Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Week 2009

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I began last week with cooking preparations for our five days in the Baltimore/DC area for Thanksgiving vacation. Alex was planning an “All American” Thanksgiving meal with a twist, brought on by a humorous jibe from Ari about Alex making hot dogs and hamburgers for Thanksgiving. I am hoping that Ari will comment with the details of that conversation, for I know that if I try to re-create it here, Ari will find fault with the retelling. Anyway, I was not party to the conversation, but it gave our iconoclastic Alex the idea to make his own sausages (hot dogs) and gourmet hamburgers for our Thanksgiving meal. (He roasted two standard turkeys also, just in case… there wouldn’t be enough? :o9).

During the previous week, I had mailed my never-used, sausage-stuffing kit for the Kitchen Aid mixer to Alex, as he had succeeded in finding kosher collagen sausage casings, a feat I had attempted years ago, with no success, pre-Internet. On Monday and Tuesday mornings I made cranberry apple chutney, jumbo pareve oatmeal peanut butter and raisin cookies, pareve pumpkin pie; and kohlrabi coleslaw and carrot cake to finish off a five-pound bag of organic carrots from Costco. In addition, Saul and I made 91 (Saul counted them) gingerbread teddy bears and royal icing so that Sami and Izzy could decorate them in preparation for assembling our family cookie extravaganza. With all the cooking and running around to markets to assemble the necessary ingredients, and then putting the house in display mode and packing, we did not get on the road until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, when CHC was finished for the week. In addition to packing food and clothing, we also took two cases of my cookbooks, Bubbie’s Kitchen, for Jessica to send to Beth El in Pikesville, where they will be used for a Jewish cooking curriculum. I am really gratified by that.

In the midst of my preparations on Monday evening, Ari called because he wanted to prepare a potluck lunch item to take to the office on Tuesday. Based on the list of what everyone else was bringing, I suggested he make deviled eggs, for which I have no written recipe… yet. In my frustration over talking him through the process on our iPhones, I mentioned Skype, and we suddenly all went “eureka,” we can do this. In what can only be described as a reverse cooking show (Ari coined the term), he set up his laptop with Skype on the kitchen counter, and we adjourned to our computer to supervise his preparations. I love modern technology! We could actually see the texture of the yolk mixture and made suggestions for opening up his star tip on the pastry bag a bit with a ball-point pen so that the mixture would not get caught in the corners. I think the deviled eggs were well received and the leftovers that I ate the following day tasted pretty good to me.

Sami spent Monday and Tuesday at the nearby Waldorf School, going through two normal school days with those who seem like they are about to become her new classmates. Jess and Alex learned about the school from one of Jessica’s coworkers who thought the school would be a perfect match for Sami’s strengths. So far, after much research, Jess and Alex, along with Sami, seem to be very excited about the prospect of Sami beginning classes there very shortly, perhaps before winter break.

Our drive down to Baltimore to drop off our food contribution for Thanksgiving and beyond was nasty at rush hour on Tuesday. Within half an hour the sun began to disappear and a light rain began as we inched along I-476 and I-95 with the moving, but extremely voluminous traffic. We were pleasantly surprised, in the latter part of the trip, that the traffic eased up tremendously, although we were rained on for most of the journey. Alex was well into his frenetic kitchen routine as we arrived, Yona observing benignly, perched behind him in the backpack. He helped us unload our car and we continued on to DC where we met Ari at 8:00 p.m. for another exceptionally delicious meal at Bombay. By the time we reached Ari’s condo, I was totally exhausted and fell asleep in Ari’s recliner even before we had time to make up the sofa bed.

On Wednesday morning, Saul and I slept late, did a few loads of Ari’s laundry, and ate some quick leftovers before heading out to Baltimore to see Izzy’s kindergarten Thanksgiving program, along with Jess and Alex’s parents, Maury and Elaine, at Wellwood International Elementary School. On the way back to DC afterward, we made plans to have dinner with Ari and our cousin Julie, who lives in DC, at a new Indian restaurant, Fusion, that has recently opened in Ari’s neighborhood. It was definitely more upscale than the previous night in ambience, presentation, and price. I think the food was not quite as tasty and the portions quite skimpy in keeping with its city sophistication. Ari will be happy, however, to add this sleek neighborhood restaurant to his pantheon of trendy new places to enjoy within the city. Julie came out to dine with us despite suffering with a terrible cold, but muscled through it, and even drove all the way to Adele’s the next day for Thanksgiving dinner.

