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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tom Turkey

Michael and I spent our first several Thanksgivings together traveling to Washington DC.  I had just moved here from NYC and probably needed a big town fix.  Washington was familiar to me and felt like home, so I guess that's why we journeyed there every year for Thanksgiving.

As with everything in life, the journey was always as important and special as the destination.  The drives to Washington through the Shenandoah Valley on bleak gray mid-Novenmber days still dance in my head as   reminders of simpler times.  The farm houses would slowly pass by our car windows as we sped down the interstate in my 1977 white Ford Granada with dish a rag in place of a gas cap.  Simple times.  Even from a distance the houses looked happy with driveways full of cars from visiting family members and little clouds of smoke poofs drifting from their chimneys.  All those Thanksgiving families gathered together in all those passing farm houses. A mental postcard.

We always stayed at the Howard Johnson's Hotel in Washington across the street from the Watergate building. Even then it was run down and old, but it was cheap.  Not even the dish rag spilling out of the gas tank of my beat up Granada drew a second look in the parking lot of this HoJo's.
We would arrive in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day and have dinner in the too brightly lit hotel reataurant. It was a HoJo's after all and ambience was not their strong card.  It is poignant now to think back on the cheap room temperature white wine served in cheap bulky stemware that began our special Thanksgiving  holiday meals at HoJo's.  It was always the same.  Very consistant. Warm wine in cheap glassware.
Thanksgiving dinner for two:  A rounded  ice-cream  scoop of  cornbread dressing topped with sliced turkey and gravy, buttered corn, and  an oval slice of tin-can indented cranberry  aspic. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream was included  for dessert. Those meals were always wonderful. They were always comforting and familiar. They were our Thanksgiving  meals and we were always thankful.

Those were our first trips together out into the world.  Funny how food memories burn into our hearts. Forever, it seems.

Even now when we cruise,  and we cruise alot, one night is always a dedicated Tom Turkey night, the universal European, Scandinavian, Norwegian, and Panamanian interpretation of American Thanksgiving.  It is the same presentation on every ship and every cruise line, always arriving on a very large plate with a melon ball rounded scoop of dressing, an index finger-long slice of turkey artfully arranged over the top, a drizzle of gravy, and a side of cranberry sauce.  Michael has never and will never turn down turkey and dressing, even if it so tiny we have to order pizza afterward.  It is his favorite meal. Period.

Michael was in Miami this past weekend on business and I was here at home having my food fun. In the midst of my crazy mice en place-ing, sauteing, pan-searing, and whacked-out ingredient laden self indulgent food orgy, I was also thawing and brining a 14 pound turkey to roast for his arrival home dinner.

Fresh herb and plugra butter rubbed roasted turkey, pineapple sweet potato souffle', herb polenta cakes, brandied creamed onions, cornbread dressing with pan gravy, and cranberry sauce. 

Welcome home. 

Welcome back old stored away memories. Welcome back Washington, warm wine, turkey dinners, happy passing  farm familes, and chimney smoke poofs.

Welcome home, Michael. 

That night smelled like Thanksgiving.  It tasted like Thanksgiving. The house became a home again and we were unselfishly and endlessly thankful.

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