Tomorrow’s our third annual neighborhood Thanksgiving.
Jian is really into it this year. When I was a kid, my cousin Matthew had a funny story he still repeats each year. It was his job when we were tweens to make the sweet potato casserole. He mistook a shot of whiskey for a cup of whiskey in our grandmother’s recipe.
It was quite a drunken Thanksgiving.
Jian has her own embarrassing story. I won’t tell it here, but our little Korea family laughs about it each year when she tells it.
I created a little Thanksgiving playlist on YouTube. Charlie Brown, Garfield, the 2017 Macy’s Parade (Matt Lauer’s last, obviously), funny Thanksgiving videos, and some football highlights. We had fun. She got sleepy and went to bed.
This year, my job is appetizers. The first year, I did the turkey. Brined it. Spatchcocked it. Did a few sides too. It was a little over a month after I’d closed down the last restaurant PLUS my seizure and spinal injury. I’d felt a need to resurrect my self-esteem and make a great Thanksgiving. It was a good time, though EJ was too sick to attend. The second year, I was in charge of sides. I think I made almost ten. Cooked well into the night. We were the hosts that year, and I only remember getting really drunk–which eventually led to my sobriety season the next year.
I kept things simple, sticking to dishes that don’t require much prep. An antipasti platter that we may shape as a turkey. Sounds dumb and whimsical. Why not?
The most exotic thing I’m making is a Cranberry and Fig Chutney. And that’s really to use up some cranberries and figs I have in my freezer. I’m gonna make my grandmother’s Banana Bread. I’m going to make those infamous Sausage Balls from the ’70s. The original recipe is just three ingredients: sausage, Bisquick, and cheddar cheese. The thing is, in Korea, we don’t have sage breakfast sausage, so I have to make it myself. I just made a quick batch, and it’s mellowing in the fridge. I chucked the Cranberry-Fig Chutney ingredients into the slow cooker for overnight.
The one whimsical surprise I’m making is Crab Rangoon. It’s an American-Chinese dish that you CANNOT get in Korea. I’ve made it once for the girls, and they devoured it. Tonight, I just sauteed some onions in butter, threw in some good quality fake crab (Korea makes great fake crab–and even lobster), and a couple tubs of cream cheese<–the most expensive ingredient. I’m letting that coalesce in the fridge as well.
Jian wants to help, so tomorrow, we’ll make the Sausage Balls, quickly make a Banana Bread or two from some ‘naners I’ve been ripening in a plastic bag all week, and assemble the Crab Rangoon and fry it. We’ll see about making our Antipasti Turkey. This all sounds ambitious, but I feel like I’m being lazy. The antipasti is all just stuff I bought at the stores on clearance, including the French Onion Dip from E-Mart Traders–and I’m known for my HOMEMADE French Onion Dip.
This almost didn’t happen at all.
For the past couple of days, my old back injury has been acting up. Maybe I slept the wrong way. But there’s a group of muscles deep in my core that are spasming–making me scream in shock. It looks like the best I can do is to stay active and walk and take ibuprofen. It does help a bit. But today I went to work and didn’t bring any meds. By 4 o’clock, I couldn’t even concentrate. Time slowed down. I’d give tests and assignments to classes and then walk around the building to limber up my muscles. It mostly hurts when I’m changing position–like going between sitting, standing, and lying down positions. Killed me because the pain just kept increasing from my having to stand behind a podium much of the day. Then I had to do grocery shopping for tonight and somehow start cooking.
It was hell. I’d say tonight was in the top ten of most painful experiences of my life, including my fall in 2016 and that time in 1988 when I flipped over the handlebars of my bike and skidded chin first on the asphalt, exposing my chin bone.
I took some ibuprofen and some leftover prescription muscle relaxants as soon as I got home. Still hurts, but now I’m ambulatory. It was so bad that I could only breathe a quarter of the way. It was the type of pain that made me want to throw up.
After a few hours, I was able to go back down to the car and lug up the groceries and cook. And that leads me to where I am now. I have the basics ready for Thanksgiving.
I have a Dark Side tour that evening, so I won’t be able to totally laze out. On Sunday, I’m doing a podcast with an Australian travel blogger at his hotel room in Dongdaemun. Packed weekend. On top of that, I’m working with my Restaurant Buzz Seoul team to put together a Sexy Chef Calendar for charity. Because why not?
It’s this time of year that I truly become thankful and reflect. I need to re-read that famous account of my first Thanksgivings in Korea. Life in Korea has progressed so much since then. It should be required reading for any American moving to Korea to understand how things used to be and to be thankful–rather than whine about how some Oaxacan Turkey Enchiladas at a properly tattooed and bearded hipster joint aren’t authentic enough.