by Valerie Nusbaum
This column is for the November issue, so it should be about Thanksgiving and/or being grateful for what we have. In truth, I’m writing this in early October and Thanksgiving is just a blip on my radar at this point.
I’m in the middle of getting things ready for Randy’s and my 24th wedding anniversary (October 15), and I’m hoping the weather will cooperate enough for us to get away for overnight or at least for a day trip. I’ve bought a couple of things for Randy and I got him a nice card, but remembering where I’ve put them is something else entirely, and I fear that the hunt will involve me cleaning up my studio.
Writing this column, I know Catoctin Colorfest is coming up and the town is busting loose, so I need to be aware that I can’t come and go as usual for the next few days.
I’m planning a Halloween get-together for my cousins and extended family, and we’re also preparing for trick or treat. Trick or treat would be a no-brainer for most people, but we have between 300-400 little goblins that descend upon us each year and that takes a lot of candy, not to mention that we try to do some yard decorating and that Randy wears a costume while he passes out treats and takes abuse from the little darlings.
It’s been a crazy week, and I haven’t had much time to get things done at home. Mom, Randy, and I have all had doctor’s appointments this week. I also made a pilgrimage to a new dentist because I will most likely need a root canal. The exterminator was here on Tuesday and the air conditioner repairman came on Wednesday. In between all of this, there was work, the yard guy was here, and I took Mom to Walmart. If the mailman is Randy’s nemesis, Walmart is mine.
Maybe that’s why I was thrown for a loop when I ordered a Southwest salad at the McDonald’s in Brunswick and was given a spoon for eating it. Seriously? The store was out of knives and forks. The kid at the cash register couldn’t think to tell me that when I ordered my salad? Needless to say, this didn’t end well and I can’t go back to that McDonald’s.
Sensing that I was gearing up for a meltdown, Randy thought he’d distract me with an episode of the Halloween Baking Championship on the Food Network. I love those shows. One of this season’s contestants is a young man with a lovely Carribbean accent. As we watched this guy bake, Randy looked over at me and said, “Well, that makes no sense at all.”
I asked what he meant, and he said that he’d been sure this particular contestant was from Jamaica. I still didn’t understand what he was getting at, so he explained. “The guy just said, ‘We don’t do dat in Ireland.’”
The guy actually said, “We don’t do that on our island.” And this is how we watch television at our house. One of us interprets for the other, and we take turns doing it.
Now, I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m not even contemplating Thanksgiving. I have given it some thought. In fact, I posed a question to my Facebook friends and asked them to tell me their preferred way to cook a turkey. More than one person responded that they prefer their turkey to be cooked by someone else. A few offered up smoking as a method of choice, but most people told me that they’ll do a turkey the traditional way by roasting it in the oven with something stuffed in the cavity. A lot of us do a covered roaster method to make broth for use in gravy and dressing.
I also asked people to name their favorite Thanksgiving side dish. A surprising number of people said sweet potatoes. I like sweet potatoes done many different ways, but my favorite way is mashed up in a casserole with a crunchy, sweet pecan topping. Randy prefers them on someone else’s plate, but he’ll eat them if I go to the trouble of making them. The sweet potato casserole I like best takes two days to make from scratch, or I can buy a very similar one for $3.49 at Aldi. It fits perfectly in my fancy white casserole dish, and no one knows the difference.
We had a debate over the difference between dressing and stuffing. Dressing wins out at our house. I don’t stuff my turkey. Randy and I like dressing with lots of celery and onions. If you’re in a pinch and can’t make your own, Mountain Gate has a delicious stuffing/dressing.
Also, I can’t stress enough that a fresh turkey tastes best. For us, part of the tradition of Thanksgiving is standing in line on the Wednesday before the holiday at Hillside Turkey Farms to pick up our fresh bird. I have nothing against a frozen turkey. I’ve cooked my share of them, but once a year I like to go for broke.
No matter what your food preferences are or how frantic or unsettling your lives have been recently, I hope you’ll join me in taking a few minutes to realize that we all have things for which we are grateful. For me, it’s family, friends, and all of you who read my words each month.
P.S. Thank you, Barb, for the delicious banana crème pie!