A Fine Feast

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.

What’s a “Perennial?” That’s a cross between a Boomer and a Millennial.

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/  

14 thoughts on “A Fine Feast

  1. A little bit of Chris is NEVER too much for me. Thanks for a brilliantly funny sharing of your family Thanksgiving. Congrats on your Turkey Trot coup. I am a Perennial but what is egg-nog PDQ??

  2. So much to smile about in one post. There’s humor, nostalgia, rescue dogs, and family. That’s really all I need. Congrats on your triumphant Turkey Trot! I can hear the theme song from Chariots of Fire playing in my head right now. No joints replaced yet but I’m a Perennial as well, with an added jigger of Gen Z. Remember Great Shakes with the brown shaker included? I also remember my sister and I fighting over who got the Bobby Sherman cardboard record on the back of the cereal box. Still smiling.

  3. As a Super Perennial (both knees and brain), i was invited to my extended family’s T-DAy, but I was to sit alone at my own table. I put a sign on it saying ‘Children’s Table’! I could put my elbows on the table and other no-nos:)

  4. Good food from some superlative cooks: your older daughter and Noelle Carter. Nice to see you continuing to connect with someone from the LATimes. We Zoomed with kids and grandkids on Thursday, in places like Miami and Memphis and discovered we were the only ones actually having turkey! Of course that was only because we found a 7-lb. bird and figured it would make sense for an old couple like us. Old couple term also brings to mind the 38th anniversary we celebrated this month. I think you mentioned previously it would have been your 38th also. Pleasant memories and Happy Leftovers to you and yours.

  5. I was born in June (nearly July) 1938. I don’t qualify t o be a “baby boomer” so I’m not a Perennial. So I dubbed my generation, Eternal!
    I’m an Eternal!
    We don’t live forever. But we’re grateful for our many blessings, cherish the good and love our family, friends, random strangers & America deeply!

  6. So, do the latest orders mean no book signings for 3 weeks starting Monday unless all the people in line are immediate family? Gr-r-r-r-r.
    Any plans for Santa Monica? I saw you at the Santa Monica Library when you were on the Daditude tour. Poetry in motion, I say. Across the street from Wexler’s Deli. Perfection.

  7. All of my furry children have been pound puppies, the best, they are so grateful to be rescued!!! Best aroma in a house, Turkey!My ItalianMother still makes the best stuffed mushrooms ,you’re so right about drumsticks, too many spindles things on them. Watching the Macy’s(they tried their best !) parade while cooking the turkey and baking my pumpkin pies from scratch. But all that mattered this year was just being with at least a few immediate family members. Again , Chris, you said it all , for all of us!!!

  8. All the mental pyrric runs
    Like all the other undones
    Dreams of victory ?–A ton
    Oh! The loss of something won
    Nothing is as it seems
    With media we now have memes
    Parading trivia in streams
    That make cartoons of moonbeams
    Nothing can compare to dreams
    So I say, the turkey’s done
    Tryptophan by the ton
    Lolling moments so much fun
    Spartacus, the daughters–one
    More rich experience
    Planned, yet much due to chance
    Part of life’s elegance
    Imagination is romance
    So you write of the area
    Kitchen’s holiday hysteria
    With such lovely wine deliria
    That we ran, won the race with ya
    And consumed the avid fare
    As If we’d all been there
    Absent the Covid nightmare
    More vivid than a husky’s stare
    Thank you Chris !–beyond compare
    For the Turkey dreams you air
    That made this holiday so rare–
    A hymn to how much you care

    1. Forrest, you’ve outdone yourself with this one. Quite good. I especially like “parading trivia in streams, that make cartoons of moonbeams…” Thank you for this!

  9. all of our dogs have been rescues. White Fang is a rescuer. I wanted to try PDQ egg nog, but my parents thought it would have some sort of alcohol in it so I did not.
    Second question about Santa Monica….any more visits there? Hope so….

Leave a Reply