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Monday, December 2, 2013

I Really CAN Cook

Cows: Thanksgiving 2013
I was taught by my family that if one is going to a buffet or bring-a-long you bring something. Food, wine, dessert, flowers, perhaps a hostess gift.

Something. Anything.

Showing up empty-handed at a buffet (nay, even a dinner party or get-together) is rather gauche and slightly rude. It does make me cringe inwardly. In my book, old-fashioned as it may be, it's The Thing One Does.  You bring something or you call up and say to the Host/ess, "Can I bring anything?"  You are a guest. This isn't a restaurant!  Traditionally, if it's a buffet you bring (amazingly enough) food.

I keep offering to make stuff for the Spousal Unit's family Thanksgiving dinner. My mother in law will say cheerfully, "No, that's don't need to do that."  This makes my Guest Brain Module shudder with white-gloved or farm-folk horror.  For some reason my brain-and-train feels this a true faux-pas and casts aspersions on my entire family tree.  (And yes, my family tree has plenty of farmers in it too!)

Understand, this is no small event. This casual Thanksgiving dinner gathers at LEAST 21 people.  Sometimes as many as 50 people show up. They have been holding it in basically the same location for close to 90 years.  Which is amazing, in and of itself.  The sense of continuity and history is lovely.

Now I have to admit to having a fairly well-developed palate. Perhaps not at the Sweetbreads, Chocolate-Covered-Insects or Mussels level but I like trying new things.  At least once.  (And yes, I've had all those things. Once.)  I also have to admit to be a pretty good cook.

The first year I decided to add to the buffet, I made a side dish. I made stuffing the way my sister does with a bit of apple, raisins and a hint of sage. They all looked at like it was brain matter.  No one but the S.U. ate it. This is a wonderful recipe and once a year my sister makes it for me.  (She usually doesn't add the raisins; that's my personal peculiarity.)

The next year, figuring that was far too adventurous, I made home-made, from-scratch baked mac and cheese with 4 cheeses. No one ate it.  It's MACARONI AND CHEESE, people. I even put a label on it so everyone would know what the heck it was.  I overheard whispered questions as the serving spoon tentatively hovered over the warm dish, "Who brought that?"

The Spousal Unit quietly, proudly replied, "Mia did."

Spoon withdrawn. Uneaten except by us.

WTH? Really?  Yes, OK, I'm from Ohio.  My state doesn't border yours. YOU think we can't COOK in Ohio?  Does being from Ohio mean I might poison you with buckeye additives?


One year, in desperation for a good dessert, I made an apple pie, from scratch (Except the pie crust. I can't do that).  It's a damn apple pie for heaven's sake. They ate the pecan pie, they ate a gross, store-bought cream pie, they ate the shoo-fly pie, the sugar pie, the pumpkin pie, the fairly dry, unfrosted chocolate cake in a pan but only one person (besides the faithful Spousal Unit) ate a piece of apple pie.

This year there were no fruit pies.  I wanted to bring one, even a store-bought one.  I was vetoed.  "Oh, there'll be a fruit pies there."  Well, there wasn't.

So damn near every year I trot my carcass out to a place in the Midwest where a few of the relatives actually like me, most tolerate me and some look at me like I'm from Planet Ogzed, murmuring under their breath, "She's one of The Actress People."

Don't get me wrong; these are basically very nice people, smart, hard-working, many are well-traveled, most are well-educated.  I do posses (through time and training) the ability to converse with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of subjects.  I just feel like an exotic, tropical bird on the other side of the moon. Which, of course,  I am far from being.  This isn't my turf, and I get that.  This is for the S.U. and I'm more than OK with him seeing his mom a few times a year. I have a lot of respect for her.  It's important and time does march on.

The Elephant Rock 2013.
We think this is the smallest group in memory to go out there.
Only six of us
. Two didn't get on the rock as it's hard to get up there.

As an extra bonus I get to eat anywhere from decent to average to seriously crappy food.   Coming from a family where the Thanksgiving/Holiday food has always been decent to outstanding is a serious culinary let-down. 

Truth be told: this year, for the first time the turkey (brined and smoked) was very good.  Surprisingly, my m-i-l's ridiculously yummy deviled eggs were not all gobbled up.  Goody.  More for me later!

There is almost always good with "meh." I do like when they get out board games, card games or dominoes because, alas, my family never plays games any more. Which is quite sad and I'm sorry we've fallen away from that tradition.

I do enjoy and look forward to walking down the country road alone seeing things, enjoying the quiet solitude, photographing stuff. I like hiking out to The Elephant Rock with some of the relatives.  It is a time-honored tradition that dates back decades and decades!

But boy, it is rather fascinating that all those people who either ignore me or say three semi-awkward sentences to me all line up wanting copies or links of the pictures I took of kids.  Or cows!

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