15. Thankless Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-for-oneWhen I got home, Eamon had already emailed me: “Oh you pretty thing. :)”

I responded by attaching three Shins songs. “These are my three favorite Shins songs. ‘Gone for Good’ is my absolute favorite,” I wrote.

“Thank you, darlin’. Let’s listen to ’em together. Yours, Eamon.”

I had a good time with him. He was lovely, but it was a lot of work to divorce my happy thoughts from the visions of dog feces on the shower floor. I quickly swaddled the images and buried them in the back of my head while we made plans to hang out again Sunday. In the middle of the back and forth about meeting up, a facebook message came through from Burton.

“I’m sorry that you feel this way. ‘Mistreatment’ seems to be a bit of a stretch. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that,” wrote Burton. “And liking my company ‘albeit drunk’ isn’t very nice or fair. It seems we were doomed by bad timing and bad communication. So it goes.”

With two days to cool down from the initial email, I was feeling less angry and more apathetic.

I responded with, “Yes, well, email and text aren’t the best forms of communication. Tone and intent can get lost in the ether. No hard feelings on my end.”

We had a pleasant exchange after that and it continued through the next day. I hadn’t forgotten about Eamon completely, but with Burton’s attention, the interest waned. I canceled our plans for that night mostly because of Burton and partly because of work — but I wasn’t quite ready to close the door on Eamon yet.

“I just got home and as of this second phone service has resumed in my apartment. Would you be terribly put out if I canceled? I really, really want to do something but I was at work unexpectedly late and I have to work at six o’clock tomorrow morning.”

“The evening’s young enough. Get some rest!”

Tiny-Pumpkin-Pie“I feel bad. I hope you didn’t turn down any plans because of me.”

“No worries. We’ll make plans after Thanksgiving.”

“After Thanksgiving? That’s so far away!”

“I’ve got friends in town and then I’ll be out of town. We’ll figure something out.”

“OK,” I said. “I’m really sorry about tonight.”

“It’s fine. Have a good holiday and we’ll make up for lost time when I get back.”

When we hung up I felt relieved. I actually had 32 pies to make the next day on top of my regular work and I couldn’t afford to be tired. I also had Burton on the brain.

The next day, I prepped for Thanksgiving dinner to serve the kids before break.

My boss dispensed his orders for the meal as follows: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. The plate was going to be three starches and a protein — beige and orange. It made my stomach hurt to think about such an unbalanced plate.  I needed *something* green. I took it upon myself to put more color on the plate and added green bean casserole and cranberries. And instead of making his plain sweet potatoes, I made traditional sweet potato casserole with marshmallows for the kids and pecans for the adults. I liked a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and those were the things I required.

Burton had been texting me quite a bit that day, simultaneously distracting me and making me work faster. I was dopey with new love again but I had everything prepped and ready to cook for the next day; I only had to rely on my boss to bring the stuffing and potatoes in from his restaurant in the morning.

The next day at work, I was giddy about making food and giddy about Burton. We cut up 240 pieces of pumpkin pie and piped out a dollop of whipped cream on each slice. The green beans were perfectly browned and creamy, my sweet potatoes were rich with white fluff, my cranberries were tart, and the turkey was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. We were ready. We just needed the stuffing and the potatoes.

My boss arrived with the appropriate side items and only about five minutes to spare. He also brought news that we were going to have visitors from some school in the far off suburbs — he was trying to sell his services to them using us and the food we made as his presentation.

Real-Mashed-PotatoesI was prepared to be embarrassed. When my boss hired me, he told me that I would be able to make whatever I wanted so long as it was from scratch. I was excited about that, but disappointed to learn he’s ok with fake potatoes with (gasp!) margarine (this isn’t 1976!). The kind of potatoes that are  reduced to a powder and packaged in a box. He was absent the previous year because of an illness, so I didn’t have much guidance. We always made mashed potatoes from scratch and they were fabulous. It was like a knife in the heart to go from serving real potatoes to serving powdered potatoes. And that’s what he brought: fake mashed potatoes with soggy stuffing. The upside to both mashed potatoes and stuffing is that even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good.

However, I was ashamed; it wasn’t a fair representation of what we served every day. But I was proud of my green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and pie. I was hoping that the balance I put on the plate would also cancel out my boss’s bad food. Though I had nothing to lose if he lost the job, I still had pride.

I didn’t hear much feedback on the meal. The only thing I heard was from a teacher who praised my boss for my cranberries. He gave me proper credit.

I still felt unsatisfied with the meal — like my boss had ruined my one big day. The only way to make it worse was not to feed the staff. There was no food left for us to eat. I was hungry. I went home and made Thanksgiving for one.

*****

Sweet-Potato-Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole for One

  • 1 large sweet potato, roasted, skins removed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼  cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 Tsp vanilla

Topping

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350℉

Mash roasted potatoes. Stir in melted butter and sugar. When that’s combined, stir in eggs and vanilla.

For the topping, combine all the ingredients and work with your hands until you have what looks like wet sand.

Sprinkle the topping on sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes and the top is well-browned.

*****

Green-Bean-Casserole

Green Bean Casserole for One

8 oz green beans — fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw them but don’t cook them)

  • 1 fried onion**
  • 1/4 cup butter +1 TB
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 oz white or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • ¼ onion, diced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Melt butter in small sauce pan over medium high heat. Add flour to make a blonde roux. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In another sauce pan, over medium high heat melt 1 TB butter. Add onions. When the onions are soft, add mushrooms. Cook until most of the water is gone and the mushrooms are browned. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk in milk. When that’s back at a simmer, whisk in roux. Remove from heat. When the mixture has thickened, add salt and pepper to taste.

Place green beans in a casserole dish. Stir in mushroom mixture. Fold in half of fried onions.

Bake for 30 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Top with remaining onions. Return to oven for 15 more minutes or until onions are browned.

**Halve and slice one onion. Dip in a cup of buttermilk to get them wet then dip them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in oil heated to 350F until browned. Set aside to cool.

*****

Cranberry-Sauce

Cranberry Sauce for One

  • 8 oz fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries pop. Set aside to cool.

******

Real-Mashed-Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes for One

  • 1 russet potato peeled and cut in eight chunks
  • 1 TB butter
  • 2 TB milk
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place potato in a sauce pan. Fill with water with one inch of water covering the potatoes.

Over high heat, bring to a boil. Cook until the potato is soft and can easily be pierced by a fork.
Drain the potatoes. Add butter and milk. Mash the potato with a fork. DO NOT OVER MIX. Season with salt and pepper.

******

Dressing

Dressing for One

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1/2 loaf stale bread, cubed
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large skillet over high heat melt 1 TB butter. Add onion, celery, thyme and rosemary. Saute until the onion is soft. Add remaining butter to melt. Add bread and stir well making sure to coat the cubes with the butter. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the chicken broth and mix well. Transfer to a heat-proof dish. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Return to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the top is browned.

******

Tiny-Pumpkin-Pie

Pumpkin Pie for One

  • 1 recipe mini pie crust 
  • 3 oz packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • ¾ cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 can unsweetened pumpkin

Preheat oven to 425℉.

Roll out pie dough and fit in 4.5″ pie pan. Trim the edges and crimp. Refrigerate.

Mix dry ingredients together. Lightly beat together the egg and milk. Stir in pumpkin and mix well. Add the dry mix and stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake for ten minutes then turn the oven down to 350℉. Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is set.

Thanksgiving-Dinner******

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