Thursday, November 27, 2014

Old Generation, New Generation

Today is Thanksgiving and I've been giving some thought to the calls I've received recently.

"Hey, Dad, how do you make sausage rolls?"

"Hey, Dad, can you send me the recipe for cornbread stuffing?"

"Hey, Dad, how do you do Thanksgiving in London?  They don't have the right stuff."

That's the New Generation starting their own family traditions, borrowing from old family traditions. The holiday season is all about food.  Food is what brings a family together and family food traditions are very strong.

I remember the year I suggested we do goose or pork or fish or something, anything, but turkey for Christmas.  The cold, stony silence was quite enough to tell me that turkey it was, lots of turkey, in fact, a Giant Macy's Parade sized turkey!

Some traditions you just don't mess with.

More flexibility and acceptance was to be had with side dishes.  We've cycled through "dirty rice" stuffing, candied yams, green bean casseroles, grilled yams with chipotle sauce, Brussels sprouts in many forms and all manner of experiment both failed and successful.

But, as we did many years ago, each family will develop their own traditions sacred and profane to themselves to be honored and handed down as "tradition" to families of their own.

Back in the day we had cookbooks and recipe cards.  We had a three-ring binder with clippings, recipes from newspapers and handwritten notes.  Our first few Thanksgiving meals were prepared by memory, guessing and following instructions from venerable sources like Gourmet Magazine,  the Southern Living cookbook and the Good Housekeeping cookbook - great references even today.

And, today, cookbooks have been replaced for all intent by the Internet where one can find a dozen recipes for any dish in seconds.  Yet, for all its power Internet recipes lack the human touch.  The details that turn a meal into a great meal, a memorable occasion.

How do you know when the pastry is "right?"  Well, you touch it like so and if it reacts like so it's ready.

How do you know when the turkey is done?  Well, you wiggle the leg or stick the instant read thermometer right here and check the temperature but also look at the color of the juice that comes out.

What's the best recipe for pecan pie?  Simple, it's on the side of the Karo Syrup bottle.  Deviate from that recipe at your peril.

Thanksgiving dinner has always been more about family than recipes.  Thanksgiving is about being together, working together and culminating in a celebration of togetherness regardless of the turkey or side dishes.  It's the process, not the product that's important.  It's all about fun, chaos, bellyache laughter, disasters, stories and perhaps a calamity or two, that at the end of it all, it doesn't matter what's on the table so much as what's around the table.

Family.  Old generation.  New generation.  Passing it forward.

I wouldn't miss it for anything!

Bacon, My Bacon

I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy bacon.

At the Savoy de Mesilla in Las Cruces, New Mexico, what was there on the menu but this -

Bacon Wrapped Dates

To be honest it could have been "Bacon Wrapped Anything" and I would have ordered.  The description went on to say that the bacon was "jalapeƱo flavored" meaning it would be a little spicy. My imagination shifted into high gear.  Sweet, succulent dates wrapped in salty, spicy, crisp bacon.  What was not to like about that combination!

For years bacon was just bacon, although calling bacon "just bacon" should really be a crime.  But, that's the way it was.  Bacon at breakfast, fried and served with eggs, pancakes or waffles (or all three!), or bacon crumbled on salad which in my humble opinion is a waste of perfectly good bacon.  For sure the bacon looks good on lettuce's CV, but not so much lettuce on bacon's.

Anyway, getting to the chase the presentation was outstanding and the bacon wrapped dates were even better.  See for yourself.

A less glamorous but as addictive bacon treat was discovered earlier in the year at the Silver Fox in Casper, Wyoming.  The menu read -

Bacon Knots

"What are bacon knots," I asked the waitress innocently?

Her eyes rolled back in her head, she started to make gurgling noises and drooled a bit just before going into a Meg Ryan impression from "When Harry Met Sally."  You know the one, don't pretend you don't.

After she regained consciousness she began to describe with all the tenderness and love of recounting her first kiss in the 8th grade with Lance how thick-cut bacon was literally tied into a knot, dredged in brown sugar and baked in the oven until done.

She was still in a trance when I asked, "Overhand?"

Returning to the Land of the Living with a visible startle she looked at me and said, "What?"

