A Modern Day Thanksgiving
I am not what you would call an old-fashioned woman. Not that I am against such things, I just don't know the first thing about most things old-fashioned women are supposed to do. I don't like dresses, hate messing with hair or make-up, can barely make a dress from a pattern let alone from sight and couldn't even boil a potato when I got married.

Needless to say, the preparation of a real Thanksgiving dinner has never been in any of my homemaking plans. We always go to my parents' house, and this year was no exception. My husband had the weekend off, so we went down to celebrate a few days early.

Somewhere in reading An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott to the children, they got the bizarre idea that we could make our own Thanksgiving. "We shouldn't just go on like the day didn't even happen," they reasoned as they thought about a Thanksgiving Day without pumpkin pie. "If they (meaning the girls in the story) could do it, why couldn't we?" they argued.

The fact that "they" were fictional characters in a story set over 100 years ago was irrelevant to them. Besides, ten year old Mouse was pretty sure she could do it all by herself. That I found amusing, but a chicken got pulled out of the freezer and shopping day was moved forward to Wednesday.

As with most things around here, we sort of made it up as we went along. While deciding what to stuff my chicken with, I did not turn to a book filled with recipes handed down over generations. I didn't even bother with the cookbook my mom gave me when I got married. I just hopped on the Internet and searched for things to stuff chickens with. I didn't even end up stuffing it with anything anyone in my family has ever stuffed a holiday bird with so far as I know. Instead, I printed off a recipe for wild rice stuffing and started a shopping list.

While flipping channels at my parents' house, I had come across some cooking show and watched it just long enough to learn about brining turkey. Sounded interesting and I went on, only to remember it while surfing for a recipe for pumpkin pie from an actual pie pumpkin. So I printed off an eight page pictorial guide to making pumpkin pie (for my daughter, of course), and found a recipe for brine.

None of this is anything I haven't done before (save brining the chicken). But doing it all on the same day was rather eventful. On more than one occasion, a bit of a traffic jam developed in the kitchen because I needed more pots than I had and our one mixing bowl was doing triple duty, what with pumpkin puree, pie crust, rolls and stuffing to be made. My perfect timing was upset somewhat by the bottleneck created by that single mixing bowl, but it wasn't to be helped.

But that of course isn't the only adventure in a day of cooking in my kitchen. After the first load of dishes was done, I dropped my chicken back in the brine while trying to rinse it, splattering myself and all the dishes. Eww. Took some time to clean that mess up, including rewashing all the dishes.

After stern warnings about not licking his hands after touching raw meat, my son stuck his shirt in his mouth to help him resist the temptation and happily stuffed our wild rice stuffing into the bird. Why do children have to discuss in such detail what is normally contained in that hole? And why doesn't it seem to bother them in the least?

My daughter commenced making the pumpkin puree nowt that the mixing bowl was free. When she was done, I looked at it with some reservations. She wore out the motor on our mixer making cookies the other day, and this puree was looking rather lumpy with no real way to delumpify it.

Ok, so I'm well aware that Louisa May Alcott probably did not use a recipe at all, much less a pictorial one printed off the internet, had no access to electric mixers and likely still baked perfect pies. But as I mentioned, I'm not really an old-fashioned kinda woman so I whisked the puree a few more times and declared that lumpy pumpkin pie had an allure of its own.

Here, I began to contemplate a vegetable. Or two. Something didn't seem right without mashed potatoes and gravy, but something didn't seem right about skipping the sweet potatoes, either. But hubby was on his way to Sioux City and I knew we'd be doing good to get very far in what we were already cooking. So I decided for mashed potatoes, got out a pot and decided to leave it for when the chicken was closer to being done. And it hadn't even gone in the oven yet. It was waiting for the pie's fifteen minutes at 425 to be done so it could share a nice snug 375 degree oven for the remainder of its cooking time.

Pie in. Chicken in. Dough for dinner rolls rising and we went to watch the Veggie Tales in The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's. The kids loved it. I fell asleep.

Pie out, chicken bubbling nicely, kids upset because I forgot to let them punch the dough down. How could I forget such a thing? Normally they have such great fun while I hold the bowl like a shield and they give it their best shot. But it has been awhile since we've made bread and I just forgot. Honest. It was not an intentional attempt at robbing them of all the fun of helping in the kitchen.

They were appeased by me showing them how to roll the dough into little balls and place them in snug little arrangements of three in a muffin tin. "It will make neat little clover leaves," I explained, and left them to it.

Unfortunately, I left them entirely. And while I forgot about how much they love punching dough, my daughter forgot about the fact that you are supposed to let your bread rise a second time. And she has never been one to ask or refer to the recipe before going on to what she thinks is the next step so she helpfully put them in the oven.

I pulled them out a few minutes later, but they didn't really rise right after that. But we baked them and set them out with the rest of our private little feast.
  • The chicken was heavenly.
  • The stuffing was perfect.
  • The rolls had a nice flavor but were a bit dense.
  • The pie was lumpy.
  • The potatoes...well, the potatoes were non-existent. I forgot about them completely. In fact, the pot is still sitting on the stove waiting for them.
  • And the iced tea...well, even I can't mess that up.
While our neighbors' driveways were either empty or overflowing with guests, the five of us sat and enjoyed each other's company and the food we had prepared together. Daddy even called to see how it all went and asked for us to save him some.

And I was right. Lumpy pumpkin pie, complete with a few forgotten strings, does have an allure all its own. Especially when your ten year old made it all by herself.