jeff hoisting the finished product like Lord Stanley's cup. Luckily, unlike the cup, if you touch the trifle bowl before you have won it in combat, you're not jinxed from ever having it again.

At that point, it was time to set the table and start laying out the goods. The turkey emerged, looking golden and lovely.

Crackers and baguette, check.

Cheese plate with Stilton, borough market cheddar and fromage affinois with kiwi berries, grapes and fig jam, check.

Pumpkin drop biscuits with flax seed, created by Nate as a last-minute addition, check. Served on wedding gift tiered server, check and ROCK!

Guests with drinks in hand, check.

And after everyone had arrived and got settled, it was time to bring out the main courses: the turkey; stuffing; roasted share celeriac, brussel sprouts, share garlic, butternut squash, celery and share onions; mashed sweet potatoes with pecan praline; mashed potatoes; mashed share carrots and share turnips, a Nate's family classic; share corn tomalito; Nate's homemade cranberry sauce; and gravy (in our new gravy boat, yeah!).

(Check out Nate's pics on flickr -- the link is on the side -- for detail shots, if you're so inclined.)

And after everyone had sufficient time to bloat, we brought out the desserts: the aforementioned trifle and pumpkin pie, as well as apple pie, banana cupcakes and cookies brought by generous guests.

A closeup on my pumpkin pie. The best-looking -- but paradoxically worst-tasting -- pumpkin pie I have ever made.

I think the food -- all thanks to Nate -- turned out deliciously, and our guests (15 this year, a good amount in as that we only have 13 seats) seemed to leave full, which is all you can ask for. And the new office-nook created by the bookshelves didn't seem to negatively affect the space really at all. Hooray! I gave thanks for the blessing of sharing a delicious meal with all the fabulous friends and family who came to visit (including new friends! Some who were Canadian!), as well as for our new gifts getting some use (shallow, shallow, but true, true) and for the non-droopy shelves being sufficiently secure to not fall on anyone below. I think we can all be thankful for that.


Today was a mellow day: Jeff returned to Rhode Island, Nate went to work, and I ran errands before succumbing to the cold I've been trying to push off and returning home to collapse on the couch and listen to Sherlock Holmes books on tape. Tomorrow should bring three great things: pictures of the apartment redo and hot turkey sandwiches, which are so great they count as two items. I can't wait.

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