A Hermit Thanksgiving 2018

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 22, 2018

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RE Thanksgiving of Yesteryear

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If you are a follower of my Diner Menu thread inside the Diner, you probably thought my Thanksgiving Dinner image would look like the one at the top of the page, and at one time they did look like that.

When we returned from Brasil and moved into My House in Flushing Queens in New York, we held a big Thanksgiving Dinner for all the relatives on my mother's side of the family.  Although we still had contact with some of my father's side of the family after the divorce, they lived down in Norfolk Virginia for the most part  The ones that did live in NY held their own family Thanksgiving celebrations so it was pretty strictly my mom's side of the family.  At the time, we had the biggest house with the biggest table, a behemoth we brought back from Brazil hand carved from Jacaranda Rainforest Hardwood that could seat 12, although 8 was much more comfortable.  We also usually had to set up a card table for the kids as well when we tried to hold it as a sit-down at the table dinner, but after a couple of years the numbers got bigger and we did it Buffet style and the crowd would find places to sit and eat wherever, TV folding tables, Coffee tables etc.  These huge family gathering feasts lasted from around the time I was 10 until I headed off to college at 16.

I took on the Turkey Cooking responsibilities in those years, I think by the time I was 12 or so.  Mom was not a real good cook, her turkey cooking amounted to buying a packaged stuffing mix and shoving the Stuffed Turkey in the oven.  She didn't pay much attention to it when it was cooking. and threw the Turkey into the oven for a couple of hours at the wrong temperature, so it would come out kind of dry, though not completely inedible if you soaked it in gravy, also a packaged product.  She didn't pay much attention to it while it was cooking,   I would watch the Turkey and baste it regularly, and adjust the oven temperature as necessary to get a perfectly done Turkey with a crispy skin and moist meat.  For my Stuffing, I experimented with many different ingredients, using stuff like sausage, raisins and walnuts to spruce up a packaged stuffing mix and make it more flavorful.  I used the drippings from the Turkey to make a fresh gravy after it was finished cooking.  I added Carrots, Potatoes, Onions and Garlic to the roasting pan to roast together with the Turkey.  I took particular pride in my Carving ability and laying out the platter of White and Dark Meat with slices of breast meat and thigh meat so it all looked just right.  You need a real sharp knife to do this, so I got good at knife sharpening to make it possible, and perfected my sharpening technique.  Later in life I got an Electric Knife for this task, and it makes it much EZier. I have never lost my love for good really sharp manual knives though, and actually bought myself a new Damascus Steel Chefs Knife this Christmas ON SALE on Amazon's Black Friday sales as a present to myself.  67 Layers of Damascus Steel!  No substitute for that, and this one is Japanese, who originated Damascus Steel as I understand the history.  Can't wait to slice up a ripe tomato or gravlax with this one!  Anyhow, after the meal was all said and done, I collected all the leftover bones and the Turkey Giblets and simmered them overnight to make a Turkey broth I would freeze and use for making soup for a month or two afterward.

Image result for beat up old volkswagen beetle Mom still held Thanksgiving feasts after I went to college, but they dwindled in size to just her 2 sisters who lived in small rent controlled apartments.  They were all aging and living on fixed incomes at the time.  I went home for these celebrations as well, which lasted right through my marriage years, I remember going to one with my ex-wife in her beat up old Volkswagen Beetle before we got married and bought our Astro Van on credit.  We got in a massive Traffic Jam on the way to the Whitestone Bridge, which connects the Bronx to Queens in NY.  We lived in Westchester, but you have to pass through the Bronx to get to Queens, unless you take a much longer route through Manhattan.  It was a manual transmission with a very stiff clutch, and my leg started to cramp up from so much pushing up and down on it in the stop & go traffic.

