Belated Thanksgiving Greetings

Happy Turkey Day, everyone! And especially warm holiday wishes to those I did not have the chance to see during my couple of weeks in the States for Thanksgiving; there’s just never enough time to do all the things I’d like to when I’m there!

Since I haven’t had time lately to write anything new and since several of you have brought up the story about the tiny turkey I made here in France two years ago, I thought I’d re-post that story again. Sorry for the re-run, but what can I say? The holidays are busy no matter where you are and there are never enough hours in the day. And some people requested this. Let’s blame them. Enjoy!

The following Thanksgiving adventure is written Bridget-Jones’s-Diary-style, because the whole thing is just too reminiscent of her blue leek soup dinner party:

Hooray! Clever husband has managed to get us turkey. Turkey is v. small, about 2.6 kilos. With aid of calculator discover this is less than six pounds. Go to Butterball web site to find out how long to cook it and how one knows when turkey is done if do not have meat thermometer. Do not want to poison husband or self. Hmmm. Butterball web site does not acknowledge turkey smaller than ten pounds. Hope it is really turkey and not large chicken that French have labeled to deceive me. Come to think of it, would not even be overly large chicken, either. Will just assume is turkey and move on.

Have received various bits of advice as to what to put inside turkey if planning to bake stuffing separately. Hard to determine which advice is best, so have followed all and put raisins, garlic, tarragon, one whole apple and one stick of butter inside. Gawky adolescent turkey now has large snack inside that could sustain it for days were it lost in woods. Good. Now on to rest of meal.

Selected pumpkin for soup and soufflé. Pumpkin is not beautiful, smooth, orange, American pumpkin, but a rather brownish-orange specimen with deep ridges running down the sides. Is not ideal, but is too late to have pumpkin shipped from U.S. Decide to cut in half to start, rather than go in from the top, as am going to chop into chunks rather than carve scary face into it. Pumpkin is much thicker on inside than was expecting. Hack away for five minutes, then decide to go in from top after all. Hold knife like serial killer and stab repeatedly. Pumpkin is really v. thick, both skin and fleshy inside part. Maybe three whole inches all told. Takes quite a bit of violent stabbing to make circle in top. Top does not come off, so shove it inside pumpkin and am rewarded with spray of pumpkin juice in face.

Oh, goody! Pumpkin seeds! Have not carved pumpkin in a while and have forgotten all about these. Scoop guts and seeds into tupperware container. Will separate and bake seeds later. Continue hacking away at pumpkin. Skin and meaty part really quite tough, difficult to maneuver. Knife not slicing where I want it to, but don’t force the issue as is sharp and pumpkin is v. slippery. Continue hacking. Could really use glass of wine at this point, but do not want to impair agility in knife hand. More hacking. Really quite exhausting. Decide to take short break to check e-mail for festive holiday greetings. Nothing there, as is still very early in morning in U.S., so back to pumpkin. Finish chopping. Have lots of pumpkin pieces now, more than enough for soup and soufflé. Strongly consider having glass of wine now, but realize is too early in afternoon for this.

Back to pumpkin. Recipe says to “sweat” pumpkin slices. Do not know what this means. Have already worked up quite a sweat just chopping pumpkin slices. Have lots of pumpkin to spare, so decide to steam half and sauté other half. Good. Now on to seeds. Dump seeds and guts into strainer, catching juice in container. Recipe does not say juice is needed, but may come in handy later and is such a lovely bright orange color that it seems shame to waste. Now have thick guts/seeds mixture in strainer. Try to pick out seeds, but are sticking obstinately to guts. Try swirling mixture in lots of water, but difficult now to get hands on slippery seeds. Decide there must be better way. Call sister, who is pumpkin expert. No answer at all, so cannot even leave desperate message on machine. Call friend for moral support and leave messages at home and her parents’ house. Decide to have glass of wine after all. Is holiday, really, even though rest of country is not celebrating. Am not sad drinking-alone housewife but rather brave ex-pat slaving over gourmet Thanksgiving meal for husband.

Feeling more festive now and turning attention back to pumpkin. Pumpkin juice has now hardened on face and skin feels quite taut. Make mental note that juice might be used to create lovely all-natural skin-firming mask if not needed for cooking. Right. Pumpkin now cooked. Decide to use sautéed pumpkin for soup and steamed pumpkin for soufflé. Soufflé recipe from internet says to use food processor to “eat egg white with sugar until foamy.” Am sure this is typo and “beat” until foamy instead. Add other ingredients and set aside as directed.

Now onto soup. Rinse sugary batter from food processor and components. Re-assemble sharp inner cutting implements. Food processor now does not work. Take apart and re-assemble. Still does not work. Drink more of the wine. Search for processor manual in files. Files not very organized. Get distracted by samples of wedding invitations and old Christmas cards. Getting sentimental now and missing friends and family. Drink more of wine and eventually find manual. Crap. Food processor is French and so is manual. Drink more of… Ooops. Glass is empty.

Hooray again! Husband is finally home and brilliantly re-assembles food processor. Insert pumpkin slices and purée. Husband turns up nose at swirling mixture and asks disdainfully what it is. Reply that it will be delicious pumpkin soup which he will love. Gives me very skeptical look and wrinkles up nose in distaste. Hmmph. Not poisoning people with turkey no longer high on priority list. Add half of pumpkin purée to soup ingredients and simmer, whip the rest with egg yolks and ginger, then add to egg white/ sugar mixture. Chop potatoes, boil, then mix with cream, garlic, butter and pinch of nutmeg. Excellent. Husband comes into kitchen and pours us both glass of wine. Gives me kiss and says everything smells delicious. Has put on reggae CD and dances me around kitchen for a bit. Really is adorable man. Hoping once again not to kill him with dinner.

Dinner now simmering and baking away, so set table and go to change for dinner. Am covered with drips, drops and dustings of various foodstuffs. Check face in mirror and discover have forgotten all about crusty pumpkin juice on face. Splash face with water. Crap! Crusty part comes off, but skin is still quite orange underneath. Realize pumpkin facial mask idea not a possibility. Scrub vigorously with soap and sponge. Some improvement, but skin definitely still discolored. Look like have suffered industrial accident of some sort. Am able to partially cover deformity with makeup but quickly dash back to dining room to turn off lights and replace with candles.

Finally! Everything is done and ready to serve. Cocktails/candles combination prevents husband from noticing orange skin. Soup is delicious, walnut salad dressing divine. Turkey meat falls right off bones with minimal assistance from knife. In spite of this, meat still manages somehow to be a bit dry, but decide this must be indication that is really turkey and not chicken after all, and don’t feel bad about it. Wine greatly improving attitude. Gorge self on mashed potatoes and chestnut stuffing. Imagining Dr. Atkins rolling over in grave. Even soufflé turns out well. All in all, holiday is fantastic success.


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