Hello, and happy cooking frenzy before Thanksgiving! Just to give you an idea of how I’m doing: a few minutes ago the husband and I were having a positively RIVETING conversation about how to reconfigure our dining room to fit the approximately eight billion (slight exaggeration) people showing up here tomorrow, and upon its conclusion I headed back into the kitchen and took a deep swig of my coffee. Except I am lying; that’s not what happened. What actually happened was that I brought the coffee cup up to my mouth and TRIED to take a deep swig of my coffee, and instead I poured coffee all over my face, my shirt, and the floor.
So everything is right on schedule, in other words. May I offer you a Shout wipe? They’re good for coffee stains. Ask me how I know!
I have been cooking in stages all week, as I usually do on the run-up to Thanksgiving. Our guests are also bringing food, but Thanksgiving is Otto’s favorite holiday in the whole world, and Otto is nothing if not someone who loves tradition. So it’s all good and well that other foods are coming, we have to have certain foods without which Thanksgiving would be woefully incomplete and wrong and bad and possibly create a wormhole in the space-time continuum which results in all the Puritans being sent back to England. Or something. This means a week of prep for me, oddly enough. (Otto is in charge of the turkey. That’s a big job, of course. But I am in charge of everything else.)
About a week ago, Chickadee started lobbying for the addition of deviled eggs to the menu. I get it—I mean, deviled eggs are delicious—but when there’s so many other things I’m already making, I wasn’t eager to put another time-consuming dish on the docket. (Right? They’re not hard, but they’re fussy.) But she loooooooves them, and I am a suuuuuuucker, so deviled eggs it is. I’m writing this right now to avoid going back into the kitchen and peeling a dozen boiled eggs, in fact. (SOMEONE said she’d be home early today and would help. Guess who is still in Tinytown as I type this?)
A few months ago I tried a new(ish) gluten-free pie crust recipe and it was transformative. It tasted like REAL PIE CRUST, and I am terrible with even regular pie crust and this particular time all the stars and planets aligned and it wasn’t awful and then it tasted SO GOOD. Crazy good. Otto said it was the best pie crust he’s ever had, gluten or no gluten. That kind of good. So I assumed I had now mastered pie crust and would never have trouble again. HA HA HA.
Among Otto’s required dishes: pumpkin pie. Among my required dishes: pecan pie. Are guests bringing desserts? Yes. Do I have to bake two pies anyway? Yes. Yes, I do. And so yesterday I put together a double batch of the Most Amazing Pie Crust and it seemed a little crumbly as I gathered it within Saran wrap to put in the fridge, but no matter! Because it would be fine the next day (today) when I went to roll it out! Except that it totally was not, and I don’t know why, but it wasn’t, and I would roll and it would all crumble and fall apart, and I would invent new curse words, and Monkey sat nearby, totally sanguine, offering helpful tidbits such as, “Mom, what’s the worst thing that’ll happen if that pie crust doesn’t work out? Will anyone die? No? Then don’t worry about it.” (Buddha Monkey came out of nowhere a few weeks ago. I don’t know why or how, but it’s been entertaining. He did not believe me when I told him that yes, my pie crust was a matter of life and death, because either we would have pie or I would need to beat someone to death with my rolling pin.)
Eventually I wrangled two pie crusts into what was more or less pie-shaped configurations and parbaked them both. I needed a nap after that, but THERE IS NO REST FOR THE PIE CRUST IMPAIRED, for I still had the actual pies to assemble and two cranberry sauces to make.
The good news is that the cranberry sauces were easy, and those went off without a hitch. (One cranberry tangerine ginger sauce, cooked down, and one spicy cranberry relish, raw, with lemon and horseradish. YES WE HAVE TO HAVE BOTH.) The other good news is that I did end up making both pies. But the bad news is that I came VERY CLOSE to screwing up both of them.
First I was doing the pecan pie, and the bottle of Karo syrup (yes you can make pecan pie without Karo but why would you?) in front in the pantry was nearly empty, so I grabbed the bottle behind it as well, and I was about to dump my cupful of it into the mixture when I was marveling at how DARK it was and realized that the second bottle—shaped exactly the same as the first—was, in fact, molasses. That would’ve been… sticky, I think, and probably not pie? I’m not even sure, but that was a crisis narrowly averted, and one trip to the store later, there was proper pecan pie.
Second, when making the pumpkin pie, I opened the can of sweetened condensed milk (again, you could make the pie without it, but TRADITION) and was about to dump it in when I realized it was fat-free. BLECH. What? Did I buy that? Why did I buy that? Gross. Fortunately I had the high-octane stuff on hand and that crisis was also averted. But my point is that I’ve been trying pretty hard to screw up today.
[Sidebar: I’m all for healthy eating, and this sort of processed stuff is perhaps all the more sacred because we only indulge in it once or twice a year. Besides, one year I made a healthy pumpkin pie and Otto really loves me because he didn’t leave me over it, but he did look… just sort of sad.]
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to screwing up the sweet potatoes or maybe the stuffing. I mean, I already baked the cornbread (maple sage gluten-free cornbread, because why not do it all from scratch and make yourself insane?), but there’s still the possibility that I dump an entire canister of salt in there or something. WHO KNOWS. I look forward to whatever blunder I manage to commit. (I already made gluten-free rolls earlier this week because I knew I’d screw them up, but two batches later I think I ended with something edible. WE’LL SEE.)
In non-Thanksgiving news
Duncan is still with us, absolutely unbothered by his supposed “end of life diagnosis” and definitely slower and sleepier and less hungry than pre-illness Duncan, but still more entertaining than, say, an ottoman. As he relies on me to be his snuggle buddy on the couch during most of the day (I’ve taken to working there on my laptop rather than sitting at my desk in my office, so that he can curl up against my hip), all of this cooking and baking has really confused and upset him. I know this is true because 80% of the time I’ve spent in the kitchen, he’s stood in the doorway and barked at me because he’s mad I’m not sitting on the couch. So that’s fun. Also Otto was letting him sleep in our bed because, you know, death was imminent, but now he’s just sleeping in our bed because he thinks he belongs there, and he’s still alive. Three cheers for our immortal doggo! I suspect he may get a little pie tomorrow.
I am wishing all of you and yours a lovely day filled with only the funniest kitchen catastrophes and delicious food and good company and no Trump apologists.