Besides my children, the thing I miss most since returning to work over three months ago is cooking every night. I'm blessed enough to have a mother that cooks two times a week when I am at work, and the rest of the week we get by with crock pot meals, leftovers, or fast packaged dinners from Trader Joe's. We are fed and nourished, but I dearly miss the time I spent in the kitchen. Time often spent with my kids. I'm not the best at playing Barbies or cars, I'll admit that. It's hard for me to sit down and get lost in role play with my kids. Luckily they have their dad for that. I do have all the patience in the world though when it comes to allowing my kids to help in the kitchen. They measure and pour ingredients into pots and bowls, and mix and whisk away while I supervise. I love that time spent together. I guess in many ways, I show my love through the food I prepare for my family, and I saw a chance to retrieve some of that back through Thanksgiving this year.
I volunteered to host, which meant we were automatically in charge of the turkey. We've made a turkey many times before so I wasn't worried, but I didn't want to stop at the turkey. I wanted to make an amazing stuffing, the cranberry sauce, try a new desert, and maybe a new vegetable dish. My family signed up to bring the usual accompaniments, like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pies and rolls. The rest was up to me and Art.
When I mentioned the menu we were preparing to some, they suggested I should just take it easy and not take on so much. But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I wanted to try the new recipes that were more complex, interesting and time consuming. Sometimes I feel like we get so obsessed with taking the easy route, short cuts here and there, making life as easy, quick and as efficient as possible, with as little work expelled in the process. Canned cranberries, boxed stuffing, store bought already prepared turkeys. If Thanksgiving's not reason enough to work hard and slave away in the kitchen, what is then? Now don't get me wrong, many years we have relied on all of those things, but I wanted this year to be different. I wanted to take back some of that time I have lost in the kitchen these last months. I wanted to invest time and energy into the meal that is the testament of a year's worth of thankfulness. I wanted to show my kids how much I care for them, I wanted to show my husband how much I appreciate him, and thank my mom and dad for so lovingly caring for my kids, and tell my sister that even though we may not be as close as we once were, I still love her. And I knew that with this meal, I could make a start at doing that. Sound silly? Maybe, but in the end, when I saw my family go back for seconds and thirds, and tell us that it was the best turkey they had ever eaten (even Syd, my picky eater, went back for seconds!), I knew that our work was not in vain.
We spent over 6 hours cooking in the kitchen yesterday, and another 2 hours cleaning up the disaster we had made, and the kids had made while playing unsupervised for 6 hours. The kids came in and out of the kitchen and helped throughout the day. Art prepared the turkey, and we took turns basting it for 3 hours. I made butter using real vanilla beans, a first for me. And my hands got stained red from seeding a pomegranate. I may or may not have had a couple of mimosas throughout the morning as well. I ended up exhausted and passed out on the couch by 10 pm, but it was the best Thanksgiving I've had in a long time.
After we had eaten my mom and dad asked, "hey Andrea, did you get a picture of all the food?" And you know what, I didn't? Not a SINGLE one. I was having so much fun I forgot to pause and take a picture of the food for a blog post. I think that's a good sign. At that moment we whipped out the camera and took a few blurry, poorly lit shots of the 6 of us sitting around the table. My brother's family was up with his in-laws this year, and all 6 kids were running around causing chaos and wreaking havoc. While these pictures don't reflect perfect composition or examples of good lighting, they do reflect a very well fed and happy family. I'll take that over composition any day.