Thankful for Magic

Does anyone else believe that pecan pies are magic? The first time I baked one, many years ago, I mixed all the ingredients and wondered if I was supposed to arrange a layer of pecans on top. The recipe said to stir them in, but all the pecan pies I’d ever had featured a lovely layer of pecans sitting atop the ooey goodness of the pie filling.

In spite of my misgivings I followed the recipe and didn’t add the extra pecans. Lo and behold, those wonderful nuts rose to the occasion and my first pecan pie was as perfect looking as any I’d ever seen.

Over the years I’ve baked a few pecan pies that weren’t perfect–usually because Studly Doright was supervising and he believes in baking them until they surrender to the heat, shrinking the filling and rendering it almost leather-like in texture.

The trick is always to cook them when he’s otherwise occupied. Tonight I have him running hither and yon on meaningless errands. Oh, and to have a glass of wine or two during the baking process. Then, even if it doesn’t turn out picture perfect, I don’t really care.

Peace, and happy Thanksgiving, people! I’m so thankful for you all!

Update: This pie turned out beautifully; however, Studly found its hiding place and helped himself to a generous slice on Wednesday evening. Sigh.

So Much Food; So Little Time

My waistline is more a suggestion now, instead of a well-defined feature of my anatomy. Because the pecan

Pie I made for Christmas dinner and the baklava my daughter sent packed in a box of gifts,

Were deemed too tasty to ignore in spite of the calories they boast in abundance. Do I feel a New Year’s

Resolution in the making? Elastic waist pants in my future? A regimen of calisthenics in development?

Ask me in a week or so. There are still gourmet marshmallows wrapped in pretty paper on my kitchen counter.

Calories be damned.

Exactly What I Was Looking For

I stopped in at a Walmart yesterday. Not the brightest move I’ve ever made, I must admit. All the usual Christmas craziness was on parade: bright-eyed children asking, no, pleading, for toys. Harried moms of all shapes, ages, and ethnicities asking, no, pleading for them to be good for just a few more days. Weary clerks just waiting for their shifts to end.

And there I was, an island of calm in the midst of chaos. All I needed was a bag of pecan halves to make my famous pecan pie for Christmas dinner. Ten minutes should have been sufficient for this errand.

Finding the pecans seemed simple enough, except all of the bags I found on the baking aisle were pecan pieces. I insist on pecan halves because they rise so beautifully to the top during baking. Almost like magic.

I couldn’t find a clerk, so I wandered to a center aisle thinking the pecan halves might’ve been moved to a holiday display. I found a likely looking spot, but at first glance, not the right pecans. A pleasant, well groomed woman, maybe a few years my senior, was also perusing the display.

“Excuse me,” I said, “Have you seen any pecan halves? All I can find are the pieces.”

With a bit of a flourish she lifted a bag from a lower shelf. “Voila!”

“Thank you!” I said. “These are exactly what I was looking for!”

I began to turn away, when the woman said, “You could make divinity with the leftover pecans.”

“I suppose I could,” I said. “But my husband won’t eat divinity and I’d end up eating the entire batch.”

She laughed. “My husband only wants cherry pie for Christmas dessert. I used to make pecan pies for our son and grandson, though.”

Again I started to turn away, but she said, “They we’re both killed in a car accident. On the interstate between Jacksonville and Orlando.”

My heart lurched, and time stopped. “I’m so sorry. How long ago?”

“Four years. My grandson was just twelve. I think about them both every day.”

Then she told me how an erratic driver, lane surfing had taken the lives of two of the people most precious to her. He’d had multiple tickets for a variety of violations, but still had a license.

I hugged this stranger. In the middle of Walmart beside shelves of pecan halves and pecan pieces we stood and cried.

She apologized for upsetting me. “I can’t believe I just told all this to a stranger,” she said. “But I think all of my friends are sick of hearing how sad I am. They want me to get over it, or to at least stop talking about it.”

“Sometimes a stranger is just the right person to talk to,” I said. “I’m glad I came in search of pecans. Thanks again for helping me.”

She hugged me again and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. She and her husband were going to her daughter’s home for Christmas dinner, she told me. She assured me she’d be all right. “You found the right pecans, but I found the right stranger,” she said.

We never know, do we? In the rush of the day, in the quest for some mundane object, we might find not only what we need, but be the answer to someone else’s need. Slow down. Listen. Be present. You might find exactly what you’re looking for.

Peace, people.

Cooking for Studly: Thanksgiving for Two

Those of you who are new to my blog might not realize that I have a life outside of bashing our president-elect, but I do! I live with my husband, Studly Doright, and our two feline supervisors, Scout and Patches, in our own little piece of paradise that I like to call Doright Manor.

