Saturday, October 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Revisited: the horror

Our computer has been in the shop all week, so it's been near-impossible to get a new post up. But what I AM able to do is share last year's Thanksgiving post with you all again--the Reader's Digest version. If you want the full, gory story, click here.


Thanksgiving weekend ended up being full of adventures, many culinary. I threw myself into the deep end of the pool on Saturday: Mom’s family was getting twenty-five of us together and I volunteered to bring the sweet potatoes. To be fair, I hadn’t realized there would be twenty-five people when I volunteered, but when I found out the night before, I was brave and just bought more potatoes.

I had made mashed yams once before, a few weeks prior, when I attempted to make baked sweet potatoes. We had been visiting my parents, and eager to show them my new cooking interest, I had found a recipe online for a twice-baked sweet potato. The instructions were deceptively simple: bake, scoop out, mix ginger and raisins, bake again. What ended up happening was that after an hour in the oven, the damn things were still hard as a rock, so we threw them in the microwave and did them as ginger-raisin mashed potatoes instead. They turned out really delicious, and Mom was a great support; I was so frustrated that I couldn’t pull off this recipe that a certain famous Food Network chef thinks is sooooo easy. Mom just kept saying (and this is my advice to all of you): “Potatoes are funny things; sometimes they’ll cook in no time, and sometimes they’ll take hours. Don’t bother with that stupid recipe. Throw them in the microwave.” And her mantra for the evening, chanted at me so I wouldn’t throw the yams out the door: “It’s not YOU, it’s the potatoes.” In the end, we made a delicious dish, and I felt ready to try them again for the larger family.

Saturday morning, first thing we did was wash the potatoes. Then Brian volunteered to cut them up into smaller sections, as I was determined not to nuke my food in the microwave; we figured, cutting the potatoes into smaller portions would help them cook faster. We had talked with some tweeters the night before about just getting pre-cut potatoes, but a) I didn’t find them, and b) I figured my best bet was to follow my botched twice-baked recipe again, with the same modifications, because the end result had been great. After what happened next, I’ll tell you, I wish I had bought the stupid cut-up potatoes…

Brian cut his finger open. Even writing this out, three days later, I cringe. I left the room for two seconds and that’s when I heard his swearing. I knew what had happened. I thought I was ready for it. I ran in, saw the blood pouring out of him and the actual fear on his face…and I panicked. All my First Aid got jumbled in my head, like someone dropping a deck of playing cards. We managed to rinse the wound, sit him down, and apply pressure with a clean cloth. But every time we tried to look at it, it gushed again. What did I do? The only thing I knew how to do: I called my BFF MJ, who worked as a chef for fifteen years. I made her come over and assess the wound. She doesn’t live far, and she showed up, my hero, in mismatched pyjamas, running up the stairs. She suggested the Brian needed stitches, which Brian flat-out refused to do, so she suggested keeping an eye on it and seeing what happened. What happened was, it refused to seal itself, so we went to the pharmacy and got that 2nd Skin stuff to seal it.

As Brian lay down for a while, looking pale and really scary, I forged on with the potatoes. I baked them for an hour, only to find they were still rock hard. I gave them another thirty minutes, and then discovered half of them had dried out. Stress and worry got the better of both of us, and Brian and I had a seriously crabby argument for no good reason while I tried to salvage the portions of potato that were either undercooked or cooked, but not dried out. I threw the resulting pulp into the microwave, feeling like a big cheater.

After that, though, the potatoes were indeed cooked and there seemed to be a pretty good yield, though maybe not enough to feed two dozen people. I mashed and stirred the potatoes, adding some (almond) milk, butter, raisins, and ginger, but it still tasted like it needed something. In a moment of inventiveness, I grabbed the maple syrup and gooshed in a large amount: perfect. They tasted great and I was satisfied. We took the bowl to dinner and ordered everyone to eat some, as there was, literally, blood, sweat, and tears in those potatoes. I received compliments, and somehow the fact that Brian was slowly bleeding to death seemed worth it. (I kid. Mostly.) There were leftovers and my mom in particular loaded up a container with them, which made me puff up with pride.

The next morning, I crawled out of bed, went to the kitchen in search of sustenance, saw the maple syrup…and realized something terrible. It was mouldy. A thick, fuzzy-gelatinous carpet of mould was floating on the top of the syrup. I think I thought it was frothiness, the day before when I used it. I don’t know how I didn’t spot it. Brian had woken up feeling a little sick, and suddenly I was terrified. I snuck into the art room, shut the door, and called Mom. When she answered, I said, “Mom, listen to me carefully. Don’t eat the potatoes.” She asked why, and I told her. She scoffed and said not to worry about it, mould wasn’t a big deal and no one was sick; why, she’d eaten a big helping of the potatoes again for breakfast! I blanched, but pretended to find that reassuring.

Author's note, one year later: no one ever did get sick off those potatoes, but this year I refused to be in charge of them. I'm making a quinoa salad, something I feel much more confident about. The whole family is coming to our house for the meal, but everything is being prepared by other people in their own kitchens. I type this out, I suddenly wonder if maybe this is a ploy to stop me from poisoning everyone again...

Oh, well. At least I don't have to cook. Bring on the stuffing.

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