Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanks, Mom!

Later on today I’ll be carting out a lovely batch of my esteemed gorgonzola mashed potatoes, made with two kinds of local-grown potatoes, all organic ingredients, and mashed into lovely mouthfuls of fluff (not soup) over to join some friends in Milwaukee (we have one in Oregon). Along with the potatoes, I shall carry a nice portion of my apricot-glazed baby carrots—tiny, organic carrots so orangy they look fake, and glazed with Plugra European style butter, apricot preserves, Duchy brand organic lemon curd shipped to me by my lovely friend, Stephanie after a recent trip to Fortnum & Mason's in London, fresh-grated orange peel, fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon juice and a few secret seasonings to make them more in demand than yams.

I love good food. When one of my professors innocently asked me if I was making the turkey dinner this year, I launched into a lengthy monologue recounting all the turkey dinners I have conjured through the years, how I procured the best bird I could, how I learned to make him (or her) as splendidly golden as possible, how to make cranberry sauce as interesting as a good chutney, etc., etc. Turkey can be so much better than the standard,
hormone-laden, shortening-injected, (Butterball, a product of ConAgra foods), previously frozen, stringy, dry bird we are so often faced with.

This love of food, this homage to the depth and breadth of culinary adventure is a gift from my mother who taught her family the joys of fresh, local-grown, organic (for the purity and logic, not the politics) ingredients. As I’ve mentioned, she was born during WWII and raised in a working-class area of Berlin, and sometimes found herself bound with her sisters toward Switzerland to escape the bombing. I think it is here (just like Heidi) that she acquired her taste for the finest dairy, for creamy goat cheese, for eggs still warm from the chicken, and mounds of homemade preserves. For mom, a good portion of the trick to her amazing baked goods is in the best butter money can buy. All this sounds like a recipe for gaining weight, but I’ve never been overweight in my life, and I was raised on ranch fresh eggs and plenty of butter. I think it’s due to moderation and appreciation for the product, as opposed to the standard American ethic of huge portion and gorging like life is just a series of Big Gulps.

We weren’t permitted to waste much at our home table, and food was honored since both my parents knew what it was like to be without it. When my grandmother and aunts would appear on our doorstep from Mexico, they’d bring bags of homegrown corn and primitive grinding tools. They would lovingly grab the kernels of golden corn, spinning a particularly good handful between their cocoa-brown fingers. They’d grind it to masa, focused, short-limbed little experts who made tamales that were to die for, and ate each and every one of the small packets with utter devotion. The work that went into growing or acquiring food, made them honor the gift of it.

Today we’ll feast and celebrate and complain about drum-tight bellies and too much food. Too many will be taking whatever food they can get at shelters manned by amazing, undervalued volunteers who truly comprehend the meaning of thanks. At my dad’s house his second wife will dig the can-opener into a can of Swansons’ cranberry jelly and plop it onto a paper plate. My mother, despite a 45-hour work week at age 65, will cut celery, chop parsley, and tear premium bread for the homemade stuffing that she’ll serve up to just a few this year. I'll miss her. I am so thankful to her for teaching me the sublimity of a meal that gives life instead of merely sustains.

Oh, and I’m thankful to any of you who might be reading. Happy Thanksgiving!


At 12:02 PM, Blogger Sarie said...

Man, I'm coming over to your house next year for Thanksgiving ;)


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