Blessed are the Turkey-Makers

There are serious post-holiday blog entries to be written about multi-generational interactions with family, making a difference in the world and whether you should make the same stuffing each Thanksgiving because your children and grandchildren will cherish the Proustian memories it invokes long after you are gone.

 I feel this way whenever I make sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top,

despite the fact that a certain person in my household scoffs at this paean to the Thanksgivings of my youth, even though he has a strong Proustian response to the ridges in jellied canned cranberry sauce.

I married him anyway and serve it beside the fresh stuff. (Our daughters diplomatically eat both “mom’s” and “dad’s” cranberry sauce, but let the record show that they LOVE mom’s sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, a dish I am confident will be eaten by my great-great grandchildren, long after the desire to eat anything from a can has been bred out of the family line).

Ideas for my serious post-holiday blog entry have been bubbling to the surface like soup dumplings for the past several days and I have been looking forward to setting them down on my screen and weaving them together.

But not today.  Today I am sick in bed.  In fact, I am typing this from my bed.  If you knew me you would be shocked to hear that I am in bed, as I’m one of those people who rarely gets sick and if I do, I keep functioning at full throttle.

Years ago, I began referring to people like me as turkey- makers:  we roll up our sleeves and pitch in without being asked,

We also know how to improvise

we make chicken matzoh ball soup for sick family and friends, we volunteer as a matter of course and we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.

Not all turkey-makers are women and not all women are turkey-makers but, just as there seems to be a gender-related pre-disposition towards watching football and waiting for pie, the same can be said about turkey-makers.

Even when I’m not sick, one of my favorite ways to spend the day is cooking and writing.  So as a way to heal myself, since there is nobody around to make or bring me soup, I’m doing just that, with intermittent stints in bed.  Here are the highlights from a day in the life of a sick turkey-maker:

6:15 a.m. – begrudgingly awaken so I can make breakfast and pack lunch for the middle-schooler, who will surely complain about the injustice of having to get up so early after four days off from school.

7:30 a.m. – eye the butternut squash that did not get used during Thanksgiving weekend and peruse my many recipes for butternut squash soup.  Though I am sorely tempted by one I have not yet tried – Butternut Soup with Pear, Cider and Vanilla Bean from Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life, we have no cider and the goal is to avoid a trip to the store.  Instead I settle on the butternut squash soup from The Vineyard Kitchen by Maria Helm Sinskey.  If you are looking for holiday gifts, I recommend this seasonally-organized collection of recipes that always seem to turn out well.  I also recommend Molly’s book, for the stories as well as the recipes, and her charming blog Orangette.

9:15 a.m. – buoyed by the fact that daughter #2 woke up and got ready for school without a fuss, I head off to aerobics class with plenty of tissues in my pocket.

9:45 a.m. – back home again after realizing that jumping jacks, throbbing heads and runny noses are an unfortunate combination.  I throw the butternut squash in the oven and get into bed with the Sunday New York Times and a mug of Darjeeling tea.

10:45 a.m. – I’m out of bed, the squash is out of the oven and I decide to finally get around to making the ginger molasses pumpkin bread from Food 52 that I’d meant to have on hand for our holiday houseguests. I’m hoping that this can be my new go-to pumpkin bread to replace Joan Mondale‘s pumpkin bread recipe that was given to me when I moved to Washington, DC in 1982.   I go back to bed with my computer.

11ish  a.m. – As the spicy smell of the pumpkin bread makes its way upstairs and manages to penetrate my blocked nasal passages, I feel as comforted as if there were a Jewish grandmother in the house.  The long-forgotten country- western song I’m My Own Grandpa comes to mind when I remember that I am both patient and nurse.

11:45 a.m. – The Food 52 recipe comments warn that determining the “doneness” of the pumpkin cake is deceptive and it is easily undercooked.  I leave it in for fifteen extra minutes and peel and slice the squash.

12ish p.m. – While the bread cools I make a package of instant Tom Yom soup bought and kept on hand for just such an occasion.  I notice the noodles are green and are made with morohetya, which I have never heard of.  I have a hunch, which is confirmed, that morohetya is another word for melokheya, also known as Egyptian spinach, and the eponymous garlicky soup, which is one of Egypt’s most popular national dishes and one of the world’s best soups.  I wish I had some now. (You’ll find two different recipes by clicking on the related links).

12:30 p.m. – My husband, who has many fine qualities despite his appalling taste in cranberry sauce, calls to say hi and when he realizes I am sick suggests I stop cooking and take care of myself. I partially follow his advice and call S., now fully recovered from  pneumonia, and ask her to bring daughter #1 to tonight’s soccer tournament game at the other end of town at rush hour.  I feel better already.

I’m pretty sure the pumpkin bread is overcooked.

Here’s where things get tricky for a sick turkey-maker. I got so involved in cooking and writing that I forgot to go back to bed.  The kids will be home soon, I still have to make the butternut squash soup and the biscuits I’d planned to go with them, which I forgot to tell you about and which may be overly ambitious, even for me.  I also need to put together the graphics and links for this post and manage to get some rest so I can head out into the world tomorrow and be a productive member of society.

But I don’t want to leave you without a recipe. Before we had kids and had to ration our cooking of spicy foods, our favorite recipe to cure almost all ailments was Armenian Chicken and Lentil Soup with Dried Apricots.  We used to keep a supply on hand in the freezer all winter in Tupperware containers labeled ACS. I think I got the recipe from the Washington Post in 1994 or so.  The bit of recipe sleuthing I just did (instead of going back to bed) indicates that this recipe may have come from a book called Chicken Soup Cookbook by Janet Hazen.

And in case you were worried, I managed to salvage the pumpkin bread by spreading it with Peach Preserves with Vanilla and Bourbon, made by Deluxe Foods and purchased at our very own Ballard Sunday Farmer’s Market.  Check out their website for holiday gift ideas (they ship) and places to purchase.

For all the turkey- makers out there, this one’s for you.

Armenian Chicken and Lentil Soup with Dried Apricots

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons each ground mace and cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dried red lentils, sorted and washed

12 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup minced, dried apricots

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1/2 cup lemon juice

salt, pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottomed 6-quart saucepan, cook onion, garlic, sesame seeds and spices in olive oil over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add lentils, chicken stock and apricots and bring to as boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to moderate and cook 40-50 minutes, until lentils are very tender. Add chicken and lemon juice and cook 5 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

A well-loved recipe

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7 thoughts on “Blessed are the Turkey-Makers

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