Today was a largely mellow day involving continued cleaning up from yesterday’s dinner. I spent some time putting together some ingredients for rather elaborate (and decidedly silly) blog post that is still only half-baked. Since I don’t want to stay up too much later, I foraged through my photo collections for a few morsels I’d been saving. I came across this set. Well, that’s not exactly true. I came across a similar set of photos: 1) the three little tomatoes in a blue bowl, 2) the 6 red potatoes in a colander and 3) 2 photos of cranberries in a little white bowl. One had 3 cranberries, which went nicely with the 3 tomatoes. But since I took the potato picture last December, I couldn’t go back and only put in 3 potatoes. (And I didn’t think to take any new photos of potatoes as I was prepping them yesterday.) The other photo of cranberries in the bowl had 7 cranberries. And it bothered me that it gave me a set of 3, 6 and 7. So then I realized that I still had half a bag of fresh cranberries in the fridge, and a little while bowl sitting empty on the table. So, yes, I staged the 3rd photo to have the bowl contain 9 cranberries so I could have the photos contain 3, 6 and 9 oval-shaped red produce objects. A much more satisfying number sequence.
We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year, which has become a tradition in recent years. In addition to my family of four, plus my mother-in-law (who is in assisted living in a neighboring town), it has also become a tradition to invite a friend of mine and her two boys. This year, we were happy to have my mother join us from California, bringing our grand total to 9.
I know that many people host big gatherings of 20 or even 40 people, which honestly sounds totally exhausting to this quiet introvert. (I’ll stick to my table for 9, thank you very much.)
While this relatively small and very comfortable gathering tends to be pretty low-key, I do go a bit crazy with the side dishes. For me, the “side” dishes are actually the main event of the meal. (My immediate family doesn’t eat turkey, and I’m not able to eat the Tofurkey that the rest of my family eats.) So we tend to have lots of different things: various roasted vegetables, stuffing (my famous “stuffed pan”), mashed potatoes, veggie gravy, cranberry sauce(s), as well as simple vegetables like corn and green beans. My mother and I spent much of yesterday chopping and prepping veggies. I went to bed feeling like we were in pretty good shape.
However, going through my mental list as I lay in bed, I got stuck on the potatoes. I intentionally hadn’t prepped the potatoes, as I didn’t want them to brown. But I also hadn’t really counted them.
Doing my mental calculations of person-to-potato ratios, I suddenly became convinced that I didn’t have nearly enough potatoes. It was almost midnight, and I knew that stores would be closed in the morning. (This didn’t stop me from searching online for various grocery stores and checking their hours). I mentally reconfigured the quantities of potatoes in the roasted root vegetables (in which they traditionally play a key role) and considered what remaining potatoes could be left to mash. I imagined rationing out the paltry portions of potatoes to family and guests.
I agonized over the potatoes. I seriously lost sleep. It was not so much a potato panic as a ponderous potato pessimism.
In the morning, I counted the potatoes. The situation was less dire than I’d imagined in my late-night ravings. But still, I apparently could not let it drop. While walking the dog, I persisted in pondering about potatoes. I texted my friend who would be joining us for dinner: “Do you have any potatoes?”
This is, of course, a totally normal question to ask a friend out of the blue.
The story has a happy ending. My friend brought along her potatoes, and I added a few of them to my boiling pot of potatoes. The resulting mashed potatoes were of respectable quantities. No garments were rent over tiny potato allowances.
In the end, the meal and the day were successful and fulfilling. I am feeling full of both gratitude and potatoes.
And I have to laugh at myself for getting so worked up about such small potatoes.
I’m sure anyone who regularly eats chococolate has had the disappointing exerience of having some that was exposed to heat before you had a chance to eat it. You eagerly open the package, and find that instead of a silky smooth and evenly dark brown surface, you have a blotchy discolored mass. Even more disappointingly, the texture of the chocolate is usually a bit changed, and not for the better.
I recently had several such moments, but instead of unadulterated disappointment, my disappointment was tempered by surprise and admiration. Somehow, my chocolate had transformed itself into little canvases, with fascinating abstract landscapes.
I ate them anyhow. After taking a few photos.
