Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Before Thanksgiving, 2010

The chickens are getting their new feathers in and starting to look lovely, which is nice because they were not looking so good for awhile. Molting is hard on a bird, I now realize. Egg production went down to zero and is just starting to pick up again. I haven't seen Elvis covering the hens the way he normally does (i.e. constantly) either and so perhaps the lovely ladies get a break from his attentions during molting. I'm sure I could look that up but I'd rather just observe and make assumptions.

Shalayla, his most-bedded bride, was looking like death on a cracker just a few weeks ago. Not only was she barebacked from his fucking but also, in an attempt to escape him, had flown into the yard with the dogs and Buster attacked her. Her back looked like, well, a skinned chicken and was bloody. I did not have much hope for her but smeared antibiotic ointment with golden seal powder in it (my cure-all) over her wounds and was resigned that she might not make it.
She looks amazing now. Her feathers have grown in and you'd never know the poor dear had been so close to death. She is still scared of Elvis and I didn't get her picture this morning because she runs under the shed as soon as he looks her way but you can trust me- for now, she looks damn good.

Here's Miss Daffodil. She is creamy and purely white now, her feathers fresh and lovely. I just this morning noticed how beautiful she's become.

Miss Bob has such gorgeous patterns of black and brown and white and golden feathers. We named her Miss Bob because she looked like a quail as a peep. She's a handsome thing.

Elvis's tail feathers are growing back but it's this design which enchants me. His breast is a magnificent patterned work of black-and-white art.

I do love my chickens.

Now. Not to segue, but let's discuss Thanksgiving.

I cooked my first entire Thanksgiving meal when I was twenty-two years old. Hank was five months old, exclusively breast-feeding for his nourishment, and I was three months pregnant. Yes. I eventually lost that baby but when I cooked the Thanksgiving, I was definitely pregnant. My ex-husband's mother and her boyfriend came to eat with us and I still have some of the recipes she'd sent me beforehand. One for cornbread dressing, one for gravy. I think. I'm too lazy to get up and look.
Anyway, I made that dinner and we all crowded into the tiny kitchen of the apartment where we lived and ate it and I was so exhausted when it was over that I thought I'd die. My mother-in-law gave me the greatest gift of all times in offering to put up the left-overs. I let her do that and went and took a nap with Hank and I'll never forget that kindness.

That was thirty-four years ago.

Since then, I believe I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner every year but one. I could be wrong. I know that one year, though, Mr. Moon and I ran away to Dog Island where I did not cook a turkey but did, in fact, bake a chicken with stuffing and made cranberries. So, in a way, I cooked that year too, but just for the two of us.

And here I am, four days before Thanksgiving, 2010 and I am wondering how in the world I can do this again. Getting a supper on the table is a bit of a struggle for me now, although of course I do it. I believe I will still be able to cook when I'm dead. Or at least, when I'm almost dead. Or partially dead. If there's one thing I can do, it is cook. Always and forever, I can cook.

Part of the problem with Thanksgiving is that we have fallen into a ritual of having a party the night before Thanksgiving. This party arose from nothing. I have never organized a damn thing. It's just the night when people are in town who have moved away and it started like that. Music, mostly, because so many of these people are musicians and then other people started to come and the kids' friends started to come and now, all of a sudden, it's engraved in stone, this party.

I told Hank last week that I wasn't sure I wanted to do it this year.
"Oh, no," he said, "It's happening."

The first year this event happened, I did nothing food-wise but cook some frozen ravioli and pour bottled sauce over it and set out some bread. I mean- it's the night before Thanksgiving. And Mr. Moon bought oysters and shucked them in the backyard and grilled some and so there were crackers and cocktail sauce and hot sauce. Maybe some chips. I don't remember.

As the party has grown, though, it feels as if I need to do more and last year there had to be at least forty people here and although I don't remember the food, I am sure there was a lot of it.
And drink, too, of course.
And music. Which is still the purpose of the party in my mind. Hearing these old friends play music together, some of them whom I've been listening to for almost forty years, is such a joy to me. The kids sing and Jessie plays mandolin, and Melissa plays banjo and that night has become the most magical night of the entire year in some ways.
So. Yes. I need to have that party.

