16. Thanksgiving Dinner Diversions

Labneh-Pork-RilletesI got home at two o’clock exhausted and ready for a four-day break from the kitchen. I had two small assignments for Thanksgiving: my special labneh and pork rillettes to be served before dinner. Neither one were very much work; they practically made themselves. The labneh was straining in the refrigerator and all I had to do with the pork was let it cook slowly for three hours which would be done in the morning.

For the evening I had tentative plans for late night cocktails with Andy who would inevitably ditch me for a lady friend. However, I was hoping I could ditch him for Burton before he could ditch me. Hope being the operative word. I hadn’t gotten any sort of invitation from Burton nor had I devised a plan to ensnare him for the night.

We exchanged texts. Burton had plans to meet friends from high school so he was otherwise engaged for the evening. However, he said he could squeeze in a drink before going out. We decided to meet at High Dive which was around the corner from my house.

When I walked up to the bar Burton was outside smoking, awaiting my arrival. He gave me the same look he gave me when he stepped out of the cab the first time I met him; a look of complete disinterest.

I smiled and said hello. He gave me what could have been mistaken for a glare coupled with a wry smile.

Pork-Rillettes“Aren’t you going to kiss me?” he asked. I smiled and got on my toes to kiss him. He followed that with, “God, I forgot how hot you are.” Hearing that the person I was wildly attracted to also found me wildly attractive disarmed me.

We went inside and ordered drinks. He got an Alagash White and a shot of Jameson and I got a whiskey soda; I was nervous and again ignoring my better judgment to stay away from whiskey. But it went down easily and it untangled everything that was knotted up inside me. It felt fantastic.

I was soon glowing with the warmth of whiskey and being in the presence of a man that could rattle my self-confidence. The conversation was much more relaxed than our last date, though it was much heavier.

He reminded me that he was just out of an intense relationship and launching into something new would be disastrous. I heard him but I didn’t listen. I responded by reminding him that I was just out of a relationship but unaffected by it.

“I would like to be respectful to you,” he said.

“I don’t know what that means. You want to be respectful by not hanging out?” I was confused.

“No. I just want to be respectful is all. I appreciate that you’re setting expectations and being up front. Most folks don’t do that.”

LabnehI told him I’d been dating for twenty years, that I was aware that it was a crapshoot and I wasn’t going to invest myself in someone I made out with for 48 hours. All that knowledge and experience didn’t stop me from silently getting my hopes up as we did a shot of Jameson.

The conversation lightened up and I got lit. My inhibitions were lowered and the affection we felt for each other started to manifest itself in hugs and hand-holding and the occasional kiss. The excitement was building quickly but I was uneasy about where this was all headed so I tried to stave off the inevitable by ordering another drink. It didn’t work. We had two sips before we ran out the door to get to my house and into my bedroom.

I didn’t know how our clothes came off, but they did. In the conversations leading up to the sex, he was very open and expressive about the importance of sex. I had it in my head that he liked crazy sex and that he probably liked weird shit; maybe even sex that involved shit. My trepidation was unfounded.

There was nothing awkward or weird. We had perfect chemistry.

I flaked on Andy, Burton never met up with his friends and my appetizers were neglected.

****

I woke up pleasantly refreshed, entangled with the object of my affection. We moved slowly to face the holiday — mine at my urban family’s home and his at his suburban family’s home. He had to catch an eleven o’clock train out of the city for two dinners, two moms, a dad and a brother. I just had four friends and one apartment within walking distance.

Pork-rillettesWith the air still thick with sex, Burton kissed me goodbye.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he said as he wrapped himself around me. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Are you spending the night out there?” I asked.

“No. I’ll be back in the city before midnight.”

As the door closed, I made my way to the kitchen to make coffee and catch the tail end of The National Dog Show before dinner. Andy was hosting, Clark and Debbie were cooking and Matt was assigned to imbibe. All I had to do was put the pork on the burner for a few hours, stir lemon zest and spices into the labneh and I’d be ready to tote my edibles to Andy’s.

Clark was hard at work in the kitchen when I arrived. The smell of cologne in the bachelor pad had been replaced with scents of sage and roasting turkey. It was a welcome change. Other than the aroma, the bachelor pad remained a bachelor pad. The giant TV was the focal point of the capacious living room, bookended by equally large speakers that faced a wraparound couch and a recliner. Everyone sat comfortably. I made my home in the recliner.

