- Ted & Debbie (Photographers)
If you think about it, we say and write the words “thank you” hundreds of times a year. It’s almost second nature that I find myself ending many phone conversations or emails with the closing words, “thanks.” I even had to stop myself from saying thank you as a Bakersfield police officer handed me a $350.00 speeding ticket this past year. It’s easy to say thanks to a total stranger. And yet, that simple hand gesture when someone lets you into a lane or the hurried, “GO” from the guy next to you on a wave when he has the right of way are acts of kindness that link our inner and outer smiles and makes some of some sense out of the crap going on in the world. So when 20 of of beloved friends and family gather around our 3 Thanksgiving tables and Edwin recites the Armenian prayer passed down from Debbie’s dad who is no longer with us I give a silent thanks to everyone and everything that has brought us through another year- even that cop in Bakersfield.
There’s no stopping it. The hounds have been released. The holidays are upon us. I mowed the lawn real short, threw down some grass seeds and spread out a nice layer of steer manure as the boys came home from school bearing art & crafts projects with Thanksgiving motifs. They yell, “Eeewwww, what’s that smell.” I say, “It’s cow poop, it’s a natural. Just stay off the lawn for a few days.” I think to myself, Â yeah, good luck with that dad.
It’s Thanksgiving already. Debbie is in the kitchen making her 6th or 7th persimmon pudding of the season, a couple of the boys are playing MilleÂ Bornes in our bed, Theo is writing a tell all expose of the Catanzaros, Sam is still asleep and Ollie, Simon and I are going to Temescal Canyon to collect oak bark to smoke the turkeys.
There’s always a fight for the wings, soÂ this year we’re barbecuing 2 turkeys. That’s four wings. After massaging the birds I placed fresh sage, oregano and rosemary under theÂ loosened skin. Â The two 10 pound birds have been sitting in a kosher salt and aux Poivre pepper blendÂ rub for threeÂ in the fridge.
Cooking a turkey (turkeys) on the barbecue is aÂ different experience every year. This year, along with the bacon draped over the birds in a symbolic X marks the spot gesture, I’ve added a cheesecloth cloaking device over the breasts. Guests start to arrive. There’s a frenzy of peeling, mashing, and stirring in the kitchen. As always, there’s a shortage of oven space. Debbie needs to heat the stuffing, make the yams and mashed potatoes. Food is shuttled here and there. Peter and Virginia are making the brussels sprouts and baconÂ and Bruce has added his Parker House butter rolls to the menu both of which Â require oven space. Â No one really comes out to see the birds on the grill (or me) this year. It’s just me and my birds as I rotate and flip them over their cast iron pyres. In a record 1 hour 45 minutes the turkeys are ready. The turkeys are beautiful. I’m a stinky, smokey, greasy mess with no time for a shower.
The meal takes longer than usual, maybe because I end up at the kids table sitting across from Sookie who is eating at her ever well-mannered pace. I’m Â flanked by Theo and Simon. Theo seems to be pacing himself too in anticipation of all the desserts Debbie has made. We adjourn to the living room where Peter and I break out the ukuleles and start practicing our Christmas songs. As usual, it evolves into Peter teaching all the kids how to play BlitzkriegÂ Bob. He says, “It’s easy on a guitar but really difficult on a uke.”
After playing some really silly songs quite badly, we somehow make room for dessert. It’s time to bring it on- Persimmon pudding, persimmon cake, pumpkin pie and a tart tartin all made by Debbie. And before you know it, the dishes are done, there’s a chihuahua on the dining room table, I’m under a dog-pile of kids in front of the fire and it is all good. Time for bed. Tomorrow is another big day. Time to clean out the gutters and put up the Xmas lights.
Doesn’t it feel like we are just plowing through the holidays. It does for me. Halloween and Thanksgiving are checked off the calendar, the first candle of Advent has been lit, Xmas lights were strung with care and it feels like I’m riding a runaway train to Christmas. Yesterday, Abel our painter, was over to repaint the sun porch and deck. He spent an hour hand sanding the sun porch, sweeping, vacuuming and mopping. Then he cut in with a brush with our insanely expensive Farrow and Ball oil base paint. If you care, We are using New White on the sun porch and Mouse’s Back on the deck. This stuff runs about $40.00 a quart. Jeez. After Abel applied the paint with brush and roller on the sun porch floor he barricaded the area. I was just putting up ropes around the deck with WET PAINT sign. The kids were home from school , had snacks and were dressed for a tennis party at Riviera. The boys were goofing off and for what ever reason Theo waltzes (pushed by Henry) across the WET PAINT. Needless to say, Theo and Henry didn’t make it to the tennis party.
I see this is one of those posts where I work backwards in time while memories are still fresh in my mind like we paint I guess. We’ve been having a leftover party for as long as I can remember. Every year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving friends and family arrive at our place with leftovers and usually a bottle of wine. It’s lots of fun reconnecting and it is always funny to hear guests asking whose leg am I eating or whose stuffing is this?
I promised Debbie that I would get the Xmas lights up by the Leftover Party. And, with the help of some of the boys, was able to do it in record time. Ollie was the biggest help, with Theo coming in a close second. Henry came up just to yell at pedestrians and cars passing by our house. Theo did launch a couple of burned out bulbs onto the concrete basketball court just to see what would happen. What happens is Daddy gets angry.
