Sunday, February 8, 2009

November 28, 2008 - Roberto's England - Vol. 2, Ch. 9

Hello again,

I owe you one story about Thanksgiving, and so you shall get it!

In between reviewing shows around London and going to Richmond to see another, I managed to find a gap of time in which to fit in grocery shopping. I volunteered to try my hand at making the gravy. It is something I have never attempted to make, but I've been getting braver with my sauce-making. It was especially ballsy of me because I chose to recreate one of my dad's recipes. Since I couldn't get away with only providing the gravy, I also said I would bring a salad. To be perfectly frank, and maybe I'm wrong for saying so, I don't think I should have been asked to bring something else to the feast. Either they expected me to buy gravy from a can or they don't realize how difficult making a sauce from scratch can be. But let us not dwell on the past lest I sound really bitter.

My dad's gravy recipe was a mushroom-wine gravy. My extended family tends to not allow my dad to make the big dinner items because he always makes their cooking ability look bad. And it doesn't help that my dad is a bit of a show off in the kitchen. But there was one year that he was allowed to make one of the turkeys and the gravy. I remember it being the most glorious gravy I have ever tasted, and it was this particular incarnation that I would attempt to bring to life.

Up until the moment I actually started to make the gravy, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I was simply confused and bewildered by the task the lay ahead. I called my dad 4 times to make sure I had all the correct ingredients and make sure I understood the recipe correctly. When do I add the drippings? Do I need broth? What do I do with the neck, heart, and that mysterious black thing? Do I cook those innards first and then add them in?

I finally got to a point where I understood what needed to be done, much to my father's relief. In retrospect, I should have increased the quantities to make more servings. Gravy for 10 was just enough, which, when it comes to Thanksgiving, is not actually enough. I was very nervous about what everyone would think about my gravy, but I got nothing but very positive reviews. In fact, and this is why I think they assumed I would merely heat up canned gravy, Brittany kept bragging to everyone that I made the whole thing from scratch. I was so happy they really enjoyed it.

The salad was not nearly as much trouble. I decided to also make everything from scratch because I wanted to avoid any potential snide comments about using store bought dressing and croutons. So everything had to be homemade because I didn't want to be "that guy."

I scoured (I love this website!) and for potential salad candidates, but no salad particularly inspired me. Eventually, one recipe called out to me. I opted to make a simple salad with a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. For greens I chose a medley of watercress and spinach. And all this I paired with some homemade garlic-cheese croutons. I was concerned that it might be too many flavors clashing together, but everybody loved my salad. I did not think it would be as big a hit as it was. Again, the fact that I made this dish from scratch was repeatedly brought up. I guess my efforts weren't for nought.

Every dish was wonderful though. We had ourselves a delicious meal. This wasn't my first Thanksgiving away from home (some of you may remember my having spent it alone last year in Boston), but it was the first time I have ever actually celebrated Thanksgiving away from home and with friends. Ellen had us all say what we were thankful for, so we all said something rather silly. I said I was thankful that my gravy came out so well, which was entirely true. I was extremely grateful that everyone loved what I made. But I will take this opportunity to say what I was really thankful for. I didn't say during dinner because I did not want to drag down the party to an embarrassing level of cheese and sentimentality, but here it is now....

I'm thankful for once again being in England. I'm thankful for being in this country I love so much with an incredible group of people who consider me their friend. I'm thankful for having them as my family during this most familial of holidays. And I am grateful for all that life has given me in the past few years.

But enough cheesy words. You've granted me a moment to be sentimental and it's time I get back to my story.

We ended up having quite a crowd. Our small Thanksgiving kept getting bigger as people made last-minute invitations to others. The grand total came out to ten, and I was happy with 9 of them. He's a nice person, but I just find him obnoxious beyond words. His childlike naivete and social awkwardness is at such an extreme level that I cannot tolerate it. But hey, it wouldn't be a proper Thanksgiving unless there was somebody present whom you can't stand. At least, that's the case in my family.

Two of the guests were new to us. Oddly enough, I had a strong connection with both of them. One of them, Iliana, was born in Mexico but lives California. The other, Aria, is also from California and... *drumroll* ... also went to UCLA for undergrad! It was an unexpected surprise, and certainly a fun one. Finally, I was no longer the sole West Coaster in a sea of East Coasters. Plus, both Iliana and Aria were really great. She was very nice and he was fun to talk to. It's a shame we all met these two so late in the game, but I feel we'll meet up again sometime before it's time to say goodbye.

So that was my Thanksgiving. Mine was definitely one I'll remember for years to come. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving as well. If not, then I hope that at least your turkey was moist and your gravy abundant.

I have to end this here because I need to wake up early tomorrow. The Cambridge excursion is on! Pri and I are set to meet Karl, our tour guide for the day, in the morning, so I need to get some sleep.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to one and all!


- R

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