Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving Chronicle

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. I've been reading various blogs and I've read some lovely accounts of how people spent the holiday. Extraordinary food. Lovely tables. Beautiful homes. Family and friends. Very pleasant reading indeed. Not exactly how I'd describe the day around here though.

As is the custom, we had Thanksgiving at my house. My parents came and all of my girls were there, along with one of the boyfriends. So the family and friend thing? Definitely had that covered. The rest of the trappings? Maybe not so much.

Wednesday I was fortunate to spend a lovely afternoon with Clarice and Angie , both unbelievable hostesses and cooks. An afternoon that in hindsight I probably should have forgone given the amount of work that I left for myself that night and the next day. Honestly though? I can't imagine any instance that I would choose not to go to Angie's on any given Wednesday. That visit truly lifts my spirits week in and week out. Besides, had I not gone I would never have tried Angie's Pumpkin Dinner Rolls and never had the brilliant idea to make them for our own dinner.

Huh. You know, now that I think of it, had I not gone to Angie's and tasted those scrumptious rolls, that would have shaved nearly 5 hours of Thanksgiving dinner prep time. Note to self: If planning to spend the afternoon before a major holiday visiting with dear friends, do not be tempted by new recipes that will take hours to accomplish no matter how tasty. (yeah, like Self will ever listen)

And that's generally the problem around here. I love to make holidays special. I really do enjoy cooking, decorating and all the various and sundry activities that go along with celebrating. What I struggle with is doing it in a timely manner. Some of that's pure food snobbery. I don't often do many shortcuts (although I have to admit that over the past 10 years I don't do my own stock much anymore. I still feel horribly guilty every time I used that boxed stuff though. Clearly I'm not only a food snob, I'm a food hypocrite. Nice.) and I worry that the flavor and integrity of the food might be damaged by too much "make ahead" prep. Part of it, it pains me to say, is simply procrastinationitis. In other words? Pure, unadulterated laziness.

When things run smoothly, even with a late start, everything ultimately works out fairly well. When they don't? Like this year's Thanksgiving?

Pure panic sets in.

The biggest horror (and the casualty of the dinner roll prep the night before) was the pumpkin pie. I've made pie crusts for over 20 years. Good pie crusts. I can do them with my eyes closed. That's why I was beyond puzzled by the failure of three successive pie crusts. I mean those babies simply crumbled right in my hand. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I went through all the stages of Pie Panic. Confusion. Annoyance. Alarm. Terror. Not only did I have the pumpkin, I had two custard pies (chocolate and butterscotch) to make as well. I simply couldn't give in to Resignation. Eventually after a heated argument with my husband over what flour he'd purchased when last at the market, I simply opened a brand new bag and within minutes had all three of my crusts done and ready to go. I knew it was all his fault.

All that time spent making crust, after crust, after blasted crust set me way back, giving me next to no wiggle room. A person like me needs serious wiggle room. Big time. Between the pies, "my" sausage cornbread stuffing that Caroline insisted I make even though my mother was also making stuffing, and the rolls, by the time my guests arrived, I was truly spent. Which is why it makes next to no sense that Rebecca was the one who conked out after dinner. Out cold, I tell you.

There apparently is no justice in the land of holidays and their preparation.