The main problem arises when the next morning rolls around. Most of the kids spend the night and when I get up to make the stuffing and get the turkey in the oven and start the greens, I am the only one awake and some years I hardly qualify in the awakeness department, but I get up and cook anyway. Last year Hank got up to pee and there I was in the kitchen, apron on, up to my elbows in cornbread and sauteed celery and onions, the turkey draining in the sink and I said, "You know, none of you children ever gets up to watch me cook the turkey. None of you knows how to cook a turkey. What would you do if I was gone?"
And Hank looked at me and said, "Wake up Jessie." And then he went back to bed.

Now I have to be honest and tell you that every child makes a casserole. Hank makes a broccoli casserole, Jessie the spinach and artichoke casserole, Lily the green bean casserole (yes, with cream of mushroom soup and the crunchy onions) and May always brings some amazing vegetable dish of squashes, usually.
So in theory, I don't have THAT much to do.

But as we all know, theory and reality hardly ever meet on the path of life. Not in my life, anyway.

There is the salad to make and the greens to cook and the pies to bake, the giblets to boil and pick over to make gravy with, the bread to make and the rice and then May and I always VOW not to make mashed potatoes but then, at the last minute, we do. And the cranberries, of course, two kinds. And the sweet potatoes. And the veggie tray and the pickles and olives and cheese and crackers and the pesto-stuffed mushrooms and, and, and...

Oh yes. The iced tea. Sweet and un. Lemons to cut or limes.

And by the time it's all over, I have cooked my ass off for days, spent hundreds of dollars, thrown a party right in the middle of it, and everyone sits down to eat and in half an hour, it's done.
DONE. Except for the kitchen where gravy is cooling and gelling in the pan and the turkey lies with its bones sticking out and no matter how many times I wash the dishes throughout the day as I cook (dozens), every damn pan in the house is dirty again by the time we're done eating.

Thirty-four years of this.


So this morning I sat on my porch and tried to figure out if it would make me feel worse, at this juncture in my life, to have the party and the Thanksgiving dinner or not to.

I have decided, (big shock here) that I have to do it.

BUT- I am hereby putting everyone on notice- the pies are going to come from Costco. I am going to make the turkey and the dressing and the cranberries. And the greens.
Y'all can do the rest. If you want sweet potatoes, make some damn sweet potatoes. Same for all the rest.
Okay. I'll make the gravy.
I'm buying rolls. Forget the angel biscuits. JUST GET OVER IT- NO ANGEL BISCUITS!
And I'm not whipping cream.


Someone else can make the damn salad. There's enough arugula in the garden to make a salad the size of New Jersey. Someone else can make the tea. I don't know why, but I hate making the tea.

And there is no sit-down time to eat it all up in half an hour. Hank, May, and Lily and Jason all have other places they have to be during the day for another family meal so y'all can come here and eat when you want. There will be food. Help yourself.

I'll probably be in bed. Or sitting in the porch swing and weeping, drinking straight out of the rum bottle.

It would be nice if someone brought me a sandwich. Thank-you.

And now I need to put on a bra and go to town and buy the turkey so it can thaw so I can pull the giblets out and boil them to put some in the stuffing. And oh yes, buttermilk and corn meal so I can make the cornbread for the stuffing. And buy food for the party.

And rum. Which I may not share with anyone.

Yes. We will have Thanksgiving because I am thankful for my family and because I can cook and therefore, I do.

I'm pretty sure this will not be the last you'll hear about Thanksgiving. Stay tuned.

Love...Ms. Moon

P.S. Upon rereading this, I realize that Hank comes out sounding a bit bossy. He's not bossy. Okay, sometimes he is. But mostly, he just loves ritual and he loves his mama's cooking and frankly, that makes his mama happy.
So Hank- I love you. Thanks for keeping me in mind of what I was so obviously put here on earth to do. You want to make the sweet potatoes? Let me know.
Love...Yo Mama


  1. Can you break it down to a list of tasks and delegate it all out?

    XO :)

  2. "I'm sure I could look that up but I'd rather just observe and make assumptions."

    Me too ME TOO!!

    I can't keep track of the number of times I literally LOL'd while reading this. You are a gem. The party the NIGHT BEFORE THANKSGIVING sounds awesome, from a guesting perspective. I wish I could invite myself to your house for Thanksgiving. I would keep your rum topped up, and violently swat anybody who had the nerve to ask for mashed potatoes.

  3. Oh Ms.Moon, I feel you. Tonight is our monthly Sunday potluck supper and we're expecting 30 or so. Then Thanksgiving is always at our place but only a dozen or so for that.

