Last weekend I was this close to getting a plane ticket to New Jersey for the holiday when I learned that my presence was required here in town. A difference of 670 miles and a couple of hundred dollars. Not to mention five to six hours of traveling [assuming we weren't stuck on a tarmac somewhere] versus half an hour. The TSA peeps at O'Hare haven't been doing too well either when it comes to spotting the fake bomb parts coming through. So I'm kind of relieved that I won't have to keep an eye out for anybody trying to light their shoes.
Apparently my girlfriend from Dallas will be here for a week to visit her pregnant daughter and son-in-law for the holiday. Lots of parties are planned -- including a baby shower, catching one of the shows in town, meals and meals, plus hanging out. So she told my other friend in New Jersey, who happens to be her sister, that she had custody of me this year. I like to think that's a good thing.
The flip side is that when I fly to NJ, for obvious reasons, I'm not expected to bring pies and wine or a green bean and mushroom soup casserole with me. Although I have a friend who always packs up dozens of fresh, homemade tortillas in a suitcase when we go to the Jersey Shore. And when we get to the beach house, she immediately fills a large fruit bowl with avocados. That comes from being raised on a ranch in Texas.
When I only have to drive a few miles I can certainly be expected to stop at Baker's Square for pies and go to ye olde wine shoppe for vino. No problemo. I've got all the money I didn't spend on a plane ticket or at that leather shop in the United concourse. So I will use it all on booze and food.
On the other hand, I have been informed that if I dare to bring green bean and mushroom soup casserole, I will be wearing it on my head. Along with cranberry sauce [no matter how you prepare it, even pushed out of a can], I think nothing says Thanksgiving like green bean and mushroom soup casserole. You can do all the Martha side dishes you want, but save some space for that special fried onion topped treat.
Frankly, I think even the pilgrims would have been grateful for a serving or two.
Some of you might be wondering why I'm not taking this opportunity to offer to bake the pies. Oh, how I wish that someone would beg me. I love to bake pies, but apparently we're eating at someone else's great grandma's house and she and her side of the family LOVE the Baker's Square French Silk pie, so I'm not going to prove that I can make one too. After all, they're baked fresh daily, 460,000 at a time, which is about 459,999 more than I can bake at one time. I'm also bringing a pumpkin and a pecan pie for the holiday purists in the crowd.
I remember once making a pumpkin pie from scratch. And I don't even like pumpkin pie that much. I have trouble with something that's supposed to be a vegetable trying to pass as a sweet. I was even making homemade bread without a breadmaker in those days. Back then I had so many excess female hormones they were leaving stains on my clothes.
I baked that pie from start to finish -- scratch. I did everything except grow the pumpkin. Bought a smallish one, not too big, sliced it, took out the seeds, baked it, scooped out the meat afterward and measured and mixed in the spices all by myself. Damn I thought I was good. I even made the crust without cheating and using an egg. Tender and flaky, right out of Fanny Farmer. Poured the pumpkin goop into the shell. Baked it. I even baked the seeds into crunchy snacks. I was truly shocked by what I did. It tasted GOOD! People ate it. I had two pieces. But the tastiest pumpkin pie I ever made was a pumpkin mousse pie in a meringue shell crust topped with homemade peanut brittle pieces. I couldn't, and still don't, understand why anyone would want a regular pumpkin pie when they could have pumpkin mousse and a meringue crust. But, during the holidays, people seem to like their pumpkin in the missionary position.
Not cooking means you don't get to choose the menu. So I guess another year will go by without Aunt Louise's spinach souffle oyster dressing, or Grandma Tootie's cranberry salad thing, or my mother's traditional stuffing that starts with slicing a huge loaf of Italian bread into cubes the day before so it can dry out properly. Or making gravy with red wine and giblet broth.
But I can still look forward to hunting for eggs in the backyard afterward. Then bobbing for remotes before the football games start.