Getting through the afternoon was tough despite my pleasant company; I was distracted by the euphoria from the night before. With a whole bar at my disposal, I hurried along the events with booze.

LabnehAndy was pleased to oblige me. He made me one of his special cocktails — the Whiskey Swizzle — and put on all my favorite 80s pop music, casting a special spotlight on Yaz’s “Only You” with aggressive lip syncing. It was a night of nostalgia for junior high school dances mixed with mid-twenties debauchery and a sprinkling of late-thirties dirty texting.

I was rude. Terribly rude. Burton and I went back and forth with texts all night long. I couldn’t help myself and he only fed my impoliteness. Frankly, I’m not sure my urban family even cared, but Burton said his suburban family saw more of the back of his phone than his face all night long.

Dinner was served, but it felt slightly rushed. Though Clark was cooking, he was also scheduled to work at his bar at five o’clock, so he ate and ran leaving the rest of us to finish the meal and clean up.

I drank more than I ate — I didn’t even touch my pork rillettes and labneh that I was so proud of — and my efforts to clean up resulted in a bigger mess than when we started. I broke a glass; that didn’t stop me from having another Whiskey Swizzle.

At eight o’clock, I decided to go home. I walked the five blocks to my house and stumbled inside. Burton texted to tell me he was making his way south.

“Would you like company?” he wrote.

Pork-rillettes“Of course, but I’ve been drinking all afternoon.”

“Do I need to catch up?”

“Probably.”

I fell asleep on the couch with the phone on my chest. I woke up at ten o’clock to a call from Burton.

“Did you pass out?”

“I dozed off.”

“I’ve been buzzing. Are you going to let me in?”

I buzzed him in.

Though I didn’t need it, we had a few drinks and chatted about our holiday. But I was clearly tired and we were both eager to pick up where we left off the night before.

I woke up the next morning with what anyone could imagine a Whiskey Swizzle hangover felt like. I got up and got dressed without showering. Burton was still in my bed.

“Why are you up?” he asked.

Labneh“I have to go to work.”

“You have to work today?”

“Yes. At Pots et des Casseroles.”

“You have two jobs?”

“Yes. This one’s just for the holidays.”

“Do you like it?”

“No. I hate it.”

“We’re too old to have jobs we hate,” he said. He was right. “If you hate it, you should quit.” He was right again.

“I committed to it. And I shop there — if I quit, I could never go back there.” I was making lame excuses. It wasn’t like I couldn’t buy these things online.

LabnehBurton rolled over and went back to sleep while I finished getting ready. Before I left, I kissed him on the cheek and whispered, “When you leave, go out the side door and don’t worry about locking it. Just make sure Kitty doesn’t get out.”

I was dreading Pots et des Casseroles, particularly on the day after Thanksgiving with a hangover. It wasn’t as busy as I expected, but I was scheduled to work six hours rather than my normal four hours and counting down 360 minutes was deflating. Not even fantasies of making macarons from Bouchon made that day easier. Lesson learned: never, ever use booze as a substitute for food.

*****

Labneh

  • 1 cup low fat yogurt
  • 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp peppercorn

LabnehLine a fine sieve with a coffee filter (you can cut it up to make it fit nicely) and set it over a deep mixing bowl. Mix the first three ingredients. Spoon the mixture into the coffee filter. Cover it with plastic (I reuse a produce bag with the side slit to make it fit) and refrigerate for two days. When it’s ready, turn the sieve over onto the plastic to release the labneh. Remove the coffee filter and place the labneh in a clean mixing bowl. Add the zest, spices and 2 TB of olive oil. Stir well. Place in a serving container (I love Weck canning jars). Pour the remaining olive oil over the top of the mixture and top the jar with a lid or serve.

****

 

Pork-rillettes-Labneh

Pork Rillettes

  • 1.5 lbs pork belly
  • 1 lb pulled pork (or ¾ lb leftover pulled pork)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup sherry
  • 2 cups water

Mix all the ingredients (except the pulled pork if that’s what you’re using) in a Dutch or French  oven or heavy bottomed pot. Over high heat, bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for at least three hours. Add pulled pork and gently stir. Continue to simmer for another hour. Remove the lid, stir and continue to let it simmer for another half hour uncovered. Remove from heat and set aside. Stir it with two forks to shred the pork, occasionally sticking your hands into the pork to mash it up. It should be stringy. Place in a glass jar and mash the mixture down so it’s packed and there are no air bubbles. Refrigerate. Serve slightly cooler than room temperature.

*****

 

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