Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobble Gobble!

Well, that happened.

This was our first Thanksgiving away from Knoxville, Tennessee. I had been falling in and out of daydreams about it for a few weeks running up to this week. I'd think about how it'll be when we're in Knoxville for Thanksgiving, then catch myself remembering that we were going to be doing it ourselves here in London. Then I'd have a pang of homesickness. Then I'd have an even bigger wash of panic through my belly.

Were we going to be able to replicate a true Thanksgiving dinner all the way over here? On our own? We'd both been a part of making the dinner with our respective families before, but had never been in charge or responsible for executing the meal on the whole.

In usual fashion, we decided to go overboard: we invited ten people.

I mean, we often fail at simply feeding ourselves, much less twelve people in total.

The week was equal parts cooking, shopping, and finishing all of our leftovers. Being that we have a mini-fridge, there isn't that much room for storing prepared food for Thanksgiving dinner and the ensuing leftovers.

Parents always say, "You'll learn when you have kids," to signify that no one ever really knows what goes into general life stuff until they have kids. We got a taste of that this week. Cooking this big important dinner, trying to combine traditions, make it all come out right, and balancing the rest of life was a real lesson into the world of the Thanksgiving food preparer. I thank both Melinda and Patti for previous Thanksgiving meals - I don't know, but I've had a strong intro to Thanksgiving 101.

The cooking started on Monday. Kenz did most of it, if I'm being honest. She started the week with cornbread for the stuffing and making this sweet pie crust:

Note that the rim is leaves.
I got busy making toast for the stuffing:

45 pieces of toast in all.
As noted in the previous post, almost no one does turkeys until Christmas here in London. I wound up getting a frozen turkey from a grocery store about 4 miles from the house. I threw it in my backpack to get it home.
Tom Turkey's little brother, Timmy.
I also had to buy a plastic bin to brine it. We quickly realized that the bin was too big. Paranoid that the turkey wouldn't brine properly, we set out to find things that would displace the liquid. Kenz had set glassware for recycling aside in the freezer filled with water. We threw those in there. About an hour later, Kenz realized that the labels would run and the glue could dissolve into the brine. We took 'em out:

Trash Brine
My step-sister, Lisa, had come in town to share the holiday with us. She is doing two thanksgivings while here in the UK, ours being the first. We had asked her for some canned pumpkin. Once she realized that she couldn't just bring pumpkin on the plane with her, she decided to check an extra bag of goodies for us. HOW FRIGGIN SWEET IS SHE?!
Pumpkin, Cranberries, REAL coffee, Chalula, Copenhagen, Salsa, and REAL tortilla chips!!!
She and I walked all around town on Wednesday, looking at all the Christmas decorations around town and catching up:
Rudolph in Covent Garden

When we got home, Kenz put us to work. Lisa and I made the stuffing as Kenz made more pies.

Now, about the stuffing - the recipe comes from Big Mom, Melinda's mother, who had been the matriarch of Thanksgiving as I grew up. Mel still uses her recipe to this day, as it is simply the only way to cook stuffing. In fact, I never had stuffing of any other type before I was about twenty four years old. You know - the kind that just kind of sprawls all over the plate and requires a strategic approach. I don't do that kind of stuffing. It's either too salty or doesn't stick together or comes out of the turkey (which doesn't work well for my juvenile mind).

As a result, I'm a bit particular about the preparation of this dish. It's a living memorial, it's the best way to cook it, the best way to eat it, the tastiest, etc. It is tradition. And what is this holiday for if not tradition.

Why am I saying this? Because I was obnoxious when teaching Lisa how to mold the stuffing loaves. We set out to make 5 batches.
That was a lot of chopping. No, bananas are not a part of the recipe.
Per batch: 2 cups stale cornbread, 9 slices of day old toast, 3/4 cups of diced celery, 1 diced onion, chicken broth/stock
Master Molder 
Padewan Molder
Uncooked loaves 
OH, the smells!
The turkey had thawed and was ready for the brine, but somebody had to take out the nasty stuff:

This is how we treat our guests...
Kenz telling her story...
At this point, Kenz was losing it. She couldn't stand the sight or smell of the uncooked turkey. She told us that one time her sweet sister, Whitney, had slapped her in the face with the turkey neck. No wonder she's a vegetarian.

At about 11pm, we called it quits. I mean, Lisa had been travelling since 3pm the previous day, walked around london for 4 hours, and spent another 2 hours preparing food with us. We thought she could use the rest.

Turkey day started with Lisa and I going to get some more supplies from the center of London. I had to get a roaster and some real knives. She then went walking around town for the afternoon. Kenz was in class.

I spent the afternoon cooking by myself! Can you imagine? This guy didn't even know the difference between chopped and diced two months ago. Yet there I was, jamming out to tunes, finishing the stuffing, peeling potatoes, and cleaning the house! Boom!

Of course I went crazy with the camera out of surprise/pride:



The perfect one. Yes, I ate it right then and there.

This was half the potatoes. 

Timmy ready for the oven.

I broke the knives in properly.
When Kenz got home from class, she set in on the green beans, peas, finishing the potatoes, and gravy.
Rookie mistake: look how big that pot of mashed potatoes is. Now - look to the left. Yup, that's a whole 'nother bowl of potatoes. Woops. She told me to peel them all!
Lisa and I watched a few YouTube videos on how to carve a turkey. 
We found a stream of some football:

It was all turning out to be a pretty fantastic Thanksgiving. Despite having a few people back out last minute, the house soon filled up with friends ready to eat. I waffled between enjoying myself and trying to remember to take pictures:
The spread

Not a food channel presentation, but good enough to get your grub...

The potatoes and gravy were on the stove.

From left to right: Alejandra (Kenz's school friend), Celia and Owen (see: Cornwall!), Lisa, Dom (my disc golf bud). Two not pictured: Ty and Pique (arrived later). 

My plate. Representing. The bits are hard boiled egg from the gravy. I like to keep my plate as colorless as possible on Thanksgiving. I didn't touch those cranberries. Sorry, Lisa.

Pie! And cream!

Kenz made all three of those. And they were delish. 

Kenz maintained a calm cool the whole day. 

Remains of the day

Enjoying pie. (Ty is on the left)

Pique gets some pie (center). 

Owen was impressed. His expectations were low, though. 
We wound up getting to video call a few family members during the day as well:
We woke up Kara

MOMA and Tom were in Florida with friends
All in all, it was a fantastic day. We honored old traditions and made some new ones. Friendsgiving is pretty cool.

Much love to everyone - we're thankful for your continued interest in our lives and are grateful for your support!

And thanks, Lisa, for the special visit, goodies, cooking help, and laughter!

Hope you're recovering well from the carbohydrate hangovers.

OH! I almost forgot! Kenz had pumpkin pie for breakfast:

"You always take pictures of me eating!"

B'fast of champions.

PS: Shoutout to the Ruckers - looks like they had a nice turkey day, too:

Nancy and Anna

Will and Tina