"Overhand," I repeated, "is the bacon tied with an overhand knot?  Or do you tie two rashers together with a square knot?  Ever tried a bowline?"

She looked at me as if I were from Mars speaking Sanskrit and said huffily, "A knot.  Just a knot.  Do you want to order some or knot, I mean not?"

Yes, please, we said and make it a double.  I refrained from making a double-knot pun because I had used up all my Good Will tokens.

Moments later our bacon knots arrived and we were not disappointed.  The bacon was cooked to perfection and the brown sugar had left just a hint of a glaze.  They were not too sweet at all and I could see doing bacon knots with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper or chipotle chili powder.

The surprise was the knot.  I wondered why bacon wasn't simply dredged in brown sugar and cooked in strips.  However, there was something about eating the knot that was magical.  It was like eating something bacon wasn't supposed to be.  Bacon could be a strip, wrapped around something or crumbled, but not served in a "chunk" like a knot.

It seemed a little naughty or "knotty" to throw out one more bad pun.  The bacon knots disappeared quickly but "knot" before I managed to preserve one for posterity.

I give you The Bacon Knot -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stuffing the Stuffing

It's two days to Thanksgiving and all the talk around the table is about food.  Not the food we're eating or the food we ate during the day, but the food we're going to eat in two more days.

Stuffing about stuffing.

Is the cornbread baked?  Do we have the pecans and celery?  What about the pies?  Can we stuff the pies into the stuffing?

And so it goes.

I can't imagine the first Thanksgiving went like this.  Did the Pilgrims fret about celery, pecans and stuffing, or were they more worried about getting through the month without starving?

I think the first Thanksgiving was much less prepared.  More like a pot luck dinner or a dinner party than a grand event.

"Hey, Martha, I sort of invited a bunch of Iroquois on Thursday to share grits."

"What, Walter, I have nothing to wear!  How could you?  And grits?  We can't serve our guests grits.  Go get some yams or something."

Somehow I don't think Martha and Walter had "conjugal relations" that evening.

Monday, November 24, 2014

House Full of Conversations

Is this my boarding pass?

Here are the apples.  The oven is on.

I'll clear the dishes.

What time does my flight leave?

Cinnamon, who wanted cinnamon?

I think I'm going to get that Mustang.  It's really cool.

Your flight isn't until Friday.

I found the foil, is the oven on?

Seven minutes at 450 will work.

We'll need some more pies if we eat this one.  I'm going to eat all this pie.

We're good pie makers.

We can take the leftovers and cover them in cheese.

We'll need more cheese.

We need celery, no, not for the pie.  For the salad.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Land of Enchantment

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment.

For me that means two things:  Mexican food with lots of local peppers, and cats.

Tonight I settled on beef flautas with green chili sauce and for the cat a local named Zoe.

The food was outstanding and the cat tolerated my presence in her universe.

So far, so good.

Saturday, November 22, 2014



Oh, the King.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Only Temporary

Eons ago, 15 years to be exact, we had a party at our house and decided to move the big Klipshorn speakers into the "Family Room."  So far, so good.

However, the Klipshorn's are "corner" speakers that require a corner to sit in.  Surprisingly, most houses today don't have two corners for such speakers.  Thus, we had to improvise and put one speaker in a corner next to the stereo unit, and the other speaker wayyyyyy across the room AND across an opening.

What to do with the wires?

Duct tape!  Yep, duct tape solved the problem of people tripping on the wires and provided a "temporary" solution for the next FIFTEEN YEARS.

Yes.  Monster Cable was duct taped to the floor in our house for FIFTEEN YEARS.  Actually, after a few days you hardly notice it, aside from the daily complaint of "When are you going to do something about those duct taped wires?!?"

Soon, I would reply, giving me another year or two grace.

Well, finally, we had our floor replaced and the contractor said, "I can hide those wires," and so he did.

So.  He.  Did.

All hail the contractor!

Look, Ma, no wires!  But, great sound.  Astounding sound!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Carpet Out, Wood In

The great floor renovation project continues.

Today, the wood was laid in the Master Bedroom which previously had carpet.  Here's the progress:

Lots of sawing, whacking, hammering and more hammering going on late into the night.  Don't these guys ever sleep?