    You are amazing to do an overnight turn-around for your two parties. And I'm willing to bet that no one gives a flying eff about the potatoes - you are giving them something so much better - these beautiful memories of a rich holiday. You give and are the gift.

  4. Here's the thing - I absolutely LOVE this post. As soon as I had finished the chicken-love paragraphs (sweet and adoring) and the discussion of Thanksgiving and the pre-party-music-fest started,I was in mind of a post from either nearly a year ago or a whole year ago --- no matter! in which you let everyone know that you weren't going to do dishes after the party. Absolutely! You have definitely washed a few lifetime's worth of dishes.

    Same thing for the food! You've prepped and cooked a few lifetime's worth of amazing food.

    Pies - yes, Costco will do just fine. It's still real pastry and real fruit or custard, therefore it's real pies.

    I'd vote for angel biscuits and let something else go baking, but I'd also (were I there) volunteer to make my own Mama's wonderful biscuits to bring to your table.

    Your home, so FULL of love, which flows out of your heart and bones and life and words. How I adore reading the menu. How I yearn for a seat at my dear departed Mama's table once more - I would help more now than I likely ever did, and happily.

    The pickles -- her own dill pickles and sweet mixed pickles and bread and butter pickles and probably pickled red beets and crabapples, too.

    The olives - MMM olives!

    I learned a bit later in life a lovely cranberry sauce, fresh or frozen cranberries 1 bag full, 1/2 cup sugar, a dash of cinnamon, 1 orange peeled and chopped into chunks, and about 1/4 cup or so of chopped walnuts or pecans. And about 1/2 cup of water. Let cook til the berries burst, simmer for 10 minutes or so. Lovely warm, amazing chilled. Delicious on anything.

    I would happily bring that too, for the chance (once more) to have giblet gravy - no one here in Canada has ever even heard, it seems, of giblet gravy (My mother's people were from Oklahoma then Wyoming, my father's from Colorado). I had giblet gravy every holiday growing up and love it.

    You're so sweet - and all of your kids are so sweet - and Mr. Moon, let's face it, he is a doll and a sweet-heart!

    That's all I have to say this morning, thanks for being here, enjoy your Sunday, hon!

  5. Two things:
    First, you're onto my secret for a happy holiday meal: figure out what shortcuts you can live with and then TAKE THEM.
    Secondly, it sounds to me like your Real Thankgiving is always happening the night before. I know everybody loves your cooking, but they love it every day. There's no legal requirement that you have to cook it Thanksgiving Day. Party leftovers sound pretty good to me, especially with all that love and music ringing in your heart.
    I love you, Mary Moon. Whatever you decide to do, just promise to keep writing about it.

  6. As I was reading I did make notes such as "must tell Ms. Moon to buy the pies and the rolls/bread." Glad to see this was duly noted. Good idea to pare down the selections. One day you will pass the torch.
    We are heading to FL (east coast) and the house hosting is on a rotation every year. The host family does the turkey and a few other items. The other families add to a list of who is making what. And invariably there is too much food and too many selections and not enuf time for us women to sit and enjoy each other. This year the host is paying a college student to help clean up.
    I think that by eliminating a sit-down meal time, it will make a big difference on the pressure to get it all done by a certain time. That is my Christmas tradition -- I lay out a spread of party food and we nosh when we want.
    Have a wonderful holiday especially with that boy who has a set of chompers for this year's meal!!

  7. Quietgirl- Yes. That would be an option. On some planet. Miss you!

    Amna- Now YOU would be the perfect guest. Consider yourself invited.

    Lisa- I can't believe you do that pot luck EVERY SUNDAY! You're more insane than me. And a hell of a lot nicer.

    Mary- I make a cranberry relish very much like yours. But it's not cooked at all. It's delicious. May and I love it. Some of my pickles will be home made too. From TWO YEARS AGO!
    Thanks for the sweet words.

    Angela C- I promise.

  8. Oh, and I forgot to mention your chickens. They are a gorgeous group of gals and rooster. So good to hear they are blooming.

  9. Michele R- Yep. Owen will be able to eat everything. The boy has as many teeth as I do now. Full set. I hope y'all have a wonderful time in Florida. Where on the east coast?

