I live in Oregon and, on November 13th, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a “freeze.” A new take on restrictions and regulations of the COVID-19 pandemic and Oregon’s increasing numbers, it meant a new set of rules to follow and hope to be crushed.
I had HOPED for a day with family – finally seeing someone and sharing good food. If you know me, you know that acts of service and, specifically, cooking food is literally my love language. Despite a formal Friday night dinner that I typically spend at least half a day working on, I haven’t been able to cook for anyone. Couple that with so much extra time on our hands from not going to sporting events or concerts, weddings or barbecues, it’s been quite challenging.
However, I have tried to take each new turn with optimism, albeit I missed my grandparents specifically a heck of a lot this Turkey Day. I don’t want to make this post political or go into anything regarding the freeze – mainly because I am a PR goldmine when it comes to playing Devil’s Advocate and I can argue both sides of the fence.
I felt some dread that this Turkey Day wasn’t going to be so great. The reason was that, a week ago, I thought it would be fun to start a “new” family tradition for this holiday since it would just be the four of us. No one else seemed to share any of my enthusiasm.
“What if we have a corn hole tournament?” I asked.
“No, it’s Oregon. It’ll be cold and it’ll rain.”
“…. hmmm … what if we got a new board game that we could play together? Try something new and fun?”
“Your dad doesn’t like board games-,”
“-hey, I didn’t say that!”
“So a board game it is?” I asked hopefully.
“No, I don’t want too.”
“Well I checked the weather, it looks to be sunny! The last sunny day for a while – what if we had a little trap shooting fun?”
“Nahhh, I don’t think so.”
My mom randomly suggested that maybe we try doing family photos and, while she wanted to use her self-timer, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of that. I have a theory on this that I will share in a few weeks time since my hunches are usually accurate. (Or I will laugh at this statement down the road.) I would rather do a family photo shoot with one of my friend photographers because my family is so terrible at photos that it usually turns into an awful experience.
Turkey day dawned bright and early and I was glad to escape to the barn to take care of the animals, dump and re-fill water buckets, and let the chickens enjoy their outdoor sunshine with some leftovers from the summer’s garden. While I wanted to be in the kitchen, apron donned (their my latest craze), and in the thick of things, I felt that the kitchen time was really important for my mom for the same reason that it was for me.
This was, quite possibly, the first Thanksgiving she has truly spent without her mom as my grandparent opted out of coming first. My heart was very sad about this and kept hoping that we’d have them have a change of heart and see their car pulling in the driveway. When I set the table (in the elaborate full dinner style that I always do when I get creative rein), I almost set two extra plates with a little glimmer of hope that maybe if I put it out in to the universe than it would come true.
I know why they skipped dinner. I have been taking COVID very seriously and especially when it comes to those who aren’t my age or health. I absolutely understand and hope that this small sacrifice by all of us means that we get many more Thanksgiving’s together to come.
My mom ABSOLUTELY knocked it out of the park when it came to dinner! The turkey, dry brined and slaved over for the past four days, was PERFECTION. I don’t know if we should ever do a turkey in any other way! I was glad to be of some help because my mom isn’t the fan of making gravy, and that’s something I am more than happy to do.
“That’s not how I do it,” and “What are you doing?” These were the constant phrases that she kept hurling at me, which only made me laugh. She said she didn’t get gravy and then questioned all that I did. Jokes on her, I won a small Iron Chef competition through my gravy making – it was the final deciding factor!
She had given me the drippings off of the turkey but I have never used them in a sauce pan like that. We skimmed off the fat after it cooled and separated with the baster, and then I poured it into a measuring cup. I melted down 1/4 cup of butter with a dash of garlic powder, whisked in 1/3 cup or so of flour, cooked it down, added in the drippings in small batches and finished it of with chicken stock until it was perfect consistency. I seasoned with the flaky sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, more garlic powder, rosemary and thyme.
It had this weird acidic taste to it that I couldn’t pinpoint – in error I actually added a splash of lemon juice to get rid of the weird taste and brought the taste out stronger signifying that it was actually acid. Trying to figure out what to cut it with, I actually added a tablespoon of honey and it was HEAVENLY. I think I only impressed myself with it – everyone else just thought it was really good gravy.
The dinner was amazing, the turkey coma after was amazing, and the quick surprise by my amazing boyfriend with flowers for me and for my mom made my heart super full of friends, joy and love today.
After spending the evening working with my cows, we had a lively board game of a game that my boyfriend’s mom taught me and that Joe replicated the playing board for. It includes marbles and up to four people can play on the board he made me and MAN OH MAN it was so much fun! We were yelling and laughing, trash talking and ruthless.
I guess you could say that my goal of a new tradition really did happen and that everything works out in the end. What makes me really happy is that we boxed up leftovers for my grandparents because, you might be able to avoid Thanksgiving Dinner but you can’t avoid a leftover drop off!