After my own divorce and her retirement, my mom moved out to Springfield, MO where my sister had moved some years before.  I eventually ended up there also as Home Base in my trucking years, and my sister took up the baton as host for the Thanksgiving Feast.  She took on the Turkey Cooking job, since I usually only showed up there by Thanksgiving Day itself.  Her husband the Tool & Die man also regularly got a free Thanksgiving Turkey as a Bonus from his workplace.  They had a HUGE dinner table also, an octagonal table the Tool & Die guy built himself and took up the whole dining room.  It also seated 8 comfortably, but you could wedge in a couple of extra seats for a sit down meal.  In the biggest years I remember, the eaters consisted of my sister and hubby, her son and his wife and their son, an elderly neighbor from across the street and her daughter and grand daughter, my mother and of course myself.  Others would show up after the main meal, friends of my sister.

My food contribution in those years consisted of buying a Honey Baked Ham, I didn't do any cooking.  The middle daughter of the trio brought homemade cranberry sauce, which is a totally different culinary experience than the canned shit you buy from Ocean Spray.  These fairly large group eating experiences lasted about a decade or so in total.  I made them most of the years, I think I only missed one while I was trucking.  That year I had Thanksgiving Dinner at a truckstop, although I don't remember where it was.  It was a good buffet though, so it was probably either at the Flying J or Petro, the two best buffets on the truckstop circuit.

Upon moving to Alaska and taking up coaching again as my primary profession, I would always be invited to the Thankgiving Feast at one of my prize gymmies homes, or by the owner of the gym who had a large family of his own.  I was the lonely old bachelor who they felt sorry for not having any relatives to consume food with here in Alaska.  For the first few years I accepted one of these invitations, but I never enjoyed them.  I felt like a 3rd Wheel, out of place with relatives I didn't know and nothing to really talk about with them.  Then afterward people would sit around and watch the Thanksgiving Football game, a sport I had also lost interest in by this time.  So after a few years of this rather painful exercise for me, I stopped accepting these invitations and started my new tradition of having Thanksgiving Dinner alone.

Image result for hungry man turkey tv dinner The problem here of course is it is totally impractical to cook a traditional Thanksgiving Meal for 1 person.  Obviously, you can't roast a Turkey and fill it with stuffing for one person, and even a can of Ocean Spray Cranberry sauce is more than one peron will consume.  So I went to the world of Frozen TV Dinners, or Microwaveables these days as they are now called.  I have tried all of them, and have settled on the Hungry Man Turkey Dinner produced by Swanson.  This is the evolution of one of the original TV Dinners produced by Swanson, which were Fried Chicken, Salisbury Steak and the aforementioned Turkey.  In terms of Microwaving as opposed to heating in the oven, it works a lot better than the Fried Chicken does.  Other Industrial Food companies make these dinners also, Marie Callendar, Boston Market, Stouffer's, Banquet etc (I have tried them all), but the Hungry Man one is the closest approximation to a plate I would put together for myself from the real buffets of the old days.  It's not too bad either as frozen foods go, and it has tremedous advantages.

1- Shopping for your Turkey Day feast is very EZ.  You don't have tons of ingredients to buy.  You go to the frozen food aisle and buy the box, and that's IT!

2- There is ZERO prep time.  No long hours preparing the stuffing, baking the sweet potatoes and roasting the Turkey.

3- There is NO CLEANUP!  You finish your meal and then stuff the plate into the trash and bring it to the dumpster for its final trip to the Land of Away.

Now, many of you will consider this way of spending your Thanksgiving Holiday is depressing, but it's not for me.  I morphed into a loner Hermit type in my trucking years, and took less and less pleasure over time going to the communal celebrations of conspicuous food consumption.  I do miss the greater variety of foods besides the basics of Turkey, Gravy, Stuffing, Potatoes, Cranberry sauce and mixed Veggies that a real Thanksgiving Buffet has, but for me the fact I don't have to be sociable with people I don't know outweighs that deficiency.

In point of fact here, this year I'm not sure I can even eat through the whole Hungry Man TV Dinner, but I will try.  I got this one ON SALE for $3 yesterday at Fred Meyer, after braving the massive nuber of shoppers out buying last minute foods there before the big day.  If I get through half of it and only have half to throw out, I'll be happy.

Anyhow, I hope all you Diners are having your own Happy Thanksgivings also, as we all eat our way through the last days of the Industrial Agricultre Food Cornucopia here in the FSoA.

 

RE Thanksgiving 2018

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