Part II of this post actually addresses garden-related topics.
Brief Meditation on the Market
We celebrated Thanksgiving with a Harry Potter movie marathon, courtesy of our web-savvy son. We were driven to watching pirated, poor-resolution versions from the computer, because we had typically failed to plan ahead, and you couldn't rent a Harry Potter DVD in this town for any money. We figure that everyone else, like us, was trying to remember the plots before going to see the penultimate installment, in a theater near you now.
Our Malian friend Abdoulaye will be happy to learn that we watched all of this on a new, 32-inch flat-screen television. Yes folks, we are moving up. As I wrote a while ago, when this potato specialist from central Africa came to the United States, he found himself living in a log house without cell-phones, cable, or a wireless internet connection, with a family that had never heard of 24.
Since then Son the Younger has acquired a cell-phone, we've gotten highspeed wireless, and now a flatscreen TV. We're becoming quite the reckless consumers—except that the television was a freebee from my husband's company to mark ten years' employment, my son won't activate the message service on his phone (too expensive), and the wireless connection is the slowest and cheapest on the market. Oh well.
So Son the Younger navigated us past the awful pop-ups (nothing like acne ads in the midst of a battle against dementors) and the YOU HAVE WATCHED 72 MINUTES OF VIDEO TODAY stoppages, and we glutted outselves on teen-age heroism, along with our more traditional Thanksgiving fare.
That began with one of our favorite breakfasts, German Apple Pancake, the first in several months NOT made with apples from down the block, and proceeded, several movies and hours later, to a turkey and fixin's. There were fewer fixin's than usual partly I'm still pretty compromised from my October surgery, partly because I'm actually learning (?!?) that you don't have to have four vegetables and three desserts. For years I insisted on making turkey dressing even though no one in the family really likes it. What's that about?
There's probably another reason (besides belated maturity) that I was happy with just two vegetables: both came from the garden. The potatoes were ones too small to store, while the beans had been frozen in August and September for autumn and winter use—and for Thanksgiving.
I first froze beans last year, and a measure of my failure is that there are still some left. They tasted okay, but that's all. And they were limp.
This year's are far better in both taste and texture, because I'm now following the advice of my friends, rather than that in a recipe book. The Joy of Cooking taught me to make jam, but apparently it can't be trusted on freezing vegetables. It insists that one boil the beans for three minutes before dropping them in iced water and then bagging them.
Having evoked looks of horror from two savvy friends when I repeated this tale, I this year boiled them only until they changed color—maybe a minute, tops—and I was religious about the iced water. The result? Crisp, tasty beans.
Until Thanksgiving, that is, when I discovered that dropping five cups of frozen beans into three cups of boiling water puts the cabash on the boiling for so long that the beans are, once again, limp. Dang. Fortunately, they still taste great—much better than the ones I put up last year.
The potatoes were small ones—an inch or so in diameter—of all colors: white, yellow, red, and purple. These could have been boiled whole of course, but since I planned to fry them afterwards, I cut them up so they'd have some flat, fryable surfaces. Fried in olive oil with coarse salt and a bit of pepper, they made a simple but tasty and colorful dish. The trick is to boil them only until a knife will just pass through them, so that they don't fall apart when turned in the frying pan.
So that was it: turkey, potatoes, beans, gravy, and cranberry sauce.
We were joined for the dinner itself (and for movie number four) by a new international friend, this one from Burma (or Myanmar), and by the one student next door who didn't make it home for the day. By the time we started number five, one of the other guys next door, plus his girlfriend, dropped by. This made a small gathering by some standards, but, like the meal itself, sufficient to feel festive.