Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey moments

We had the traditional turkey feast at a retirement home with Grampie and Thyrza and about half of Beve's clan.  There are some advantages to meals here.  No work is the main thing.  But on the down side, also no smells through the house, and no leftovers, which J would surely say is the best part of Thanksgiving.  This isn't the first time we've celebrated this wholly traditional holiday in a somewhat non-traditional setting.  The year Glo was diagnosed with cancer, and had just lost her hair, we all stayed in a hotel near her home (including her and her family), and feasted at a local restaurant.  Beve's clan always makes quite spectacle walking into any building enmasse.  I remember this from when I was a little girl, living across the street from them.  When the shortest person in a family is 6' tall, and none of the men under 2 meters (figure that one out!), eyes pop and heads twist to see them coming.  Though the brothers didn't marry giants, some of the next generation are also inordinately tall.  Our girls are the short grandchildren.  The boys--tall.  Those Finnish cousins (both girls), also tall.  Shoot, even our dogs are oversized for their breed.  And these people can put away the food.  A Thanksgiving buffet is the perfect venue.  One of my nephews wrote a post today about the feast his church will put on tomorrow, and I thought--shoot, let us at it.  With Beve's family in the room, leftovers won't be an issue.  But that Thanksgiving in the Silver Cloud, it was more about hope than food, more about saying, "I've got your back," to Glo and each other, than stuffing our faces..

The most famous of our Thanksgivings was Beve and my first together. (This is also Glo's all-time favorite Thanksgiving story, so bear with me if you've heard it before). Now when I say together, I simply mean Beve and I shared the same table, sat down as friends, stood up as friends, and nothing but friends.  It was a start, though we didn't know it at the time.  That year (the olden days to our kids) Beve and his brother were living in Finland.  The living there stuck for Beve's brother, and he's called no other place home since, though none of us knew that then either.  My Europe-traveling friend and I had made our way north like we were following the twilight, getting to Helsinki just about the time the sun went over the horizon for the year.  At least it seems that way as I look back on it.  So after hanging with Beve and his brother for a few days, we decided to put on the bird, so to speak, for a few of their friends.  None of the four of us had ever cooked a turkey before, but we'd seen between 24 and 30 years of them cooked, so we thought we could do the job well enough.

 Unfortunately, Finland in November isn't exactly a turkey farm. While my friend S (actually, she was the original SK, the one whose middle name we gave our own SK) and I made a shopping list, Beve went turkey hunting.  When he walked in the door, grinning, he said, "I looked all over Hell...sinki for this turkey."  Inimitable Beve, one our kids would recognize as Vacation-Beve!  That night we went grocery shopping for all the ingredients of an American Thanksgiving.  More easily said than done, however.  Looking for specific items like 'french-fried onion rings' and sage and thyme isn't simple when most store clerks wouldn't admit they spoke English, and we couldn't make heads, tails or anything else of the ingredient labels.  We managed, but just barely.  Looking for sausage for the stuffing I intended to make, just like dear old Mom, was the hardest task.  However, with the help of a clerk, some highly inventive sign language, including pushing our noses up like we were pigs, we found a package similar to good ol' Jimmy Dean's, so we were set.  The clerk seemed to find us odd, shook her head at us a bit, but we'd gotten that a lot since we'd stepped off the Viking line ferry into the land of the reticent Finns.

While Beve and his brother duly worked that Thursday--after all, it was no holiday there--S and I cooked.  First things first.  The sausage for the stuffing.  After frying up some onions, adding celery and herbs, we peeled back the packaging, and discovered Finnish sausage is maroon. I'm talking a deep crimson that has always been my father's favorite color, but has almost no resemblance to the ground sausage (or any other meat) we were used to. And it didn't fry up like ground meat either.  It kind of clumped and stuck to the spoon.  However, with enough seasonings, it began to taste okay.  Then, with the bread, it actually tasted quite good.  So we stuffed the bird, put it in the miniscule oven and went on with our preparations.  When Beve got home, there was still some left in the pan, so he had a taste as well.OK, so it's just possible we spent the day tasting that sausage stuffing. Dang, we were good cooks! At some point, after many spoonfuls, we decided it was so tasty, we might need another roll of sausage--leftovers, you know.  So Beve went back to the store for that amazing crimson Finnish sausage.

While the potatoes boiled, and the turkey cooked. we moved every table into Beve and his brother's small living room, created our own banqueting table. And then, just as we were folding napkins into festive triangles (I never have learned the art of napkin folding), Beve returned with the largest grin on his face I'd ever seen, and I can tell you Beve was always a great smiler.  He could hardly contain himself. Really.  "It's not sausage," he said, exuding glee like a little boy. (This may have been the moment I first saw him as more than a friend)

Dog food.   Dogfood, stuffed in our gullets all day long.

And dogfood, stuffed--gasp!--in our turkey we were about to serve our Finnish guests.  So our moral dilemma--should we serve it to them?  I mean, we'd been eating it all day and were still alive to laugh about it. Or should we take it out of the turkey?  What would you have done?
 Can you guess what we did? 

Months later, back home in the states, I got all my film developed, and the picture of the trip for me was the one of my friend S, standing at the stove in Beve's apartment, holding a large spoonful of that dogfood stuffing, about to take a bite.

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