On Thursday, we all slept late, lounging around and talking, catching up on computer work, and finishing up the laundry chores. Eventually, I pulled myself out of bed and made us all breakfast—juice, sunny-side-up eggs, toasted bagels, assorted cheese, jam, and hot tea. We left for Baltimore around 3:30 p.m. When we arrived, the table was set beautifully and Alex was in the final throes of preparing an incredibly varied and unusual Thanksgiving dinner. I pitched in to clean up the counters and wash the large pans and serving platters in the sink while Ari began loading the dishwasher and overseeing the french fries sizzling and sputtering in their large pan of hot oil. Matt made delicious cosmopolitans which made the final minutes of preparation a lot more pleasant, and Saul and Ari sampled some of the assortment of bourbons which Matt had brought. The dishes were almost too numerous to list, but included an appetizer of pastrami and avocado with a chipotle sauce, three different soups, three different types of homemade sausages, four different types of hamburgers, sliced roasted turkey, purple mashed potatoes, regular mashed sweet potatoes, homemade hand-cut french fries, grilled eggplant, edamame and carrot salad, tossed salad, kohlrabi coleslaw, sauerkraut, and a huge number of condiments which included olives of every size, shape and color, pickles, hot pepper relish, an assortment of mustards, cranberry chutney, fried onions, pickled garlic, etc. etc. etc. I ate way, way too much!

The twenty people at the dinner included, Jess and Alex, Sami, Izzy, and Yona; Saul, Ari, and me; Alex’s parents, Maury and Elaine, Alex’s brother, Aaron, his wife, Stacey, and their three children, Jacob, Lilly and Zach; Alex’s sister, Naomi and her husband, Matt; Stacey’s parents; and our friend, Larry. At the beginning of dinner, each person at the table expressed the things for which he or she were most thankful during this past year. After a long interlude at the end of dinner, during which the children played, the babies were fed, and the grownups digested a bit, we ate dessert, which was pumpkin pie, peanut butter oatmeal cookies, and chocolate almond bars. Yona had been to the pediatrician the previous day and was diagnosed with a severe ear infection in both ears. On medication and with a high fever, she spit up on both me and Jessica, Jessica before dinner, and me afterward. We were quite worried for about 48 hours until the fever finally broke. She was really a trooper throughout the whole ordeal but, needless to say, Jessica did not get much sleep this weekend and Alex had good reason to be exhausted, also.

On Friday, Ari had an appointment to pick up his old computer, which had been repaired, at the Apple Store in Clarendon, Virginia. We had a lot of fun browsing, and Ari left with a new printer, buying me a “magic mouse” that I wanted as a gift. The scrolling ball on my optical mouse had ceased to work the previous week in addition to all my other computer problems. We had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory in Clarendon while waiting for the computer to be finished with its repairs, and then Ari and I went browsing for furniture in Crate and Barrel while Saul returned to browsing at the Apple Store across the street. Larry and Alex’s parents had stayed over at Jess and Alex’s, and we were again joined by Aaron and Stacey and the kids for Shabbat dinner. Yona was less feverish on Friday. We dined on a prodigious amount of glorious leftovers, which should go by a loftier name in this instance.

During the weekend, we took a drive to the National Harbor in Virginia to check out the new location of “The Awakening” sculpture which we had visited in its old location at Hains Point with Sami several years ago. We had dim sum at China Garden in Rosslyn and at Mark’s Duck House in Fairfax, Virginia. We decorated all the gingerbread bears with Sami and Izzy. On Saturday evening, ten of us dined at Mango Grove, a beautiful Indian (yes, a third Indian meal!) vegetarian restaurant in Columbia, Maryland. Earlier in the month, one of their chefs had played a major role at one of Jessica’s wonderful programs at The Pearlstone Center. We asked the owner of the restaurant, a lovely and gracious hostess, to choose our dinner menu when we arrived, and we were absolutely delighted with her selections.

We spent a few hours with the kids in Baltimore before leaving, reluctantly, for home late on Sunday afternoon. We stopped for a very light dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in King of Prussia to take advantage of a coupon offer for a free slice of cheesecake. Saul had a salad and I had an appetizer, but I guess the slice of Kahlua Cocoa Coffee cheesecake topped with mounds of whipped cream we shared negated any real attempts at lightness to which we had aspired. Major dieting is in order now, but the free-for-all feasting was a blast these past few days!

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