Plenty to be thankful for on Thanksgiving

by Terry B on December 3, 2014

No recipe this week. Just some random thoughts on Thanksgiving, food and family.

Chocolate Babka

We had a full house this Thanksgiving weekend. Both daughters were in town, as was another guest—quite a crowd for our two-bedroom apartment. With an inflatable mattress, the living room was pressed into part-time duty as a bedroom. The five of us shared our apartment’s one bathroom. The more skittish of our two cats often found herself trapped behind closed bedroom doors. Transportation for various needs involved scheduling turns with our one car, walking or taking public transportation. And we all loved it.

There were baked goods galore. The remnants of the chocolate babka shown above was one of two Marion made early in the week (a recipe will follow one day soon). She also baked an amazing pan of brownies with mascarpone on Thanksgiving day. A couple of days later, she followed these with her famous gingerbread. For Thanksgiving, there had to be pumpkin pie, of course. Marion’s sister Lena supplied this. And at the very end of the weekend, a box of Stan’s doughnuts appeared. (Since the LA chain arrived in Chicago, we’ve had no need to seek doughnuts elsewhere.)

Although we both cook, on Thanksgiving, the kitchen is Marion’s. I sometimes make a side or two, but this year, I merely washed dishes, set the table, picked the dinner music and carved the turkey (for this last task, I relied on this excellent video from the New York Times—bookmark it for next year).

Our Thanksgiving table groaned under the weight of said turkey, Marion’s sweet potato vichyssoise, kasha, multiple gravy boats, champagne glasses, cranberry sauce and a delicious slow-cooked braise of green beans, tomatoes and chickpeas.

The table itself was part of the celebration. Our dinner was the maiden voyage of our new dining table. After years of looking for a table we liked as much as the hand-me-down, slightly too small parson’s table given to us by a dear friend when he moved to New York, we finally found one. A solid wood, multi-leaved, not overly ornate beauty made for us by an Amish company in Ohio and delivered just days before Thanksgiving.

Beyond the food and little extras like the new table, there was the simple luxury of time spent together. Black Friday came and went without any assistance from us. The television mostly remained silent. Instead, there was conversation and companionable silence, lounging about, multiple laptops giving our Wi-Fi a workout, magazines and books being flipped through. Some walks were taken. Some errands run. Leftovers were happily eaten.

And then there were the puzzles. I’ve never been a real fan of jigsaw puzzles myself, but a couple of them had made their way into the house a couple of months ago, and suddenly, they were being deployed. It started with the 1,000-piece puzzle of hummingbirds coming together excruciatingly slowly on the living room rug. Yes, the same space that needed to be home to the aforementioned inflatable mattress. We discovered that covering the puzzle with a sheet sufficiently protected it from harm.

After our Thanksgiving dinner, a second puzzle appeared on our dining table, a more modest (we thought) 350-piece rendition of the New York skyline at night. Both puzzles saw sporadic action by various players, working together or alone. By Sunday night, the hummingbird puzzle was finished. The NYC puzzle was not. A surprising number of those 350 pieces were seemingly identical inky blue pieces of sky.

Various travelers have now returned home. The more skittish of our two cats is back to her only slightly skittish behavior. And we are enjoying both the return to normalcy and delicious memories of a full house.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronnie Ann December 3, 2014 at 9:42 am

Really enjoyed reading this, Terry. Despite the crowd and necessary logistical maneuvers, sounds like a lovely time and delicious meal was had by all. Gotta say that if I were there I’d be itching to have my try with those seemingly identical inky blue pieces of sky. But I could be easily diverted by that chocolate babka. Looking forward to the recipe!

[email protected] Riffs December 3, 2014 at 9:50 am

Sounds like a wonderful time! And congrats on the new table — dining room tables are amazingly hard to shop for. Sounds like you found a winner. Thanksgiving is our favorite meal of the year to cook (we like it so much we repeat it for Christmas). We enjoy it so much, on years when we are guests at someone’s house — this year my sister wanted to host the dinner — we’ll celebrate Second Thanksgiving a couple of days later, and cook the whole meal for ourselves! Pigs R Us. 😉

Susie December 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Lovely Terry! Sounds delicious, warm and fun.

Terry B December 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Thanks, Ronnie Ann. The unfinished puzzle is still on the table, beckoning and challenging us.

“Pigs R Us.” Perfect, John. And we totally approve of the idea of Second Thanksgiving. Friends in New Jersey did exactly the same thing after having Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere on the actual day.

Susie, it was all those things. Thanks.

Mellen December 3, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Happy Holidays, you two. The kitchen is mine on Thanksgiving, too, and I think I did it justice. We had just one guest, but given that we are crammed into a studio apt. the size of a closet, it was fine. I chickened out at the last minute on making a pumpkin flan (getting fiery-hot caramel just the right temp and consistency to coat a plate perfectly? I don’t think so!), so for dessert made a pumpkin pudding that was simple and delicious. Made gravy starting from scratch with turkey wings, too, that was outstanding (albeit it was 6 hours in the making). Steve cleaned up, set the table, lit the candles, and we had a lovely day. Made stock yesterday from the turkey carcass to use for two kinds of soup – turkey and wild rice and a Persian soup that involves ground chickpeas and ground turkey made into what look just like matzoh balls and served in a broth with carrots and herbs. And tonight have turkey tetrazzini in the oven. After this, I think we’re done with birds for awhile.

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