Photo: Soon, so soon! In about 28 hours, this little beauty will go in the oven and then I’ll walk away. 🙂 If you are ever in the market for duck, you should check out H-Mart if there is one close to you.
Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I harbor romantic notions of the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a narrative pushed by commercials for sure, but still, I think there is something very romantic about the mass migration of people, the journeys home after time away, the chapters written in far-flung corners and then presented in real-time to family in familiar spaces. I think about the people exuding confidence in the car, a new love interest at their side who they are smiling at and jabbering on with, but internally they are full of anxiety: will Mom like him/her? Will Dad tell that embarrassing story? Will Cousin make a pass or hurl and insult? Will the new lover do something profoundly embarrassing, or suddenly lose interest after meeting the family? There are a million variations, of course. All of them in a vehicle, on their way to wherever they are going, completely unaware of how it’s all going to shake out.
Around here, the foreign plates are rolling through the neighborhood: New York and New Jersey, mostly, but there have been Maryland and Virginia plates, too. Delaware, Georgia, Florida… I saw Michigan and Illinois plates this morning. People are coming in, people are going out. The highways are clogged with revelers and the the begrudging alike.
And then there are the makers who are tirelessly preparing. Good smells are rising in the cold, gray air already. Spicy smells, sweet smells, thick and meaty smells… they are the smells of invitation and welcome. They are the smells of tradition and pride. They are the smells of amalgamation: so many families, so many places, so much traditional and history expressed in food. Every generation gets their shot to make an addition or a change, and it all ends up wafting on the breeze and into the nostrils of passers by. I think of the women who have busy hands crimping pie crusts and chopping root vegetables. It’s in these kitchens where truly wonderful stories can be found, as the clashing of new ideas and old come to full fruition. Mushrooms in the stuffing? Brown rice instead of wild? Brine instead of butter? Fancy Parker House rolls instead of simple potato rolls? Daughter-in-laws present new ideas to Mother-in-laws, grandmas and Big Mamas pridefully chide and reject, college students demand vegetarian or vegan, proud dads who otherwise never make a meal suddenly become grand and wise experts on turkey preparation…
I love it. I love the larger narrative and I love the symphony of smaller, intimate stories that will all play out this weekend. It is operatic, truly, because there is so much and yet so little at stake. It’s dinner, ya’ll. And yet, you put so many bodies and so much history and so much expectation into one place, one table, one roasted (or fried, or grilled, or smoked) beast… and for some reason, you have the foundations for something tome-worthy.
All of our lives, in their own ways, are tome-worthy. We all have stories and they are all good reads or good listens, especially when well told.
My Thanksgiving story will be easy and breezy this year. Our neighbors are out of town, so we will have no disruptions like last year (we hope! Please, Lord!). Our menu is as it has always been: roasted duck, served Peking-style with cucumber, lettuce, scallions and hoisin sauce and pancakes. I’m roasting brussels sprouts in some of the rendered duck fat because oh my God there is nothing better. We might have rice on the side because Minor can’t seem to live without it. There is a pecan pie for The Husband and a pumpkin pie for me. All of that is well and good, but the highlight for us, really, is breakfast: cinnamon rolls baked to perfection served with dark-roast coffee spiced with cloves and roasted cinnamon for Mommy and Daddy. Chocolate milk (or hot chocolate. their choice) for two little boys.
It’s the perfect reflection of our family story. We’re a family far from home. Yet, this home we’ve made for ourselves grows deeper roots every single day. It’s cozy and warm, quirky and different from everyone else. I can’t imagine being with anyone else or doing anything else tomorrow. I’m so grateful for a day of restful family coziness.
I’m also so grateful for you, Dear Reader. Thank you, again and again, for making this a regular destination in your internet wanderings. Your comments, emails, and tweets mean so much to me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my story with you, and that you’ve chosen to share pieces of your story with me.
For you American readers, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving with safe travels, great food, and fantastic company. For you wonderful international readers, of which there are so many (I’m waving frantically in the directions of Canada, the UK, and Germany!), I wish you a happy November day full of joy, good food, great friends, and productivity.
And yes, I’ll see you Friday for some Quiet Thoughts.