  10. Wow, a party BEFORE Thanksgiving, no wonder you are overwhelmed. I love your boundaries, now stick to EM! I'd like to bring the mashed taters, a whole VAT of them, in order to hang out with ya'll. I don't think Hank sounds bossy at all. He made me smile. He just knows you and loves his family and parties too I imagine. I'm sorry about the lost baby, I didn't know that. That must've been so hard for you.

    Your chickens are beautiful. I love all the patterns too. Gorgeous. So glad S is okay.
    Now that Susie's gone (she's afraid of fowl), I'm thinking of getting me some eventually, when I'm more settled and can build a nice coop.

    Thinking of you as you work so hard to make everyone feel happy, loved, fed. I hope somehow it helps you too. You made me laugh with your cooking when I'm almost dead stuff.

  11. I hear you. I had planned on perhaps escaping to Palm Springs with the kids and pretending that Thanksgiving didn't exist (The Husband works) but here I am, three days before getting ready to pick up the parents from the airport and then off to the grocery.


  12. First, the chickens are beautiful. So glad to see their feathers in full glory after the molt.
    Second, I feel your pain. Thanksgiving is a lot of work. The holidays are a lot of work. Throw in a party the night before, the pressure to clean the house, shop, cook and clean, and I'd be having an embarrasing meltdown in the middle of everything. It's even harder when you are the social glue in the mix, when everyone looks to you for a place to have all this loving togetherness. It is hard to coordinate other people to pitch in and help, and it seems that in the past you have shouldered most of the burden yourself. Thank goodness you are taking shortcuts this year, you have to preserve your sanity somehow. Yes to pies from Costco, and bought biscuits and no potatoes. If someone needs them, they can bake and peel and cook and bring them. That's the way it is supposed to work.
    I agree that when everyone is fed, the dishes and the left overs are the worst. By the time the whole affair is dealt with, you will be exhausted.
    But I am glad you are still having Thanksgiving. If you didn't I think you'd be less tired, but more sad. Enjoy your family while they are there, and don't share that rum!
    btw, I am going away for Thanksgiving for the 5th year in a row, we eat out at a fancy buffet, and it suits my little geographically orphaned family just fine. But there is a part of me that remembers parties like yours, and remembers them fondly. You are a saint, Mary Moon. Happy Thanksgiving :)

  13. See Dan? This is why I don't bother with Thanksgiving. you Marta it up for both of us :)

    Mary... sigh... you stick to your resolves lady, don't bake any pies.

  14. Wow. When you put it in years, that really IS a long time to be doing Thanksgiving yourself. Do not forget to buy the rum, Ms. Moon.

  15. How about turning the party into a potluck? They always have more than enough food. Plus people take home their own dishes and you won't have to worry about a bunch of leftovers and a huge mess the night before cooking a major feast!

    A question on the topic of chickens: can roosters be castrated???

  16. I'm not expecting a blog post the day of Thanksgiving or the day after, you will need to recover....but I really hope to see lots of photos of the lovely spread of food you plan to serve.

  17. Death on a cracker. Classic. I will use this often now. It think it's a mooral imperative.

    I will gift you with mashers. I am so not inviting us over, but you have fed us and loved us and indulged us for so many years, I am more than happy to bring a vat of MPs for your family to have as our thankful offering for all you are and do.,

    Please don't tell me not to, because it's a done deal.

  18. If I could, I'd just stand by your kitchen sink all day long, washing, drying, putting away, washing, drying, putting away.

  19. Bethany- I think you should definitely get chickens. A match made in heaven! They would delight you so much! I will try to stick to my boundaries. I will. Truthfully- about the baby, no. Maybe this sounds awful but I was not ready to have another baby and when I lost it, I felt so relieved. I was still in newly-born love with Hank and nowhere near wanting to have another child so soon. So it worked out for the best. I never felt connected to that one at all. Not one bit. It was not meant to be.

    Elizabeth- I will sigh for you. How many trips to the grocery store will you make? God bless us.

    Mel- I am no saint! I loved your pictures from your post of last year's Thanksgiving. Sounds wonderful. Enjoy!

    Jo- Lily said she'd make the pies! Yay, Lily!

    Nicol- Better yet, I will make Mr. Moon buy the rum. And he will.

    Lulumarie- Well, most of the kids spend the night before here and they can't make their dishes during the party and Hank and May have to go to another dinner before mine and blah, blah, blah. I do send everyone home with lots of leftovers. Believe me!

    Rebecca- I'll probably get something written. You know me.

