A Thanksgiving that warmed the belly, filled the heart.
Dogpark Gary and I decided that the annual Thanksgiving dog show should have a special category for rescues.
“And now we turn to that symbol of slobbery resurrection, the humble rescue dog,” host John O’Hurley would tell a national TV audience.
Dogpark Gary would then parade his pitbull mix as O’Hurley explained in hushed tones that the dog once swallowed a tennis ball whole, and “his idiot owner here paid $4,000 to have it surgically removed.”
Rescue pets are the walking heartbeat of America. They have outstanding back stories. And great owners. TV viewers would gobble it up whole.
That said, I would change nothing else about Thanksgiving. The best part is still the smell of the turkey in the oven, the next best part is sprawling on the couch watching parades, football and movies we’ve seen a thousand times.
The next best part is everything else.
Sure, I love the feast. Much like her mother, the lovely and patient older daughter is the Michelangelo of big dinners. This year, out of COVID concerns, we moved the meal outside, into a sort of eccentric picnic.
The air was brisk, the food was steamy. Final grade: G for Glorious.
Bite for bite, the best part of the meal was probably the stuffed-mushroom appetizers Smartacus made, and the best part of the day was probably the two of us toiling in our own kitchen beforehand: ”Can you pass me the parchment paper, Dad? Is that enough cheese?”
As he made the mushrooms, I made mac ‘n’ cheese from a celebrity cookbook. Taking recipes from a celebrity is like taking dance lessons from a stripper. So easy to mistake passion for expertise.
The mac ‘n’ cheese never achieved the crispy roof it needed. In fairness, I misread the oven temp. Waa-whoops.
In any case, Thanksgiving was sensational, no drama or fistfights, as so often mark an American holiday.
In fact, my daughter Rapunzel cried only once, which is pretty good. Last week, she spotted a baby possum on the sidewalk and went all to pieces. That’s the kind of kids I have, brave enough to let their feelings out. I am very blessed.
With minor input from the rest of us, the lovely and patient older daughter and her new husband Finn produced as fine a feast as I have ever experienced. Warmed the belly, filled the heart.
Turkey offers a richness and a texture that just seem to match the mood and the season. As an adopted Californian, I like that it sports a nice tan.
We talked about the “natty wine” movement (natural wines without additives). I tasted the orange wine and didn’t care for it much. To me, the more additives the better.
Then Rapunzel explained how she rents her clothes now, and then asked: Did I want an espresso martini? Which I certainly did not. It may be the first time in my life I have turned down a drink, but after the orange wine, I was a little leery of her.
After all, she now rents her clothes.
Oh, these Millennials, so intent on re-inventing the universe. I happen to be a Perennial, so I can relate.
What’s a “Perennial?” That’s a cross between a Boomer and a Millennial – a Boomer chassis, but loaded with all that impressive Millennial idealism.
To be honest, Perennials are really just re-born Kennedy Democrats. Have you had a hip replaced yet? Do you remember Harry Chapin, or egg-nog PDQ? Then there’s a good chance you’re a Perennial.
Wear it as a badge of honor, and a sign of your youthiness.
The meal was amazing, as I said, and then we played charades, a family Thanksgiving tradition. I cheated and still didn’t win, which I think is what America is all about these days. I sense the emergence of a new moral code: Everyone for themselves, which I totally embrace.
I like turkey so much that I am thinking of putting a bonus one on the smoker later this weekend. Smartacus loves turkey sandwiches, has one nearly every day, and I love nibbling on necks and waving drumsticks around like torches, the best use for a drumstick.
As you know, nothing promises more, and delivers less, than a turkey drumstick. Three bites in, and you’re like, “OK, next!”
“OK, next” is now my motto, by the way. Next holiday. Next recipe. Next succulent natty-wine feast.
As I always say, life is 90% anticipation, 10% perspiration and 5% vermouth. Yes, I know that’s 105%. So what? For a little more kick, add 10% gin.
As writer James Agee once said, “A little bit of too much is just enough for me.”
He was talking about you, I think.
Meanwhile, my genius cook-friend Noelle Carter sent me her maple-bourbon turkey recipe. Noelle is the first female mensch — so fun, so big-hearted, I might one day propose, though her partner Val would object.
Anyway, Noelle is the most playful, inventive, brilliant cook I know. She smokes the maple-bourbon turkey on a standard Weber at 250-300 degrees for two to three hours, but uses hickory for only the first hour. For details, go here.
Meanwhile II: I finally won our local Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot, a 3.2-mile holiday tradition that had been called off this year.
Technically, you can’t call off a tradition, so I ran it anyway, competing against myself, my worst possible opponent. I mean, we’re all competing against ourselves to some degree, right?
Long story short, I won my first Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.
Folks want to know: “Will you retire now? What do you have left to prove?”
Look, this win was no fluke. Because if they cancel the Turkey Trot next year, I might win again.
I might even take White Fang along. As a husky/wolf mix, she runs as if finishing the last segment of an Arctic mail run – ears back, tongue dragging. I run like a pizza boy delivering in a driving rain.
As O’Hurley would say, “And now we have this idiot Perennial and his psycho-neurotic wolf, running down the boulevard. Wouldn’t you say that’s poetry in motion?”
“Oh look, he tripped. And now they’re airborne!”
Two things: Please join me at Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada from 2:30-4:15 pm today (Nov. 28), where I’ll be signing copies of “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” my latest book. And, this is a little weird, I know, but we now have a line of commemorative Hiking Club and Gin & Tonic Society swag: t-shirts, caps and gin glasses that celebrate our friendship. Hey, a guy’s gotta eat! (and you should see my bar tab.) We have to move these shirts! Info: https://chriserskinela.com/gift-shop/