Friday, December 1, 2006

This Chicken is Good with Ketchup

This year I discovered an excellent way of making Thanksgiving better than ever: unpaid labor. On Wednesday morning my brother James flew in for a five-day visit. I knew his holiday would be nicer if I cleaned the house before he arrived, but I never quite made it from the thought to the part where I did any cleaning. So, in the car on the way home from the airport, I warned him that the bathroom was disgusting and that he would have to climb over a mountain of mess in order to reach his bed in the far corner of the basement. Almost as soon as he walked in the door, James had his sleeves rolled up and was cleaning my entire house. Before my very eyes I watched this younger brother/ guest sanitize my filthy bathroom, tame the chaotic basement, pick up the living room, rake three giant Silver Maples-worth of fallen leaves, and mow the lawn.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my sister-in-law, Leslie, was working on the Thanksgiving feast. She had decided that there were never quite enough pies on the big day, and to remedy this, she would be in charge of pie-making. Leslie spent the entire day making pies in homemade shells--4 pumpkin, 2 cherry, 2 chocolate, 2 lemon meringue, and 1 coconut cream. Well after dark, with the last pie cooling in the minivan outside, she started the stuffing. I was in charge of the turkey, potatoes, and gravy. I prepared the turkey Thursday morning according to my friend Heather's instructions: I combined butter with minced garlic and rosemary and rubbed it all over the bird. I cooked it in the oven for four hours, basting it with the melted garlic butter and fat every 30 minutes. It was golden brown on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside. I cut up the potatoes, but Leslie was the one to boil them, and I think I saw one of our guests mashing them. Leslie made the gravy, too!

Our guests arrived at 1 o'clock. We had two tables set up in the living room. At the large table we had 10 adults: me, Dan, Leslie, James, cousin Kendall with wife Mary, and friends Sid, Ken, Amy, and Eileen. At the smaller table we put the 5 kids: Eli, Adam, and cousins Lindsay, Sydney, and Brayden. Baby Esther sat on my lap, and Mary's baby boy fetus, due in February, stayed in utero. Kendall and Mary brought delicious sweet potatoes; Ken brought homemade sushi filled with carrots, cucumbers, and smoked gouda; Eileen brought tomatoes stuffed with mushrooms and goat cheese, and Amy brought green beans stir fried with sesame seeds and almonds. Before we started eating, Dan invited everyone to introduce themselves and say something they were thankful for. I started, thanking Leslie and James for doing all of the work. Kendall and Mary mentioned gratitude for living close enough to cousins to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family. Leslie's friends were grateful that she had invited them to our home so they didn't have to spend the day alone. All of the children were grateful for cousins to play with. All but Adam, that is, who refused to introduce himself or say anything he was grateful for. He did, however, acknowledge later that the big chicken we were eating was good with ketchup. The chicken was actually a turky, but no amount of explanation on our part could convince him of this fact. When Leslie brought out the pies after our meal, she seemed to feel a little self-conscious and embarrassed by the extravagance of making eleven of them. I don't think she could see the child-like excitement in our eyes at the prospect of making ourselves sick on pie. It was definitely the highlight of the meal, and people seemed giddy as they served themselves piece after piece, covered in freshly whipped cream.

After we had reached our bursting point, a large group of us walked the kids over to the park. When their bladders demanded a return to the house, Kendall kindly escorted them back while I continued on with the other adults for a walk through the woods. Later in the evening we had a small impromptu talent show. Eli played some of his piano pieces, including "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter and "The Fiddler on the Roof". Leslie played "Ashokan Farewell" and a square-dancing number on her viola. Dan played his recorder and I sang one of his favorite German Christmas carols, "Tochter Zion."

So, in review, remember these important points for your Thanksgiving Feast 2007: 1) invite overnight guests that will double as unpaid laborers 2) have a sister-in-law that will do all the cooking 3) serve at least 11 pies and 4) eat your chicken with plenty of ketchup.


Larry Dewey said...

This made me so want to be there! Ours was a mere 7 and we did not have all those beautiful pies! What great pictures. Please keep up this blogging thing!

Lybi Winzenz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lybi Winzenz said...

There are very few foods that are not improved with ketchup. I agree with Adam. However, your "chicken" sounds like it was sumptuous. I remember your passion for garlic and fresh spices with great fondness. Do you remember me asking what "vegetable" was it that you had put in your chili. Turnip?