What is meant by a successful Thanksgiving? I suppose the answer depends on who is involved. As a child, a successful thanksgiving to me was one in which I got not one, not two, but three slices of pie. When I got older, I defined success as running the holiday gauntlet without gaining weight. I’m sure my folks measured success by if they could wrangle me into a decent outfit for the Christmas photo which would precede the Thanksgiving meal, and if we actually managed to arrive on time (didn’t happen too often). It’s funny. I didn’t spend too much time really concerned with this Thanksgiving, at least coming up to the moment. It took a lot of time and effort just to get to Portland, and once I was there, I was concentrating on trying in vain to get enough sleep while working out, spending time with Jesse, watching and tagging along for all of Jesse’s referee games, eating out with some of his family and friends, and completing enough homework that I wouldn’t be screwed for this weekend. We had numerous car talks about why it was so silly that other people stressed out on the holidays. We were clearly different, knew what we meant to each other, and therefore who cares about the nuances of baking or whether people end up being late or not? Simply put, we were lucky to be together. Though we were both busy and exhausted and had to tip toe around his sister sleeping in the dining room, we loved our stolen alone moments in the car, grocery shopping (Whole Foods at 10:30pm!), and before he had to start work in the morning.
Needless to say, with this hectic schedule it was a miracle we had food to bake with, let alone baked anything. Things were made more complicated because it appeared to both of us that all the obvious thanksgiving dishes were taken. Since Jesse didn’t want us to be repetitive, I ended up looking for a fruit dish with no starch which could not be fruit salad/fruit plate for brunch, and a vegetable thing which could not involve beans or be a salad for the dinner. So much for something easy like mashed potatoes or stuffed squash. You think having a food blog would make me very apt at this sort of thing, but in a family where feuds are ignited over the difference between crust-less quiche and frittata, and ganache is actually a work in every day vocabulary, I am a little lost. I mean, I am an on a budget food blogger. Cheese is usually beyond my means, let alone more than three spices per dish. We ended up trying to make Danish cherries with coconut whipped cream and maple pecan Brussel sprouts. Since I had no freaking idea if these would work I woke up at 6am to make a paleo maple-walnut pie to go with some vanilla bourbon ice cream. I had practiced for two weeks my technique for an apple almond butter paleo pie, but Jesse’s sister the pastry chef was tackling that one. I figured competing was just going to be dumb.
The problems began happening Thanksgiving morning. It was our last day together as I had to leave for a 4pm flight (which I thought was 5pm… oops), and that normally makes us crabby anyway. But we miss communicated and suddenly we had to cook at his parents’ place. He was pissed because I was trying to make us late. I was pissed because why didn’t he wake up when I asked him too? He knew the schedule! Now we were going to have to try and make something completely new in front of everyone in a busy kitchen with unfamiliar equipment. The death blow to the cherries was the fact neither of us knew how to make whipped coconut cream. We had talked about it previously, to the miraculous conclusion that each of us thought the other knew what they were doing. Suddenly I was frustrated because I had thought that Jesse was the coconut cream expert, and Jesse let out a “well it was YOU’RE idea.” I swear my mouth almost hit the floor.
“My idea?” I wanted to say. “I wanted to make mashed potatoes and fruit salad! And I wanted to make it at your house so if it sucked or exploded we wouldn’t have to bring it!”
It was such a small thing, but I guess we fell into the holiday stress trap. I felt thrown under the bus. He had just blamed everything on me in front of everyone. Here I had dreamed of us working together and baking, and instead I felt like I had done most of the work alone to some weird set of standards that Jesse dictated. Jesse felt like I completely dropped the ball. His schedule had been so busy, he had entrusted the baking to me and I let him down. It didn’t help that in the whirl of dishes and cooking that followed (in good Dahlquist tradition you never rest until your hostess rests or kicks you out of the kitchen!) I felt like there was no time to grab my phone and check my flight information. I wasn’t quite sure when it was, but especially given the disaster early in the morning, I didn’t want to leave the kitchen. Finally I knew that I absolutely had to check it, and did, to the discovery that my flight was an hour earlier than I thought. Again, Jesse felt like I had dropped the ball, and I was pissed that maybe if Jesse had actually been helping with the dishes or the kitchen work, or even offered, I would have checked the time earlier. I made the flight anyway, and sadly sat listening to all the happy people around me on their way to start their Thanksgivings.
After I got back and he had dinner and went home, we talked until it was almost midnight. We couldn’t figure out how that happened to us, given how much we thought we were above that sort of thing. Yes, a lot of the problem was communication. Jesse was so busy that he wasn’t his usual perfect memory self, and side comments which he would normally remember he forgot. On my end I never confirmed because I made assumptions that he knew all the details. Oh, he’s not getting up when I ask? Clearly he doesn’t care if we are late (not true). However, our real problem wasn’t remembering the real value of thanksgiving. Screw perfect pies and timeliness! It was amazing to be together, and we hadn’t known it was going to happen because I didn’t know if I could get the time off of work. I was so thankful to be in Portland, and to be made welcome by Jesse’s family. It was great to see such competent cooks in action. The table conversation was certainly very interesting! It was different, but good, if only we didn’t spend the time being pissed off at each other. Thus, despite everything, the moral of this story is the same as most Thanksgiving stories…
Be grateful for those you love. Be grateful for the time you can spend with them. Thanksgiving isn’t about impressing anyone, or being perfect. It’s about being you, and spending time with people who appreciate you for who you are. Cook together, clean together, and eat the freaking food, good or not. Be thankful for the full belly, good drinks, and leave the day with warm thoughts and dreams. If you do that, then you should consider it a successful Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
This week in updates: Uh…. where to start?
So it is 8:30 on Sunday. (Now it is 2:30 Monday… I blew all my data downloading virus protection.) I should be going to bed. But my blog is haunting me and saying, post me, post me! This will have to be fast. Jesse and I had a good week leading up to Thanksgiving, with a date night, lots of Jesse referee games, and a trip out to Eugene to watch Oregon play some ball. I saved money on my grocery shopping this week, and got to see Davis (a good friend of Jesse’s) referee at Sacramento State.
Then it was time to write my paper and the below happened. Now I have a new cheap computer and no paper notes. At least I got an extension. But hey, I also (before the computer stuff) got a new Garmin! Hip-hip-hooray for no more duct tape! Also my ass to grass squat is still okay. I brought it back.
The Recipe: Paleo Walnut Maple Pie
So, this pie wasn’t as pretty as the other pies at Thanksgiving, but don’t let its appearance fool you. This is like a corn syrup free version of pecan pie, except with more omega 3’s! That’s right, walnuts are far better for you than pecans. This is more of a recipe review, since I didn’t change anything except I made it with a paleo pie cruse from Elana’s Pantry. The original recipe is from my Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Thanks Dad! It is a great cookbook, which I strongly recommend. Though note, the Danish Cherries don’t work out paleo so well…