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Safe Topics for the Holidays: Stick to the Turkey

November 22, 2011 7 comments

People are evidently nervous this time of year. I’m seeing a myriad of “How to Survive the Holiday” topics in the blogosphere, and #StuffBetterFast is trending on Twitter. North America is buzzing with hints and tips on surviving this time of year, when we are stuck inside with no choice but to engage our extended family in scintillating conversation.

This can be a terrifying prospect, wherein the only solution can be found in the bottom of a bottle, be it ruby red or palest garnet. I, however, have been handed an extended family which frowns upon such liquids which might put a hint of joy in an otherwise morose day. My sober state has paid off in spades however: I’ve learned how to talk about absolutely nothing with ease, and at length.

If you, too, want to navigate the holidays free of catastrophe, stick to the following topics:

1. The cooking of the turkey. Is the white meat moist, while the dark meat still falls off the bone? Bonus points! This will always vary from holiday to holiday, so bears mentioning, and will allow you to explore the meals of holidays past, wistfully or otherwise.

2. The texture of the turkey. Is it gamey? Bland? Does it melt in your mouth? This can be explored while the gravy is being passed around, and don’t forget the cranberry sauce in the event of an overdone bird.

3. Where did the turkey hail from? Usually good for a tale involving lineups and holiday frenzy. Beware the temptation to sojourn into the topic of organic, free-range turkeys, however, as this can lead to polarization from one’s relatives. Ahem.

4. The turkey accessories. Do the carrots complement the dinner? What is the consistency of the mashed potatoes? Is the gravy perfectly lump-free? Is the group assembled pro-brussel sprouts or con? (For some reason we share a collective forgetfulness with this issue, so need to revisit it each occasion, but it never gets old.) The turkey accompaniments can provide you with minutes of frivolity; play around a little and have some fun.

5. The temperature of the meal. Is everything bubbling hot? The water ice cold? This can naturally send you into another blissfully safe topic to round out the meal: the weather.

Now, if you sail through these topics before second helpings are distributed, or Aunt Betty’s apple pie is polished off,  you can always revert to my standby: round table bets on how many dinners will be gleaned from leftovers. Add a quarter to the pot to add excitement and intrigue.

Generally, if you stick to the above conversational points, being sure to lean on the positives of the meal, while downplaying the negatives, you should be able to navigate your way through the entire meal without offending anyone, and you can retire to your football game stuffed, but otherwise intact. (Or in my case, a scene out of 1950, where the men retire to the football game and the women clean up the mess.)

It goes without saying that politics, greenhouse gases, the deficit, the euro crisis, whether fighting in hockey should be banned, ‘who is Kim Kardashian anyway?’, Glee, and anything else that could be considered remotely interesting, are all potentially hot topics which could leave someone in tears. Engage in these controversial subjects at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Easter will be here before you know it.

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No place like home

November 25, 2010 2 comments
Thanksgiving dinner in Canada.

Image via Wikipedia

Turkey dinners evoke warm memories of chaotic, festive times with my family, everyone talking over each other in an effort to be heard, cheap wine making us all the more animated, the occasional dinner roll being thrown either to make a point, or out of sheer laziness.

I come from a big family; so when I think of these festive dinners, activity and hustle and bustle comes to mind, not bucolic dining rooms with classical music playing softly in the background amid discussions of politics and vacation plans. It’s more like feast or famine: eat quickly or else the gravy boat will be empty, there is no time for such engaging conversations.

But let’s talk turkey.  No one – not even Jamie, Nigella or Martha – can make gravy like my mom.  Try as I might, I cannot come close to the creamy, thick consistency that she delivers.  Her stuffing – an innovative bread and potato blend, by the way – is the perfect compliment, not overpowering but tasty in its own right.  And then my personal favorite: her cranberry sauce: just lumpy enough to taste the goodness of the berries, sweet enough to be delightful yet not taste like dessert, beautifully presented in her special round crystal bowl.  Sigh.  There is nothing like my mom’s turkey dinner.

Yet I am 6000 miles away, and now very sad (we Canadians are not celebrating Thanksgiving today, but are inundated with stories of our neighbors to the south, who are; so one can’t help but think about these things).  It is understandable why thousands of Americans go to the magnanimous trouble to travel home for this holiday.  If their mother’s can cook anything like mine, it is well worth the time and money.  In case you haven’t heard, there’s no place like home.

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