Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Pleasures of Squash Soup

Broke Strang Band--"Turkey In The Straw" (mp3)

I never get to cook Thanksgiving dinner. You may consider this a good thing, a blessing, even a "careful what you wish for." But, the fact is, I never get to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

You may think, "What a lucky guy" or "So what?" You may think, "What's the big deal? Thanksgiving can't be that hard--make a bunch of casseroles and throw a turkey in the oven. Or, better yet, order your whole meal from one of the increasing plethora of restaurants who are offering to do so for you."

But if you like to cook, this is THE MEAL.

Circumstances have dictacted for most of the past 27 years that we travel for Thanksgiving--to parents, to my brother's in Chicago, even, last year, to Rome--and so I, the chief family cook and bottlewasher, don't get to cook the ultimate family meal. So it is with a bit of excitement that I embark on bringing most of the meal up to Kentucky, where my mother-in-law no longer has the energy to do it all, and where, at the last minute, my wife's niece the chef, has found out that she has to work. She was planning to cook the meal. Now most of it is my responsibility.

It isn't the most complicated or the most sophisticated. The challenge is in the bounty. I was reading about an Asian chef who commented that what he liked about Russian restaurants is that when you walk in, there are about 20 dishes already on the table waiting for you to eat. He liked that vibe. I like that vibe. And that is Thanksgiving. You got to offer enough different things for everyone to either have a little bit of everything or to pick and choose among their favorites.

Save for two years ago, the last time I really cooked it was 22 years ago. My wife was in her first year of law school, right before her first set of exams. She had called me from Knoxville the night before to tell me that she was pregnant. She was in distress, being in law school and all. I told her it would be all right. I was very excited. Because of law school, because of studying, we didn't go anywhere, so Thanksgiving was to be a mish-mash of family and friends and stragglers. We held it at John's house. He made the turkey and some side. I made the mashed potatoes and the bread and probably some other stuff. We started drinking fairly early, and moving back and forth from one dorm to the other, preparing the dishes. I told John that my wife was pregnant, and he shared my excitement. My wife was not happy when she found out, because she had asked that it be a secret. But she wasn't really unhappy, just that first pregnancy, circle-the-wagons unhappy that something private had been shared. Also, that in my drunken excitement, the mashed potatoes had apparently gone as high the ceiling.

So today, on a gloomy, unseasonably warm Tuesday, while waiting for it to rain, I was making squash soup with great joy. There isn't much to it, roasting the squash, sauteeing the vegetables, simmering in wine and then broth and then pureeing the whole thing. But it sure feels good.

And it is only the beginning. There is a different squash casserole to make, the pickling of shrimp, the making of the cornbread for the andouille sausage dressing and the chopping of the vegetables. It took up a good bit of the day, with trips to Costco and other grocery stores and looking around for recipes and the planning, planning, planning of how to get it all up there to Kentucky.

It's a lot of work. But work on my own time. At my own pace. With the loosest of plans in my mind and the constant remembering of that one more thing I forgot to consider.

I couldn't be happier.

By the way, you might not expect there to be a great Thanksgiving mix out there, but there is. It's over at canyouseethesunset.com. That's where I got the track above.


Jazzie Casas said...

Is the job market only softening for law school grads looking for specific, high-paying jobs at the top law firms, or if it means that the United States has too many lawyers in general? However, a report earlier this year by the National Association of Law Placement indicated that even though the majority of law school graduates can still find jobs, a far higher percentage of those grads are now taking jobs that are temporary.

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Matt said...

Long-time reader, first-time commentor, here,

It's so nice to shoulder the burden of a holiday meal. Even though there will be things you know you've muff'd, or things you've forgotten (or forgotten how to do, after 22 years!) - everyone will get stuffed to near-bursting and be so, so, SO happy that someone else did the cooking!

I'm happy for you.

Thanks for the song, and the story, and the link.

jed said...

i love the bit about John's house. Happy Thanksgiving!

Stacy said...

Oooh! This looks good.