From the Pastor: My Family Thanksgiving
Holiday traditions seem to be the most cherished of all family traditions. Although traditional activities and expectations are attached to each holiday, even those vary just enough from year to year to make the days both comfortable in the “normal” routine and open to new and exciting variations. This year I will share with you another peek into my family’s Thanksgiving traditions as they played out on paper if not in reality. Remember, as always, this week’s bulletin had to be printed before the office staff took off for their Thanksgiving break.
This year the entire family was going to gather for Thanksgiving Day and it was going to be absolutely normal. All of the ginned-up hysteria about coldvid19 had long since passed. Nobody was going to be wearing Halloween masks, nobody was going to keep 6 feet between family members, friends, or pets, and nobody was going to sit at home in fear of social contact. Or, at least that’s what I keep hearing “getting back to normal” means. But when no one in my family is actually normal to begin with, normal can actually be anything but normal! Once again my little sister hosted the Big Dinner at her house. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, grandparents, and cousins were all jam-packed into the house and spilled out into the backyard. We all sat or stood (depending on age) around yakking and bringing others up to speed on what was new in life as we had a few drinks and ate about a dozen pounds of appetizers each. Aunt Irma was there, of course, but she kept darting in and out, constantly going to the guest house out back. She wouldn’t say what she was doing out there and, because she is always a little “off” we were all speculating wildly. Some thought she was taking quick naps. Others joked that she was inhaling something from her new local “cash-only pharmacy.” But some of the children, who are much more inquisitive than us lazy adults, actually went over to find out and came back with the happy announcement that she was busy cooking yet one more Thanksgiving turkey! I said, “one more” because there were already a few amazing turkeys being prepared by my brother-in-law. He had one for the oven, one spatchcocked for the grill. and another for the deep fryer. Those, along with about 7 huge side dishes, fresh rolls, 6 pies, and a couple of gallons of ice cream, were probably enough to make each of us burst our bellies in a round of gluttonous feasting, but that wasn’t enough for our great Aunt. If you remember, she has had a couple of years of not being quite “with it” at Thanksgiving and she figured that the best way to “prove” herself competent once again was to cook as well as she used to when she was in charge of such festivities.
Now, I want to explain to you that I am not making fun of my elders when I tell tall tales such as what I am about to spin. After all, we all love Aunt Irma, and all of her eccentricities come as part of that lovable package that makes her who she is. And I certainly do not mean to belittle her cooking skills, for I am always ready to go through the trouble of eating anything that anyone has gone through the trouble of cooking, whether it tastes as if it came from a professional chef or from a drive-through window. But some stories just beg to be shared...
Aunt Irma was finally ready to announce that she needed a few strong boys to carry her turkey to the table. This was it. It was just about time to eat. The prayers were said and the food was set out. Aunt Irma explained that she had, during her coldvid derangement years, spent hours, days, weeks, and months listening to cooking shows so that she could pull out all the stops with the turkey she was having the boys bring over. (She had her TV set adjusted so that she only heard the audio because she was afraid of catching the ‘vid from the people on TV if she could see them. But some things really need to be seen to be understood, as you will soon learn.) Aunt Irma proudly announced that she had cooked the turkey via the Sous Vide method, in which food is immersed in a water bath and kept at a constant—the perfect—temperature so that it can never deviate from that perfect temperature. It cannot overcook, for the temperature never rises above whatever you set it for. It will never be undercooked, as long as you keep it immersed for a set minimum amount of time. It will, you are always assured by sous vide aficionados, be “just right.” Unfortunately, Aunt Irma was never able to see on her dark TV screen how the turkey is supposed to be sealed in a plastic bag before being immersed in the water. What the boys were carrying in was a huge pot filled with water with a turkey plopped directly into it, with the whole thing sealed in a plastic trash bag! Of course, nobody said anything but words of praise and thanks for the work she put into it.
But, since sous vide is supposed to be a very “hands-off” method of cooking, why did she keep running back and forth between houses? Because she knew that the turkey skin would not be crisp and brown unless she used a blow torch on it. She tried several times, each time getting a more powerful torch and using a larger flame, and let’s just say that the guest house will be unavailable for a few months...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka