In my family, Thanksgiving consists of lunch at my parent’s house. My mom’s family and my siblings + offspring invade the house from noon till dark. Everyone consumes way too much food, stories and jokes are swapped, and strategies for 5 a.m. shopping are planned for the following day. Each year I fail to recognize several cousins, because last year surely they were still infants. Staples like chicken and dumplings, broccoli and rice casserole, the ever-present turkey and some form of green beans and white rolls are always present.
At the risk of sounding avant-garde, turkey is not my protein of choice. Meat rarely finds itself onto my plate, and when it does it has to be really, really good. Like free-range, grass fed organic good. My tastes/preferences/food awareness has expanded such in the last couple of years that traditional thanksgiving food has lost its once hallowed luster. I have huge aspirations of revamping thanksgiving dinner.
But thats more of a dream and less of a reality.
However, my mother purchased a ham for this Thanksgiving, and happily turned it over to my willing hands. I love a nice piece of pig, and I feel that it is quite the overlooked fare. I will now bodly assume that most people just get a ham, pop it in the oven, and expect it magically turn out good without doing anything to it. Perhaps they assume that the (presumably) underpaid worker who packaged their meat treated and smothered their ham with something delicious, and it will not turn out bland and dried from improper cooking? (shudder)
That kind of thinking is exactly what I want to run fast away from. Sprint away from actually, wearing metallic-gold shoes. Thanksgiving is the one holiday dedicated to the blessings that the merciful Lord has provided to us in the form of food, and I feel that culinary prowess is put aside way too often for the convenience of the overly-processed.
However. That can be avoided when you use The Glaze to turn a ham into The Pig.
The past week we’ve been having ‘parties’: Jam Party and Wax Party.
This is what was made at the Jam Party:
We made Cantaloupe Mint Jam and Strawberry Honey Lemon Vanilla Jam. Both were delicious and really simple to make. The Cantaloupe Jam was very sweet, and the mint complimented it so well. We used frozen strawberries for the other, and it had a delightfully tangy, not-too-sweet taste. Both are delicious on anything you can think to put them on.
The Wax Party:
We took the leftover bees’ wax, chopped it into pieces, melted it down with olive oil and coconut oil and made chapstick! I also made what is called a ‘relaxing salve’ (think lotion, only thicker and more oily) by adding essential oils like lavender, chamomile and rosemary. That is also a picture of some homemade lavender soap that a friend was kind enough to share with me.
And yes, those are baby food jars. And yes, we bought baby food, ate it (not exactly what I’d call an explosion of flavor) but this was all for the greater good.
This picture isn’t very pretty, but this stuff is great. Me and my friend Amber made homemade deodorant! (the recipe is here) It is also incredibly easy to make (10 minutes tops), smells great and works great. We used the essential oil known as citronella. One of my favorite things I have made here. This is an excellent alternative if the deodorant you buy makes your armpits itch. (hand raised).
And those are a couple of the lovely peppers I used to make lunch this past monday. I used them in the recipes found here and here. They went great with foccacia bread, and pleased a large crowd. Great summer salads and a break from hot food.
Its very hot here. Unrelentingly hot. Hot comes and stays. Hot sets up a permanent camp. Hot repeats. Hot the Sequel. Hot the Third. Hot Returns. The Son of Hot. Hot: Revisited. Hot Unleashed. Hot and the boy band 98° come together to make an acoustic album: In the Heat of Summer.
It’s that kind of hot.
So I baked a cake:
(with a side of Wendell Berry. Its probably the farm atmosphere…)
Craziness to turn on the oven in the middle of a Texas July. Especially here. But this is a special cake. This cake smells like Fall. All kinds of spices fill the olfactory glands to bring sweet remembrance of cooler temperatures, spice-filled food, and brilliantly colored landscapes of oranges, reds and yellows. Tasting this cake reminds me of Thanksgiving, scarves, and my parent’s house filled with all my family. I could almost, (oh, but not quite, darn you Hot) feel a slight breeze with a hint of crispness float through the kitchen as I added the spices and poured in the honey.
I got the recipe from here. It didn’t turn out quite as moist as she describes, but still good. I also cut back on the sugar (her suggestion) which really lets you taste the spices, and the beer, but you have to be looking for it. I chose this seasonal favorite to add to the cake:
The recipe only calls for one, so that means you can share the other 5 with friends and start a Star Wars Episode IV viewing party. (In the air-conditioned apartment, on the new -donated!!- big screen, high-def TV)
-Side note: I attempted to make my own whipped cream. It didn’t work out, and somehow I got butter instead. So I went and bought a tub of cool whip. (as seen above) Totally worth it.
This past tuesday was my turn to cook lunch- At the farm, everybody takes turn cooking the noon meal, and everyone eats together. pretty much every other meal is self-serve, and the protocol is to plan for 30 people.
Now, thirty people may or may not sound like a lot to some. And in some cases, it may not be. If these were 30 mild-mannered air-conditioned suburban office workers, this might not seem like such a task. But these are 30 farmers. People that have spent the past 3-4 hours working in the hot July sun, leaving them ravenous and electrolyte deprived. Not to mention the men who sit down for the noon meal here tuck in and put away more in one sitting than I do in an entire day.
I’ve never cooked for such a volume before. Usually when I make meals its for 4 or 5 people. The most I’ve ever cooked for is 15, and thats really pushing it. Plus, when I plan a meal, I make lists. Oh the joy of a shopping list! After I spend a significant amount of time searching for what I want to make, I then spend a significant amount of time searching for the ingredients. No such luxury here. I must put to use what is already in the farm kitchen, which is a beast I’ve never faced before.
As I was musing on what to prepare, I found out that there would be a troop of girls coming for a few days, about 10 or so. So the guidance I used on the volume of food to prepare was more or less a stab in the dark, and I found myself petitioning the Lord to intervene in a loaves and fishes type manner if I happened to not make quite enough.