Monday, November 23, 2009

Fantasy is the Best Reality

I readily admit that I am very lazy about this blog. But occasionally something sets me off. Today I was reading the advertising section of the local newspaper when I came across an ad for a "Bella Cucina electric knife with carrying case." I thought, wow, if I had a Bella Cucina (beautiful kitchen) electric knife carving it would transform my life. Not only would it be so easy and quick to carve the Thanksgiving turkey, but it would turn my two kids (neither of which are planning to eat with us on Thanksgiving, let alone provide us with grandchildren) into a very large Italian family with dozens of grandchildren who adore their grandparents and hang one their every wise word. Since my entire life would also be transformed, we would be celebrating the festività on our estate on a terraced hillside overlooking olive groves in a warn part of Italy at a long wooden table in the shade of a il fiore ha coperto l'armatura -- flower covered arbor. The grandchildren would be laughing and chasing each other around. A cell phone would never ring, in fact nobody would even have one. We would bask in the beautiful day, delicious food, and the warmth of one another's admiration.
When I looked at the reviews for some of the Bella Cucina kitchen appliances I actually read that one person was attracted to the slow cooker, waffle maker, toaster oven, pannini maker, electric knife, table top roaster, or whatever, by the name Bella Cucina. Some of the reviews were great, like the slow cooker, and others like the convection oven were terrible. Actually as I read the reviews of the convection oven the image of my terraced Italian hillside turned into cardboard refrigerator box under a bridge. Try as I may I can't think of an appliance that has transformed my life...for more than a few months.
Now we live in a small house and space is at a premium. When we were preparing to move we got rid of about 15% of what we owned. Another 30% of our possessions went into boxes and into our garage--as I feel that renting at an off premises storage facility is real a sign of defeat. This was compounded by a genetic disposition toward a refusal to throw anything away in our children. One child has left behind camping equipment, childhood electronics, and a crate of vinyl LPs for the last 10 years. The other occupies about 15 to 20% of the garage space with kitchen appliances, crafts items, books and all the detritus of everyday life. Unfortunately our own things tend to accumulate as well and on the rare occasion that I actually want to peel and de-seed tomatoes I have to go to the garage and find the machine that does that; or if I want to grind my own coffee I have to go out to get the grinder in the garage. I am not sure why I keep those huge salad bowl and gigantic stock pots as we would no longer have a place to seat more that 8 for dinner, and even that is a squeeze.
While we are not spending Thanksgiving at home this year nonetheless I am still cooking the turkey, making the stuffing and gravy, and the cranberries.

Really Good Turkey Gravy (and Lots of It)

½ cup turkey grease or butter
½ cup white flour
6 cups or more reduced turkey broth
¼ cup good jam, preferably homemade apricot
turkey giblets, cooked and minced
ground sage
dash of Tabasco or ground hot red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup Marsala or Madeira
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Cook the flour in the turkey grease over low heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not brown.
2. With the burner still on low, add the stock a few spoonfuls at a time, stirring vigorously. Once two cups of stock have been stirred in, add the remainder a cup at a time. If lumps appear, use a wire whisk to break them up and make the gravy smooth. (But don’t panic if you just have a few small lumps—the giblets and jam you’ll be adding will disguise them.)
3. Stir in the jam, giblets, sage, Tabasco and thyme.
4. Add the Marsala or Madeira and turn the heat up. Bring the gravy to a brisk simmer and cook off the alcohol for a minute.
5. Add salt and pepper and adjust the other seasonings as needed.

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