Avoiding holiday amnesia
BY CHRISTINE GARDNERfood@tylerpaper.com
I realized early last week that I had no recollection of last year's Thanksgiving -- the planning, the cooking, the meal and the aftermath. It was all a blur and thus a precursor for repeating the same mistakes.
And on Thanksgiving Day it was like deja vu. I was experiencing the same situations and conversations that had occurred in previous years.
There was my dad talking about stuffing the turkey. Then my mother reminds him we haven't put the stuffing in the turkey since the early 1980s.
Meanwhile, I am sitting at the counter rolling my eyes while I watch him peel and boil a rutabaga that only he will eat.
Every year there are unpredictable factors that challenge your ability to get everything cooked and on the table.
You would think that after years of repeated holiday celebrations we would get better at this and face fewer problems. If you ask me, the mix of anticipation, stress, excitement and too much food sets us up for holiday amnesia -- being unable to recall each year's details that make or break the cycle.
Each year we overdo it in all the usual categories -- cooking, baking, socializing, travel, gifts, food, fun and the exhaustion that follows. By the time Jan. 1 comes around, we are spread so thin we can hardly find ourselves.
My advice is to write down what went wrong and why. Note ways to improve and to relieve stress. Put it in an envelope and tape it to the November page of your 2013 calendar. Remind yourself of the things you need to know. You will be extremely thankful next Thanksgiving.
Here is my letter to myself:
Dear Christine: Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. Everything tasted great, but the preparation left a lot of room for improvement.
Lesson 1: Remember that proper planning prevents poor performance. This year was a case of extreme lack of planning. Don't overcommit to the extent that you don't have time to do your own preparation. You can't wait until Thanksgiving Day to do everything.
Lesson 2: Take everything out of the refrigerator and freezer well in advance. Start thawing the turkey on Saturday or Sunday. Move premade pies, vegetables and other things out of the freezer and into the refrigerator a day in advance.
I used frozen green beans instead of fresh. Even after sitting on the counter all morning they were still frozen when I put them in the saute pan. The melted butter in my pan solidified in seconds.
Lesson 3: Set the table the night before with serving utensils, wine glasses, bowls and trays. Food gets cold fast when searching for serving spoons and gravy boats.
Lesson 4: Don't forget to tie together the turkey's legs. Also don't turn off the oven when you take the turkey out to check it half way through cooking. Noticing an hour later the oven is still off is not the best way to get dinner on the table in a timely manner when hungry men are lurking outside your kitchen.
Lesson 5: Follow your own advice. Keep an eye on things when cooking so they don't burn and make sure ingredients are the right temperature so you don't end up with a grainy cream sauce.
Lesson 6: Remind Dad to buy a new electric knife. The one he is using was a wedding gift from 1967. It is 45 years old and the knife needs to be retired. It is only used at Thanksgiving and Christmas and for at least the last 20 years smells like burning wires. This year the handle cracked and Dad had to wrap it in duct tape to finish carving the turkey.
So long dear knife. Thank you for your many years of holiday service.
Lesson 7: Chopping giblets and mixing them in the stuffing was a very good idea. The fresh sage, rosemary and thyme used proved to be much better than poultry seasoning. And the giblet gravy was exceptional. Write down the recipe before you forget it.
Despite the mishaps, there are plenty of good things to remember from this year. Dad summed it up best when he said, "The turkey was very good, and so was the gravy. I liked my creamed onions and rutabaga, the stuffing was good, the mashed potatoes were good, the cranberries were good. The only thing that I can't say was good was the sweet potatoes. And that's because I didn't get to eat any."
Lesson 8: Make sure everybody gets to taste everything and that the food is passed all the way around the dinner table. Keep a good sense of humor and have a Happy Thanksgiving in 2013.
Christine Gardner can be contacted by emailing email@example.com
or writing to 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, TX 75702. She can also be found on Facebook at Christine Gardner Tyler Paper Food and on Twitter and Pinterest @TylerFlavor.