Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From the First Thanksgiving and Onward

Pumpkin Cheesecake  Yum!
The first Thanksgiving: not the Pilgrim Fathers, but mine as a young bride.  We had to buy a card table because we lived in a tiny apartment with a living room (no table)  a small bedroom and a kitchen the size of a closet.  We had only returned from our honeymoon a month before.  I was making my first forays into the kitchen.  I knew meatloaf, pork chops and spaghetti.  We bought a German magazine in Mexico with recipes, and also a Gourmet Magazine.  I was learning German, so the German one was cool. I still have its recipe for lentil soup.  The Gourmet, of course, was in English, an old summer issue, and from that I clipped and still make the gazpacho recipe.  It's a classic.

But on to that early Thanksgiving.  I had my mom's stuffing recipe (2nd best in the world, which I have somehow lost, damn it) and my courage.  We invited a local colleague of Significant Other, who reneged at the last minute because "fowl sits heavy on my stomach."  So it was S.O. and me and a turkey with the trimmings.  Of course the card table couldn 't hold all the trimmings, and I had to keep running back to the kitchen.  I have no idea if I opened cans of cranberries and sweet potatoes (probably) and just did the turkey and dressing. By the way, the stuffing had mashed potatoes as an ingredient.  And celery and bread.  Poultry seasoning.

My father taught me how to make gravy.  Equal parts flour and fat and good pan drippings.  A fat separator is a useful tool.  The  quality of the gravy is equal to what's in the bottom of the pan.  This should be engraved on every cook's forehead.

We're had many thanksgivings, and the best ones were when we had a collection of friends, family and strangers around the table.  Never enough family for fights.  My mom and her brothers always got into it over politics.

The colleague who spurned our invitation was seen on another occasion at the lunch counter of the St. Louis airport, dressed in coat and tie,  eating pizza with knife and fork in good (then) German fashion. This man personified weird. 

I learned to make Boeuf Bourgignon and other toothsome meals in that itsy-bitsy kitchen.  I learned the difference between a clove and a bud of garlic, and once a baked potato exploded and burned me royally.  My future kitchens were bigger and brighter and I learned more about cooking and cuisine as the years went on.  We moved to Chicago and ventured into many fine restaurants. 

A cook never stops learning.  And that is a good thing.

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