My sainted Nana often said that the road to perdition was paved with good intentions.
I’ve found that aphorism to be very true, especially after I magnanimously volunteered to prepare this year’s Thanksgiving Day dinner.
To be fair, my intentions were not totally altruistic. Indeed, craft and guile were my closest friends.
See, I contrived that I could deeply ingratiate myself with the AJF whilst simultaneously minimizing expense and effort, parsimony and and sloth being high among my life goals. Also, I thought that if I played my cards right there might be extra goodies for me under the Christmas tree. As Boris would say as he stroked his mustache, “Iss gut plan for Moose and Squirrel.”
Knowing that the AJF is wise to my ways and that she would be reluctant to risk my personal brand of baffoonery in her sacred kitchen, I launched my plot by sympathizing about how much effort she had always expended in years past preparing lovely holiday meals and how tiring all that must have been. Surely this year she deserved to take a break and I was just the wonderful husband who could make that happen.
Since we expected only the Tolerant Daughter as a guest, I assured my spousal unit there was little downside risk to my taking charge of the meal. After some back and forth the AJF agreed, provided that she would still be in charge of making our traditional family sausage stuffing without which “Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving.”
By the way, some sadly misinformed people, savages actually, call stuffing “dressing.” If you are one of those heathens, kindly leave this blog right now. But I digress.
Other than the stuffing I was granted total freedom in the kitchen. Admittedly, I could see in the AJF’s eyes a premonition of impending horror.
I immediately exercised my enormous authority as Kitchen Master and unilaterally declared that we would skip the traditional, time consuming albeit delicious cooked-from-scratch elements of the holiday feast and instead substitute quick and affordable items from the “microwave and serve” section at Costco. Stroke of brilliance!
I ignored the sharp intake of breath that accompanied this pronouncement, snarking that premature criticism is the unkindest cut of all. Silence ensued but it wasn’t the good kind of silence, no sirree.
Oh, I agreed that turkey would be the centerpiece of our repast but rather than fight the crowds to purchase an actual bird with wings, legs and giblets and such, I took the road less traveled and bought a curious, frozen obloid sphere called a “turkey roll” which boasted “contains actual white and dark meat!”
As an exciting bonus for pennywise connoisseurs like moi, the turkey roll included a “fully prepared gravy packet” at no extra charge.
My choice of said turkey roll proffered multiple benefits: it was 3 pounds of solid meat so no waste, it cost very little, it defrosted quickly and it easily fit on my barbecue grill. Plus, let’s not forget the free gravy package. In an inflationary time this was a total winning situation, no?
Beyond the turkey roll and stuffing, everything else came from a can, box or microwave-proof container: parmesan creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, corn something or other, green bean casserole with those crunchy fried onion chips on top, cranberry sauce, Hawaiian sweet rolls and the aforementioned free gravy.
I calculated that the turkey roll, which presents as meat pieces cleverly compressed and jammed into what looks like a tiny fisherman’s net, would require about 1 ½ hours on the grill. Ever the gourmand, I seasoned the netted assemblage of bird parts with an Herbs de Provence crust of my own devising.
As it happened, Southern California’s infamous Santa Ana winds were strongly blowing on Thanksgiving Day and that made grilling a challenge because the gusts of wind kept extinguishing the grill flame. I had hoped to light the BBQ and forget it whilst quaffing an adult beverage and cheering the dismal Detroit Lions on to their 9th straight loss.
Instead, I was required to keep a watchful eye on the grill the entire time it was cooking. The entire time. No football and no Westminster Dog Show which was probably for the best because I would have been disquieted to see the Scottish Deerhound “Claire” win for a second straight year. Sorry, digressed again.
In the last half hour before dinner time I began a steady rotation of Costco products from refrigerator, to an unwrapping station on the counter, to the microwave, to a serving bowl, and then into the oven to maintain proper temperature.
Next, I removed the turkey roll from the grill, tented it with foil for a brief rest and then took it to the carving board. We each felt a tang of nostalgia for the days when turkey meant an actual flocked creature and not a nicely browned but stringed and pitiful Bag ‘o Poultry.
I noted that the Tolerant Daughter had begun a search on her iPhone for “McRib near me.”
So let’s cut to the chase – how’d I do? Well, let’s just say that, like the turkey roll, it was a mixed bag.
As might be imagined, the highlight of the meal was the AJF’s stuffing which was delicious. I was told it didn’t even require any of the free gravy that was readily available.
Personally, I thought the turkey roll had a good consistency and several of the pieces of dark meat were surprisingly palatable. Yet, for reasons unclear, both the AJF and Tolerant Daughter simultaneously announced a keen and immediate interest in a vegetarian lifestyle.
The Hawaiian sweet rolls, made in Torrance California, were a huge hit. The mashed potatoes were unanimously deemed “interesting” and the ladies suggested they were best served sans the free gravy. I sensed a trend emerging with respect to that plastic package and the anonymous, brown liquid goodness contained therein.
Sadly, the parmesan creamed spinach was inedible; a more horrific gustatory experience is unimaginable. We all agreed that the recipe consisted of a minimal amount of spinach sauced with copious salt and garlic and accented with a cheese sporting the distinctive fragrance and taste of old gym socks. It made us long for kale. I’m a big enough man to admit it was a mistake to bring this to the table.
The crunchy things on top of the green bean casserole were super crunchy as were the green beans themselves, an issue I attribute to incorrect information about microwave cooking times. This was not my fault.
It’s best we don’t discuss the corn thing just now, or ever. To misquote the great Marcus Aurelius, “Depositatum De Latrina” which Google translates loosely as “toss it down the crapper.”
On the brighter side, the wine selection – a lovely Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay – was quite popular and both wife and adult child kept drinking it as if seeking to maximize the effect of the alcohol in the shortest time.
Overall, it’s fair to say that neither the spouse nor daughter was whelmed by the dinner set before them. I think jealousy of my culinary skills played a big part in their poor attitudes. You know females: they scent–mark their kitchens and begrudge any male who threatens their supremacy in that venue.
At least Max liked everything slipped to him and it seemed that he was getting quite a few surreptitious offerings from the women. There were plenty of leftovers; in fact, it was almost a Biblical loaves and fishes moment where the ending food inventory may have exceeded the initial quantity.
Tolerant Daughter must have been on a diet as she gracefully declined to take home her fair share of leftovers.
For dessert I boldly skipped the traditional pumpkin pie and purchased from Costco a tiramisu cake which I served with a nice French Roast coffee. I know, I know…nothing tops off a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner like an oblong of tiramisu. Joke if you will but the girls gobbled that cake as if they hadn’t just been presented with bounteous delectations. Huh.
The foulest cut of all was when the AJF reminded me that it would make her life far easier if I also took full charge of doing the dishes and cleaning up after dinner while the ladies recused themselves for a post-prandial girl-talk session. Hoist meet petard.
All in all it wasn’t a complete disaster. Later, I sat with Max on the Recliner of Sloth sipping an inexpensive domestic brandy and basking in the feeling of a task well done. I’ve already begun pondering what would be affordable and easy for the Christmas feast.
Max yawned, mumbled something vaguely supportive and then mentioned he wouldn’t mind snacking on another piece of that turkey roll – but he’d take a pass on the free gravy.
Categories: The Dog From Rancho Cucaracha