A North Carolina Thanksgiving Hootenanny
Every Thanksgiving I try to talk my friends and/or family into stuffing ourselves with something different than the same tired turkey, mashed potatoes and overcooked green bean casserole. Why, when we could spend half the day chatting around the table while we make shredded pork tamales while a molé sauce slowly simmers in the kitchen? Why, when we could have a fine spread of mezze and a nice big roast leg of lamb?
Sometimes I'm too quick to subvert the tried-and-true of tradition to the new and the unique. This might be a problem if I decide to marry and have children. Heaven help that woman, if she is hoping to bestow her young with names that have been in the family for generations--or just good solid names like "Elizabeth," "David," and "Robert"--for I intend to name my children after various cheeses of the world. My daughter would undoubtedly be named Brie. Sure, gradeschool might be a tough experience for little Munster, but he'll have his older brothers to understand and help protect him, since they will have had plenty of experiences to toughen up under the names Drunken Goat and Stinking Bishop. And who can forget little Baby Swiss, who will go by her middle name Gruyere, once she's old enough.
In any case I inevitably lose out over the Thanksgiving meal planning and this is probably a good thing. This year's turkey was fantastic, as was the rest of the meal. But let's proceed chronologically, shall we?
One of my sisters has lived in Asheville, North Carolina for the past year and a half. I finally made it down there, for Thanksgiving weekend, and quickly fell in love with the surrounding countryside and the local barbecue. When we arrived late in the evening my sister had generously prepared for us a large pot of Italian-style spicy mussels as well as some outrighteously good hors d'oeuvres: mushroom caps stuffed with bacon, cream cheese, and figs, served with a balsamic vinniagrette reduction. If she's not careful she's going to surpass her older brother as the chef de la famille. I wish she lived closer, in part so that I could more frequently benefit from such a potential rivalry.
We had Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, since it took us all day to drive to Asheville from D.C. There were about ten of us, and everybody helped out in some way. The next-door neighbor, a wine distributor, brought a delicious carrot soup, a bottle of fantastic red wine, and two bottles of expensive champagne. As much as we liked them, our pallettes were probably too unrefined to really appreciate it. I made a couple loaves of bread (see recent post) that turned out a bit denser than before, since I had only regular and not instant yeast on hand. I also made an apple and raisin galette that turned out alright, but tasted quite good the next day. There was much drinking and rejoicing, and dinner was followed by a passing around of the guitar.
The following day we did our best to walk off our prominent bellies by hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'm not sure how far we hiked, but if the soreness of my legs is any guide, I would say probably about 375 miles. Our chosen endpoint was the waterfall you see in the photograph above. There was much rejoicing. Jean-Jacques, my soon-to-be brother-in-law dunked his head in the freezing water to demonstrate his manliness, or insanity, or both, after which he yelped loudly "my BRAIN is FROZEN!!" (It sounds better with his Senegalese accent).
After the hike we were ravenous. Fortunately one of my sister's friends treated us all to an enormous meal of North Carolina BBQ (which tends to be tangy due to a larger ratio of vinegar to other ingredients) mac n'cheese, coleslaw, and potato salad. He picked the 'cue up from Ed Boudreaux's Bayou BBQ. It was fantastic, and if you're ever in Asheville I highly recommend it.
So it was a lovely vacation. I'm now retreating reluctantly into the ascetic shadowland of studying for law school finals, so there may not be too many posts in store until after December 9th. Expect a deluge at that point. I'm going to try and make everything between then and the New Year.
And for Christmas dinner I'm going to try and talk the family into a nice big sushi platter.
Posted by Kitchen Monkey at 10:15 PM