We have two perfect children and five absolutely superior grandchildren (funny how that works, seeing as how Studly and I just barely peek over the average range), but they live far away from our home outside of Tallahassee, Florida.

Studly and I were high school sweethearts in Texas, and in forty years of marriage we’ve moved 14 times, lived in five different states, and I’ve lost count of the number of homes we’ve shared. We aren’t retired yet, but it’s number one on our bucket list.

Studly married me thinking I’d turn out to be a great cook like his mom (Saint Helen) or my mom, (Gingymama), but I had neither the aptitude nor the attitude to develop into much more than a mediocre heater upper. Poor, poor Studly.

Twice a year, though, I focus all of my energies into cooking a kick ass holiday meal. I plan and prepare and check ingredients off of lists and shop and preheat–all the necessary stuff. Sometimes, it all turns out perfectly. Other times we pretend. Wine helps.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the US. So today I’m baking a pecan pie, hard boiling eggs, and making cornbread. Doright Manor smells amazing. I’ll arise early tomorrow to prep and roast a turkey, make cornbread dressing, a fruit salad, and deviled eggs, along with Studly’s favorite green bean casserole (ugh!) and cranberry sauce. With any luck neither of us will need to pretend that it tastes great. Again, wine helps.

It’s just going to be the two of us for dinner, well and the cats, but I’m thankful that we are healthy and have each other. I’m most thankful that at Christmas we’ll get to see our kids, grandkids, and Saint Helen, when we congregate in Nashville, Tennessee, for a family holiday extravaganza.

Now, the smoke alarm hasn’t sounded even once this morning, so all is well at Doright Manor. I’d best go, though, and open a bottle of wine. Just in case.

Peace, and Happy Thanksgiving, people.

Leftovers

turkey on wheat bread
cornbread dressing stuffed bacon
cold pie for breakfast

   
   

some foods get better
on the second time around;
leftover heaven

Studly Doright isn’t a big fan of leftovers except when it comes to turkey and dressing and pecan pie. The man loves cornbread dressing and won’t cease eating until he’s scraped the pan clean. It’s embarrasingly endearing.

I can’t say that I’m any better. After having three generous pieces of pecan pie yesterday I might be the first person in history to have overdosed on the gooey dessert. My stomach spoke to me in angry tones all night long in a way that was anything but endearing, yet quite embarrassing.

It seems that leftovers, like everything except possibly hundred dollar bills, are best enjoyed in moderation.

  
Peace, people!

The Day Before Thanksgiving

Studly Doright, the love of my life, is a bit of a horse trader. He doesn’t trade actual horses (dear Studly harbors an unnatural fear of farm animals, large and small); instead, he trades cars, trucks, motorcycles, basically anything that is motorized transportation.

On Tuesday he informed me that he’d bought a pickup truck. I nodded and smiled. “And, by the way,” he said casually, “We have to pick it up on Wednesday.”

Again, I nodded, like the dullard I must be.

Studly cleared his throat and I looked at him expectantly. “Um, it’s in Orlando….”

Normally a proposed trip to Orlando would have me jumping up and down like a small child. Universal Studios, DisneyWorld, tacky souvenirs, oh joy! But on the day before we are to host a Thanksgiving meal in our home? Nooooooooooo! For one thing  I knew there’d be no dawdling. We’d drive four hours south, in holiday traffic mind you, then turn around and drive four hours back to Doright Manor. But I had no choice. Studly can be an awful bully, I mean, awfully persuasive. 

The trip down was enjoyable. In addition to his gifts in persuasion Studly is always entertaining. Once again we drove right by the Cafe Risqué, Florida’s all nude cafe, even though we have a series of running jokes about what’s on the menu. Trust me, you don’t want to know the jokes. 

Traffic was interesting. One seriously aggressive driver came lane surfing around us, easily going 20 m.p.h. above our rather sedate 75. (Speed limit was 70.) As we neared Orlando we passed her after she’d hit another car. I’d have cheered, but she ruined someone else’s weekend. 

Once we arrived at the car dealership Studly took a test drive while I stretched my legs and looked at cars. The dealership had a gorgeous red BMW convertible that could’ve come home with me if I had just a few more (thousand) dollars in my bank account. After he returned, smiling like an idiot, Studly told me I could start for home while he finished making the deal.

I’ve officially been home now for an hour, and put together another pecan pie that should be done in 10-15 minutes. Studly got caught in a holiday traffic jam on the turnpike. I’m enjoying a Shiner Bock and the Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Studly is probably cursing at rude drivers. Who knows, he might actually get to check out the menu at Cafe Risqué.

  
Peace, people!