Penny's gotten a lot better this year, but her knees are pretty much shot.
We have a plan in place to help with that, but for the nonce it means 'no, we don't drive long distances without an overriding reason. Dining with my family is always interesting - Penny describes it as "Get huge amounts of food cooked and out, eat more than you want to, take at least something of everything lest you insult the cook, as you will be asked why you didn't eat it (What did I do wrong that the food was unacceptable?!)... and after eating it all you lie around like beached whales with the tv on too loud and nobody ever muting the commercials. No conversation, and nobody is watching the TV, and Penny is the only one who pays attention to your grandmother."
Well, yeah. Grandma is getting very strange in her old age - she turned 89 a few weeks ago and proudly told me she'd just turned 79. She's paranoid, hostile, and unhappy because she can't hear anything, yet she won't use the medical coverage that would let her buy a hearing aid, because she thinks they cost too much, but she's at least partly covered for it. So she resents everyone mumbling and leaving her out of things.
This differs from Penny's family T-day tradition of being criticized for each bite that dared pass her lips - but that's not going to happen any more, as her grandmother passed on in 91, and her mother can only "cook" an odd and eclectic selection of 1950s party foods, odd diet fad foods, and just plain weird combinations of stuff she got at the canned food recovery store. If it requires more than three minutes of attention at a stove, it's too complicated for her.
There's a lot more thanksgiving memories, but this gets away from examining the rationale of our T-Day.
We're not totally broke, but we're treading water with sharks in it, and we're both working on dietary limitations. Doctor Kroonen took Penny off the Atkins diet because (though it had initially reduced her insulin requirements and her blood work was all right) after the summer, it appeared to be causing protein levels to be wrong in her kidneys, so she's seen a nutritionist and constructed a diet that should help her lower her insulin reasonably, and still lose weight to help her knees feel better.
I am however, trying to get more weight to come off. I've been stalled for some time. I know that all I have to do is go to the gym and start keeping track of KCal, and stay on the general low-carb plan I've been following.
So the dinner plan: Figure out what really belongs in the dinner.
Well, turkey is mandatory. Where there is turkey there is usually gravy, which implies the presence of one of the gravy-carrier starches (mashed potatoes, rice, or bread-based stuffing). Cranberries are also required in some form.
Salad? Superfluous but nice. Bread? Well, there were herbal dinner rolls that were quite good last year, from Beaverton Bakery, and we wanted to try them again.
And Penny found a recipe online for an oyster casserole that sounded like the oyster dressing my mom likes to make, but one that's been bodily assumed into heaven without even dying first.
Skipping the litany of shopping, the key features: No herb rolls this year, ergo no luscious turkey sandwiches just big enough for two or three bites. Oh well.
Turkey, a Diestel Farms beast weighing in at 10.46 pounds. Small, but more than adequate for two people. Various other viands acquired.
We've been following the recipe from 'Beat That' for the last three years, attempting to make the perfect turkey. Every year it's been gorgeous. Sometimes we're surprised by the foods we make. They have that 'Norman Rockwell' aura of being just too perfect, so that you wonder if they might be made of wax or plastic.
Last year, we decided the turkey had been overcooked by following the recipe from the book, which recommends 15 minutes per pound for turkeys under 15 pounds.
So instead, we did 12 minutes a pound. The result: Another turkey that looked fake when it was done.
I'd shoved fresh sage leaves under the breast skin and into the body cavity. The basting liquid included turkey stock made from the neck, heart, and gizzard, cooked for an hour. That slowed the production somewhat. To a half-cup of the stock we added a stick of butter, two tablespoons of lime juice, and a tablespoon total of tabasco with garlic and habanero tabasco. Brushed that over the turkey before starting the cooking, which is not really 'proper', and started it breast-side-down, then at the first half hour and every 15 minutes of cooking after, basted it.
Those extra minutes that it was being basted were NOT counted towards cooking time, something I hadn't thought of before. Cook time was 1 hour 6 minutes, so at the halfway point, I flipped the bird over and basted it some more - I didn't mention, but it was roasted on a roasting rack, so it had lines from touching the rack, which took a bit away from the 'perfection' image, but only a bit.
While the bird was roasting, I made a fresh cranberry-orange relish. Penny slivered the orange peels from two Valencia oranges, then I took the guts and juice, plus a third to a half cup of water, plus ten packets of Splenda and ten cubes of sugar. (Splenda is good, has the same 'attack and sustain' as real sugar, unlike saccharine or nutra-sweet, but it has a sharper 'decay' so it doesn't seem to stay with the taste buds quite as long as plane old dextrose.)
Added a pint of cranberries, after picking out the yucky ones, and boiled it until they all burst open, but without the super-sugary base it wasn't thickening up well, so used a teaspoon or so of the 'Thicken/Thin' Not-Sugar thickening agent from the low-carb store. It came out near-perfect, might use less sweet and maybe a teaspoon of lime juice next time.
We decided on rice to go with the gravy. We had WAY too much gravy, and it wasn't behaving itself at all. It kept breaking. I had added about 2/3 cup of flour, slowly and stirred-in, to the pan drippings from the turkey, and once it cooked, put in the remaining basting liquid (mostly stock at that point) plus another cup of turkey stock, but it kept 'breaking' with the oil separating itself out from the gravy emulsion. I ended up adding a bit of half-and-half, which cured the breaking, and a cup of chicken stock from the pot of stock in the fridge, which thinned it down to the proper consistency at last. Oh yeah, the meat from the neck plus the heart and gizzard were, of course, diced up and added to the gravy.
During the process of making the turkey, we played Animal Crossing, which has a 'Harvest Festival Day' where you get to rescue a turkey from being eaten by stealing all the cutlery from the community meal, to which the turkey was invited by the mayor of the town. The poor turkey is going out of his mind with fear, having discovered that everyone in town is a cannibal and wants to devour him.
In return for saving him from becoming dinner by giving him the cutlery, you get all sorts of neat things for your house.
In the real world, though, our turkey was not alive when we invited it to our home, and cooked up beautifully golden, with the sage leaves showing under the breast skin, and even with the shortened cooking time, the wing joints were loose enough, so it wasn't under-cooked.
So, dinner was a turkey wing atop rice with turkey gravy. (I had a half cup cooked rice, but at the end of the day, my 'ketone test' showed traces, so I didn't completely wreck my diet. On the other hand, my toes and fingers hurt, so I somehow got too many purines in, and the gout is warning me to mend my ways.)
After a little while, some slices from the breast, which was perfectly moist, tender, and delicious, were served with a big spoonful of the cranberry relish, and a little bit more gravy.
And of course before going to sleep, a small turkey sandwich made with thigh meat.
The Oyster recipe ... I'll make that Friday or Saturday, and cook some shrimp and put them in a salad.
So. No, we didn't 'pig out' or anything, but we did have the Turkey Day experience. Oh yeah, and for the Thanksgiving part of things.
We are thankful that Penny has been found to be cancer-free, almost a year after her surgery and subsequent radiation treatments.
We are thankful that we have food and a place to live, and that we have so many loving and close friends both near and far, and that I have a contract that's keeping us going for longer, while we search out the elusive 'real' job.
We were thankful as well, that we didn't try to do the long drives to various relatives' homes.