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You Never Forget Your First Time

Posted Nov 22 2009 12:00am

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner! Get your mind out of the gutter.

Every year I want to make Thanksgiving Dinner. I look through my binder of recipes (it's white, from Staples, some are written, some are ripped out of magazines, some are photocopies of cookbook pages, with colored dividers separating them by type of meal), and watch the Food Network for new takes on stuffing or side dishes. We alternate families every year, this year we are staying in town and going to Mike's Aunt's house, otherwise we head to my Mom's. We're trying something new this year, and bringing a cheese fondue for an app, I'm still working on ideas for it.

So nine years ago we were going to Long Island for Thanksgiving, and my Mom tells us she's bailing on the family, and going to Paris with a friend for the Holiday. After panicked phone calls from my sisters and brother, I decided to take on the meal.
I still have all my notes from the planning of the day, I shopped and researched every possible way to make turkey. I hemmed and hawed about side dishes and desserts. We were living in Rochester at the time, my Turkey 10K was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so I was able to keep that in my schedule. My Dad decided to come to dinner since my Mom wasn't going to be there (they're divorced), one of my BFF's was coming, and after some trepidation, my Uncle and Grandfather decided to attend as well. My Uncle is funny, as the above photo shows, he never takes his coat off. Luke does this sometimes too, so I'm wondering if it's genetic.
The day arrived, Mike and I were up early after the obligatory visit to the bar the night before, to see everyone else who was in town. We decided to cook the bird upside down for the first half hour of cooking, then rotate it on one side for 15 minutes, then 15 minutes on the other side, then right side up for the remainder of the time. I read that this ensured a juicy bird. My mom made her famous Pilgrim Potato's before hand (mashed, mixed with cream cheese and sour cream, and baked) and she said we absolutely could NOT forget my Grandfather's creamed pearl onions. He has since passed on, but he loved those frozen onions by Bird's Eye.
We spent the morning cooking, cleaning, getting the apps out, setting the table, and enjoying each other's company. It's funny how you have to have the same things every year, for my sister it's onion dip and chips. So we had that, along with cheeses and crackers. And wine....and beer. The meal came together right on time, the turkey looked perfect if I do say so myself, and it tasted great. Mike made gravy from the drippings, and we had the following: sausage and onion stuffing, mashed butternut squash, green bean casserole, glazed baby carrots, corn souffle, mashed potato's along with the Pilgrim, cranberry sauce, and rolls.

We had a nice prayer, and were quiet as we dove in. Until I looked at my Grandpa, and whispered "Pearl. Onions." My brother shot out of his chair, we heard the freezer door open, and the microwave turn on, so all was well.

After the meal people came in and out of the house, friends of mine, and of my siblings. Dessert was pumpkin and apple pie, fruit and my potato chip shortbread cookies that I make during the holidays. The weather was cool, with a bit of sun through the clouds. I felt so content that everyone had a great meal, was happy and relaxed. During dessert my Grandpa pulled out some vodka and sprinkled it over his fruit salad, and he said that it helped to bring out the flavor of the fruit. That still cracks me up.

Later on I spoke with my Step Mom, and she said "So how does it feel to be a grown up?" I was married and on my own, but what she said made sense, making your first holiday meal is a rite of passage of sorts. And I can't wait to do it again.
Happy Thanksgiving.
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