On with the heavy wool socks, or at least some kind of socks! The chill in the air this last week has been, well, chilling! I've brought in the curry leaf plants, at last, though have yet to bring in the ficus or the hibiscus. They're toughening even as I write!
Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, and the whole weekend has been one for giving thanks, filled with the treat and privilege of spending time with friends and family.
The "dead bird" meal today was fun, the turkey from Gerald, free-range and healthy at 13 pounds, cooked at 450 degrees F. (down to 425 F for the last hour) so it was done and beautiful in just over 2 hours. I didn't stuff it, just shoved some wedges of onion inside, and a handful of chives and garlic chives from the garden. The outside i rubbed with olive oil, some coarse sea salt, and some tarragon, also from the garden. I tied the legs together with string, and also flipped the end of the wings, so that they were braced against the body; that way I could use the wings to hold the flap of skin closed at the neck end, sealing in moisture. High temperature roasting (see Barbara Kafka's classic book Roasting, edited by wonderful Ann Bramson) keeps the bird moist and makes great crisp skin, especially if you start with a healthy bird, not one of those faked grocery-store over-breasted pre-basted aberrations.
We put small sort-of-peeled spuds around the bird, and the neck went into the pan too, so our friend Dina who is a bones person, had her neck to gnaw on. There were other potatoes, boiled to firmly done, then stripped and chopped, then cooked in flavoured oil, Indian style, with mustard seed, fennel, nigella, a little turmeric, onion, garlic, minced ginger,,, delish. And I stir-fried a rainbow of peppers, cut into strips, and seasoned with Sichuan pepper and not much else. Beautiful. Sides included a tart cranberry sauce flavored like Georgian tkemali. Desserts were from Dina: a cranberry studded cake, perfect, a new creation by her; and an open-faced flat pastry topped with sliced Courtland apple. What could be better?
Saturday when I went up to Grey County for an overnight airing, I stopped in to give my aunt a hug, and lots of her family, my cousins, too. They were in the middle of cooking a gigantic bird - twenty-seven pounds! yikes! which had been in the oven for hours by then. I didn't stay for supper, for I was headed on farther, to see Lillian and Jon. At their house in the forest there was a mostly vegetarian feast , with borek (the Serbian version, layers of phyllo with egg and cottage cheese between, lush! made by Jon's mother) and potato and mushroom pie by Lillian, and salad, some sausage made by neighbours and grilled over an open fire by Jon, and then an apple tart and some chocolate cake too, for dessert. Lots of warming foods for a very chilly night.
But I ate so much that I was awake in the night, digesting I think, or maybe it was the excellent coffee? I went out in the brilliant light of the half-moon, and walked on forest paths near the house, in the magical light-and-shadow. Bed was welcoming when I returned to it, creeping into the silent house. Suddenly sleep returned and I drifted happily through until morning sunshine on brightly yellowing leaves.
And it's lovely to think that the brilliant leaves at this time of year are kind of a farewell wave, but also a promise of the new life and warmth that will come, in due course, and after we've become truly impatient, yes yes, I know! but will come. Nature's promise to us all. We need glorious memories of all that warm colour to cling to as we head into the cold and dark!