What do you see in these? In the first one (shown once cropped, and once in a hand), several people saw a winter scene.
What else do you see? I mean, aside from chocolate?
Somehow, I have made it to day 29 of (almost) daily blogging.
I was preparing dinner one evening earlier this month, and this potato caught my eye.
In fact, the potato’s eye caught my eye. And its eyebrow.
A few nights later, I was again cutting potatoes, and once more, a potato caught my eye. And looked back at me pleadingly.
Tell me you don’t see the face.
“She must be running out of ideas,” you may be thinking. “Surely she can find something to post about beyond potatoes.”
If you think I’m posting about potatoes because I’m tired and out of ideas, you are only partly right. In fact, this was a planned potato post. At least a partially planned potato post. You see, I have a past of presenting particularly peculiar produce. Witness the sad potato of 2015, the jaunty butternut squash of 2012, and the shifty-looking eggplant of 2011. Somehow, I managed to post each of these on November 21st in years past. This year, though, I guess I forgot. In spite of having prepared the potato pictures, the 21st past with nary a vegetable. (Out of curiosity, I checked the dates when I took the potato photos above. Oddly enough, it was on November 8th and November 13th. And while I did not post them on the 21st, I do notice that the sum of 8 and 13 is 21.) (And really, this part is just me rambling on because it’s late.)
Today we celebrated Thanksgiving, which is a holiday bound in tradition for me. And much of that tradition involves food. Not just the eating of it, but the preparing of it, the serving of it, and the discussing of it. I love that we have this holiday which centers around spending time with family and friends, and about sharing a meal with them.
Thanksgiving always leaves me full of thanks and of food, but also of nostalgia. More than anything, I think of Thanksgivings past at my grandmother’s house. I remember setting the table with the special china, fancy glasses and candlesticks. I remember being shooed out of the kitchen so my grandmother could manage the entire feat of feast-making in her own way. (Also because her kitchen was tiny, and she didn’t want us in the way.) I remember enjoying so much of the feast when it came time to eat, pretty much loving all of it, except for the dreaded liver lumps in the gravy. (My grandmother would cook up and dice up the giblets, and toss them into the otherwise smooth and tasty gravy.) And I remember the extended time in the kitchen after the meal, typically with one or two other family members, hand-washing and hand-drying all of the dishes from the meal. (Because my grandmother’s house did not have a dishwasher. Also, my grandmother was happy to get out of the kitchen at the end of the day.) I usually got the job of drying. I can still remember the feel of the dishtowels in my hand, typically linen and worn rather thin from years of use, and getting more and more damp until finally you had to get out a fresh dry towel.
I spent much of yesterday and most of today preparing food and preparing the space to eat that food. (Our dining room had gotten rather buried over the past 8 months or so, but I was bound and determined to unearth it.) We had a few guests (my mother-in-law, and a friend and her 2 kids), so there were eight of us. In spite of the moderate numbers, we had an immoderate number of food items on the menu.
Now that the day is done, and I’ve turned in for the night, I am still feeling full from the feast (which was blissfully free of liver lumps). I am also feeling full of thanks for the bounty of our feast, for our comfort and safety, and for the people in my life who make my life so full.
The cookies in the photos are fully baked, but only about half of yesterday’s dough has been baked into cookies. Of those cookies that have been baked, some number were eaten before being decorated, and many more were eaten after being decorated. In all, the cookies were more than half-eaten. (Or at least more than half the cookies were fully eaten.)
This post is half-baked because I just spent far too longer organizing and deleting photos in order to do a new photo import to my laptop, because I’ve gone and filled up my hard drive yet again.
I haven’t managed to do much holiday baking hte last couple of years. This morning, though, I found myself at home without needing to rush out the door, and so I dug out my recipe notebook and made some cookie dough. Here is the butter and sugar from one batch, before they were creamed together, catching the light from the window. (I made the dough, following making some pancakes for breakfast. While I was mixing the dough, I mused about how the same few ingredients can result in such widely varying forms, depending on proportions and preparation method. I also mused that this seemed like a good metaphor for humanity. But it is late, so I will have to leave this metaphor half-baked. Or perhaps leave it to chill in the refrigerator overnight before baking, like the dough I prepared.)