My nephew makes a mean Bloody Mary. Everyone loved this year’s Craignog (which, after years of perfecting, I tweaked once again), but sometimes you want something less dreamy and pillowy, something to make your eyebrows stand up and take notice. Erik’s Bloody Mary, with the best swizzle stick (a skewer with small bites of celery alternating with stuffed green olives) and a boatload of ingredients, a couple of them secret, was amazing.
As was his turkey. Erik has, in the past few years, been bitten by the gourmet bug. He runs a successful pawn shop, then goes home to make schnitzel with chanterelles in a cream sauce. We compared notes on braised short ribs and osso bucco, and discussed his plans for a turkey stock once the carcass had been stripped, more or less.
It was a huge turkey, which often isn’t advised because they tend to be dry. He brined it for a day, and then stuffed it with herbs and lemons and oranges and apples and . . . I lost track, it’s a long list. And it was perfect: juicy, tender, richly flavored. It was masterful. I carved.
When we sat down to dinner, someone decided we should say Grace, and thankfully no one looked at me this time, but rather at Jerry. My brother is married to Janet, who has a sister named Dottie, who is married to Jerry. Dottie (or, as the kids’ placecard had it, dotty) and Jerry are staunchly Evangelical Christians. My nephew Erik is an atheist, though I recently discovered it’s probably more like Buddhist atheism or even Camus-style Christian atheism than a disavowal of any larger reality. So when everyone looked to Jerry to give the blessing, Erik suggested that since we have such a wide variety of belief systems represented at the table, perhaps it would be better if we each shared what we are thankful for this year. (I know that’s a tradition in other households, but I can’t recall ever doing it before.)
And Erik was right, we did have a wide range of beliefs. Some leftwing, some rightwing, most somewhere in the middle; some religiously conservative, some decidedly wackadoo (Erik’s mother-in-law recently paid untold sums of money to study with an organization to become “certified” as a shaman; which is why, perhaps, we have almost no common ground for discussing anything of import, though to be fair, she was on her best behavior yesterday), most somewhere in the middle.
Was it simply that I hadn’t been able to attend family gatherings in recent years because of Mom’s health? Was it a family coming together after a loss? Was it just we’ve all grown and changed, and somehow, grown closer in the process? Whatever it was, it was pleasant, and lovely, and comfortable.
I ate some Bad-for-Me Stuff — a little bread dressing, a pumpkin muffin, a slice of the rum cake (mainly to see if I had ruined it or not, and I hadn’t) — but I didn’t do too badly, and now I’m back to a paleo diet. My body is liking this. My mind is liking this. I was until yesterday getting withdrawl headaches, which will pass once the opioids and the gluten and the yeasties are well and truly out of my system.
And today I get to taste some wheat-free beer at our local brewery, then come home and clean a kitchen that should probably just be firebombed instead.
Giving thanks is good.