    Ms. Fleur- Y'all are always invited. You know that. AND WE DO NOT NEED MASHED POTATOES!!!!

    A- That would be awesome.

  20. Oh, and Hank--the sweet potatoes: Try this (speaking as a former devotee of candied yams): just peel, cut up, boil with dried apricots and mash. Period. They taste just incredibly rich. Couldn't be easier.

  21. Ms. M - Weekly would do me in. We're just once a month with the Sunday Supper. I love all my people but, come on.

  22. i hear you.
    my week long unexpected company JUST LEFT!!!!!
    i wish you had posted this i would have known to serve them death on a cracker.
    hummm...guess i'll just whip that up for the husband who invited the unexpected company.
    yes, that might just give me deep satisfaction.
    i do love you so...

  23. Ms Moon, I love the honesty of this post. For the first time this year, I am finding in blog world reflections that help explain why this day is so stressful for me. And my husband does most of the cooking! Happy Thanksgiving when it gets here and God bless the shortcuts. Take even more. The good news, contemplating the mountain waiting to be climbed is often a lot more stressful than actually climbing the mountain because once you start, well, it's almost over.

  24. sounds to me like the night before party is a thanksgiving fiesta all on it's own.

    but I'm a recluse

    and I am not fond of turkey and certainly don't believe they deserve a bra


  25. I don't think that sounds awful at all. I was really relieved to hear that. I was thinking, God how much heartache can one woman take. Not meant to be. Yes.

  26. A- I bought sweet potatoes today. Shit. Maybe I'll try that. Or Hank can.

    Lisa- Huge sigh of relief. Still, though, you are my hero. But of course that goes without saying. You are the mother of Bob Rosenberg.

    rebecca- I've been wondering about how that was going. That man of yours owes you a manicure, pedicure, and a week's worth of foot massages. And dinners out. I swear he does. At least!
    I love you too.

    Angella- I made the cranberries this afternoon. It has begun.

    Michelle- No one is a bigger recluse than me. Hermit. Whatever. So you KNOW that party must be a good one. Will I wear a bra? We shall see.

    Bethany- It was a very strange and hard time. I'll say that.

  27. There are too few of us and C.'s parents are too old to come anymore. So we are taking the Thanksgiving dinner to them. My mother in law did the cooking always. But now we do it all and have been doing it forever for Christmas. It is all okay. Do what you can without being a martyr. And then relax.

  28. I am thankful that I get to be a part of your family's celebration.

  29. Syd- Exactly. I do not need to be a martyr. Nor do I want to me. Nor do I need to be. Thanks for reminding me.

    Anna- Me too! It'll be good to see you!

  30. I honestly never eat the yams, so I don't know that Id be much good at them. I'll do dishes as long as someone else dries, though, and all my friends are bringing grub on Wednesday night. I hear fancy cheeses may be involved.

  31. DTG- No one eats the yams! Forget the damn yams. Maybe a sweet potato pie, though....
    And I am so looking forward to the cheese.

  32. You tell them! I do think that if you make a turkey they should all arrange a time to sit down together. Ah yes.

  33. The chickens are looking fine again.

    This post made me want to laugh and want to cry at the same time. So much expectation. You go on and have Thanksgiving any way you want to have it.

  34. Ha!!! Right. I would bet a gazillion dollars if I had it that somehow, someway...there WILL be mashed potatoes on that table come Thursday ;)

  35. Ms. Moon,
    I once helped the Moms with Thanksgiving. I just helped, and I was so exhausted and worn out by the time we got to the damn dishes, I can't tell you.

    You are a wonder for doing it for that long. If I had to do it, motherfuckers would be eating a Bob Evan's turkey dinner. I'm damn serious.

    Love you!

  36. I didn't comment here?

    I think we hold onto traditions from yesteryear and forget the part about all the house help people had back when!! Even Martha Stewart gets that.

    We set ourselves up I think. But we are trying to give . We are. And giving with time and cooking feels like nothing else. Even if it is exhausting. It's a good in my bones tired. Once I get past thinking about it and just start doing it.

    My son called last night from his college house asking for a recipe to make homemade chicken noodle soup for his study group that was coming over. And then emailed later to thank me and tell me he loved me . I think he gets it. That makes it worth it. It does. And when he is home on holidays he gets a menu item he is in charge of . Same with my older girls. Younger ones the setting up and drinks and all the little things.

    (good morning btw)


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.