Sam and I went to Topanga Saturday morning and was greeted by offshore breezes, shoulder to head high waves and a fast-moving current. We always start checking out the waves while driving down the California Incline. Charthouse is a surf spot which only breaks a couple of times a year. It need a big swell and it only works at low tide. I’ve never actually surfed Charthouse.Â I always think (hope) there will be waves here while driving by. I sometimes see people in the water at Chartthouse and tell Sam, “Charthouse is breaking!” Sam always says, ” Dad, that’s not Charthouse, that’s Sunset.” We try to avoid Sunset. This morning was no different. I said, Look, Charthouse is breaking!….And Sam said it’s Sunset.” Then WHACK! My side view mirror hit an orange parking cone. Debbie doesn’t know about this yet. Luckily it’s just the glass and not the housing. And I can still see a little with what is left of the mirror.
There’s been a rash of rat sightings amongst our group of friends lately. I have developed quite reputation as a ratter of sorts. I’ve many stories to share about my exploits. This was just your basic remove large rat from the jaws of a snap trap from Jakki’s attic space. I actually found 3 victims in her attic in varying degrees of decomposition.
Let’s see where are we? Oh yes, Thanksgiving! We we 16 this year. Debbie’s mom was under the weather and Henry and my mother fought to save her one of the coveted turkey wings. She’ll be back next year to fend for herself I’m sure. I just barbeque the turkey. Debbie prepares everything else.
Every year is different when barbecuing the turkey. It’s like driving down a long windy road that you’ve driven down a million times before but like with each season the condition of the road varies. But enough about me. Like I said before,Â Debbie prepares everything else, the stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, pumpkin pie, apple pie and cranberry cake. I think that’s it.
Our friend Teresita came over early with her kids and actually cleaned our house for us. This was an amazing treat and one that I’m truly grateful for. Our boys were farmed in and out but mainly wanted to stay home and (certainly not help clean) but just steep themselves in Thanksgiving productions. This year we made one long dining table in our living room and moved the furniture from the living room and put it in our dining room. We had two blessings. The first one was our traditional, “Earth who gave to us this food, Sun who makes it ripe and good…And then Henry recited the Armenian blessing which Debbie’s dad used to recite every year. For some reason, said in Armenian by Haig this blessing would sometimes take up to 3 minutes. He would have these long pauses where people would grab their forks and knives and just about start to eat and he would start-up again with the blessing. It was great. We all miss him.
Anyways, everyone has gone upstairs except Sam, Ollie and I. Sam is palying Take Me Out to the Ballgame on the piano. There’s a stuck key. Ollie is staring at candle flames and wondering if that’s all there is. I’m wondering the same thing.Â If there isn’t, it’s plenty for me. In fact it’s perfect.
I always mean to thank all our friends and family who help us out throughout the year before we start our meal but this year was no different. The meal just started and you can’t look back. Thank You, Everyone, really!
and all through the house, the smell of bacon is wafting about. The pre Thanksgiving wheels are in full swing. Theo and Debbie are starting desserts. Bacon seems to be the common thread running throughout the entire Thanksgiving meal. Today Debbie sizzled up two pounds of the pork to be diced up for the Brussel sprouts. The bacon grease is reserved and later drizzled into the stuffing.
I wouldn’t even begin to know all what Debbie’s puts in her stuffing, but here are some of the ingredients that I know. It all starts off with fresh pain demi, chanterelle mushrooms, artichoke hearts, dried apricots and a bunch of other stuff. And, as I said before bound together with bacon grease.
For lunch today I fried up polenta in the bacon grease and leftover Bolognese sauce. Really, what’s not to like when it’s cooked in bacon?
This year I used a dry Sicilian sea salt rub on the Kosher turkey. I’ve been giving the bird a few daily massages and today applied some fresh herbs which Debbie got from the Santa Monica Farmers Market and Bell’s Poultry Seasoning. And of course, I put bacon on top of the turkey before cooking.
Sam and Henry have been incessantly bickering ( actually some violence ensued) all day about their trivia quizzes they hand out at Thanksgiving and our annual Saturday after Thanksgiving leftover party. Sam started this 2 years ago and last year Henry concocted a Harry Potter quiz. This year Sam somehow convinced (coerced) Henry that 80% of his quiz MUST be sports related. They made me take a photo of them shaking hands in accordance to this agreement.
Besides massaging turkey breasts I’ve been trying to get the yard in shape for the holidays. We had a guy come out yesterday to give us an estimate to put artificial grass on the side of the yard the boys practice their athleticism on. That side of the yard seems to take the hardest beating. I’ll give everyone a little quiz here. How much do you think it costs to scalp our old grass, level our soil, put 3″ of decomposed granite and install artificial grass in an area roughly 36″ X 15″? The answer is $6,295.00!Â And if we do it before the new year he could do the job for $6000.00. Yeah, well that’s not going to happen. Anyways, I’m getting off the subject. Tomorrow we cook, eat and oh yeah give thanks.
Another crafty activity to engage the hands and minds of all those who came to out Thanksgiving feast was crown making. Our friend Jakki has been doing this at her house for a while and we thought we would give it a try. After all who wouldn’t want to wear a crown to dinner?