23 November, 2012

Thankful for Randomness

The most random Thanksgiving ever. (With all apologies to my non-American readers. You must be tired of the subject already.)

I have a lot to be thankful for, but I'd be lying a big "liar, liar, pants on fire" lie if I didn't say that this year I am overwhelmingly grateful for Brett Minor's role in my life.

Thanksgiving with Brett. Aha! A first holiday. Such anticipation! Such hype! Such an opportunity to start new traditions! Well, we got one.

Months ago, in talking to Brett, I mentioned that I'd always wanted to help at a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless/disadvantaged/community...something. His response? "Done. I know a couple places." He's working nights now, so if it weren't for this opportunity, I don't know that I'd have come out here. (Yes, I'm writing this from Brett's house, while he sleeps after a long night's work.)

...Well, probably, I'd still come, maybe just not ON the day, since my mom seemed to really wish I'd stayed there...

Brett signed me up at a huge Thanksgiving community dinner at a large church, where anyone can come, and they send out packaged meals to shut-ins, and to the fire and police departments - you know, community services that have to operate holiday or not. The deal was I'd come down, do my thing there while he slept, go to his house, start some kind of meal, and wake him early in the afternoon. Yep. It was a plan.

I'm a planner. Brett prefers to let things happen as they will. This is a marvelous blend. Because I CAN let go of the plan when things happen - I just like to have a jumping off point.

I had a great, unique, feast for two devised:
1. salad, crescent-rolls
2. cajun turkey breast, steamed winter veggies, cheesy potato bake
3. pumpkin pie (boring), a fantastic unique treat (exciting and adventurous)

What actually happened was...
9:15am - I arrive at Brett's house and unload a bunch of groceries into his fridge. I have time, so just peek in, see he's awake, and say "hi - see you later".
9:45am - I arrive at the church to check in and see where I'll be working. Prayer time starts at 10, so meanwhile I start taking trays of desserts into the main hall to set up.
10:15 - Working in the set up area, preparing to-go boxes.
11:30 - We are done with all the pre-orders, and the random drop-ins have trickled down, so they close the back area and I'm told I can get a tray of food.

...WHAT? I didn't know I was eating too, I thought I was just there to work! Weird. It's not my church; I've met one person so far who I know through Brett. But I have new friends among the baggers, so I do as I'm told, get a tray of food, and sit with Ralph. I am a fish out of water. Eventually, Brett's brother and his family show up and join us, so that was cool. Much easier, since I know them.

12:30 - Back to Brett's. I was going to start on the cajun turkey breast - slow-cooked, for choice - but I see that it takes 4 hours. It seems more reasonable to schedule a meal for 6-ish than 4:30, so I go to my computer.
...darn tryptophan. I nap.
2:00 - Okay, NOW I can put the turkey in the crockpot. Getting it out of its wrappings, I read through the instructions in detail. Wait..."check on turkey after 4 hours"...what? OOPS! Cook time is 7.5 hours! DUDE! Turkey won't be ready until 9:30! 

LOL. So much for planning.

I had brought along a nice bottle of white wine. Brett's not much of a drinker, so I looked through his silverware drawer for a corkscrew. No dice. I wondered.

Thank GOD that Brett is a flexible sort, and had even said he didn't care what we ate. So I wake him up and we have a big laugh over my mistake about the cook-time. And he agrees he probably doesn't have a corkscrew so we walk in the direction of Kroger to try to find one before they close. (I hate going to stores on holidays, but...) On the way there, we pass a liquor store with a neon "open" sign. Jackpot! ...plus we got a nice walk on a nice day.

Brett's daughter and her boyfriend come over in the afternoon to grab a boardgame and discuss their gastronomic adventures before moving on to the next feast. When they leave, probably around...

4:00? - Brett and I start working on the cheesy potatoes. (Frankly, I was so glad Brett mentioned this idea when I asked him how he prefers his potatoes. I don't think he expected me to take him seriously, because it's so "non-Thanksgiving", but I love it.) This was fun to do together, mixing up the ingredients, picking the right baking dish... and OOPS - the cornflakes were supposed to be crushed before sauteed. Oh well. Not like we're trying to deceive anyone into thinking they aren't cornflakes! 

5:00 - We sit down to salad, cheesy potatoes, and chips and salsa (courtesy of Kirsten's boyfriend). It felt kind of Charlie Brown-y. Oh, and wine.

Keep in mind, Brett still has to work at midnight. And we both are going back to my parents ...today (Friday), so he wants to be rested. Although he says he doesn't want to spend my visit sleeping, he clearly is very tired, and knows that the turkey will be ready at the awkward time of 9:30. I gamely suggest that perhaps I should nap with him. (AWWW...) Of course, we talk too much for an hour before I remind him that he needs to sleep (I'm SO good!) and shut up until I hear snoring, and I doze too.

In a waking moment, it occurred to me that hey! The turkey's in a crockpot. It's not going to burn if we leave it in too long! Why not let Brett sleep longer and wake him at a practical time for getting ready for work?

10:30 - Turkey time! WOW - that cajun flavor is tasty. Even Brett says it's worth the wait. I grab some more cheesy potatoes, just because.

By now, Kirsten is home for the night, but too stuffed to take part in our delicious dinner. Not even PIE! (which I made - boring old un-jazzed-up pumpkin - because I was informed it was her favorite.) Oh well, Brett and I enjoyed it.

Time-out. Let's check the score:
1. salad and crescent rolls [EAH>buzzer<] forgot to make the crescents! (and the salad was limp. My bad.) -2points.
2. cajun turkey breast, steamed winter veggies, cheesy potato bake [EAH>buzzer<] No turkey yet, and forgot the winter veggies! (but the potato dish was excellent, and is our new tradition)  -2 points, but +1 on the potatoes.
3. pumpkin pie (boring), a fantastic unique treat (exciting and adventurous) [EAH>buzzer<] turkey is finally excellent, but too late, pie is excellent, but forgot the surprise treat! (I'll make it sometime, and tell you all about it.) +1-1 on the turkey, +1-1 on dessert. So, ZERO.

By my count, the planned meal sits at -3.

But the unplanned reality was just great. Everything we had - well maybe not the salad - tasted good, and I have to say Brett is very gracious about just rolling with the weirdness. That makes it so easy. It wasn't even chaos, just... unforeseen.  AND we ate well, we ate to fullness, but we were not stuffed to discomfort by the end.

For that, I am truly grateful.
(and Brett now has a fridge-full of yummy leftovers...)