This Christmas stocking I am knitting for the boy is going to smell like garlic. This is because, here it is, three weeks after Thanksgiving, and I decided mid-knit to brine another turkey. We had so many people drop in on Thanksgiving night, that I only had enough leftovers to make one pot of soup. A soup so rich and golden and Asiany with ginger and soy and cilantro, that I nearly savaged my husband for eating the last bowl of it. So, there was no turkey for purlough, no turkey for breakfast hash, no turkey for tacos and savory bread pudding and sandwiches with cranberry ginger relish. It was a huge disappointment. So I went back to the store and bought more. Twice. It wasnâ€™t even on sale.
(sorry for the shitty pictures. iPhone photos suck at the best of times, and soaring off the roof of my car into traffic really didn’t help the camera feature on mine.)
So Iâ€™m down to the toe (again) on this stocking and had time to mull over the amount of food in my fridge awaiting slow cooking, and also to consider how little time I actually have to slow cook anything. The baby ate grits and eggs for dinner tonight, because when we got home at 6, he was gnawing on my kneecap with fury. Because the venison haunch will need three hours to simmer, and babies do not wait until 9 oâ€™clock to eat. The turkey must brine overnight and then another day to roast and make stock from its bones. Even my damn oatmeal needs thirty minutes to cook, and with Benjamin hurling himself on top of his booster seat shrieking about how â€śhongyâ€ť he is, lack of planning just doesnâ€™t fly around here.
This is probably what the time between the close of gentle Autumn and Christmas has always felt like. I imagine a pioneer woman looking crossly down at her husbandâ€™s recent deer or turkey carcass, while some tater tot in his pinner wipes nasty fingerprints on her calico petticoat. She too probably had to can and process the last of the seasonâ€™s bounty, looking with disfavor at the cloud of fruit flies circling her counter. I made apple butter and calamondin marmalade last week, and yes, I still canâ€™t even see the island in my kitchen under the citrus to process. And I need to make candied orange peel for my dad. And I have tangerines to roast and turn into an intriguing concoction called orange dust. Donâ€™t you just want a little pot of magic orange dust to bring ribs and duck breasts and apple pie to heretofore unrealized glory? I do. Desperately. And still the Christmas presents to bake for the nieces and nephews and godchildrenâ€”this year Iâ€™m doing homemade marshmallows and graham crackers to put in a baggie with chocolate for sâ€™mores.
And letâ€™s not forget the Christmas knitting. Thereâ€™s this stocking to finish, yea gods, my first Fair Isle project, because I am nothing if not insanely ambitious. And a little something for my sister with the perfect yarn I unearthed from my stash. And a secret cable hat for Simons, because he lost the other one sailing in San Francisco Bay. It gives me the willies to think of it, that lovely toasty Cocoon cap in the frosty grey Pacific. Brrrrâ€¦ He was appropriately crestfallen about it, so I suppose he deserves another one. Heâ€™s also been particularly good about waking up with our naughty baby in the night, while I stir grumpily and kick him in the shins.
I made Christmas ornament kits for Benjaminâ€™s school partyâ€”little brown felt gingerbread men and tiny white felt snowmen for them to decorate with teeny top hats and jaunty red bows, button eyes, felt carrots and dapper red pom pom noses. They make me wriggle, they were so, so cute. And gingerbread men, so darling, they deserved to be kissed rather than mauled by eight gnawing little mouths.
And the sewingâ€¦oh dear, that really must get done soon. Amanda Blake Soule makes birthday crowns and festive triangle-flag bunting for her childrenâ€™s parties. So I must have them too. I mean Benjamin must have them. Of course, Benjamin! My tiny, adorable baby galumphing pony beast! How did that little pudgy lump suddenly grow into this opinionated, laughing, screaming, zooming-around-on-a-tricycle person? He is so scrumptious, he must have birthday garlands and crowns, and hand-sewn memory books, before I forget what his first words were and how his cheeks reminded me of fuzzy peaches and his breath smelled like vanilla milkshakes.Â Before I forget that his favorite colors were purple and orange and yellow, and that they sounded like â€śpurpoâ€ť and â€śwhoresâ€ť and â€śyayo,â€ť and around the Thanksgiving table this year, we asked him what he was trolling for after supper and he said, â€śwhoresâ€ť and â€śyayo.â€ť Thatâ€™s my boy.
So I knit and cook and bake and sew and can and grind, partially because it will make other people so happy, but mostly because it makes me giddy with unGrinchly feelings. Itâ€™s 75-degrees outside, my real-live-job list of Fiery items is practically ablaze, and the only thing that makes it feel like the Christmas season is huffing my tree while I knit and listen to Cast-On, and my turkey burbles in its briny soup. Is that crazy?
It’s helping my perspective. Last month, I really overindulged in self pity, perhaps deservedly. The baby was sick for forever, with barfing and ear infections and trips to the emergency room–a tremendously sobering experience. The dog nearly perished. Again. A dangerous intestinal potato blockage. You may remember the last time this happened. Poor stupid goat dog.
But on Thanksgiving, I turned a corner. I had loved ones to sit around my table. I have family that won’t let us starve. I have a health little horse of a child, and after November, I truly am thankful for that. This is the time of year that the world turns into a feeding frenzy of consumerism in most of the western world. And three years into the economic crash, people are not done tightening their belts and feeling blue and are just consumed with worry. And instead of panicking, I want to be resourceful. I can mend! I can put things in jars! I can make things with my hands, I’m learning to sew, I have a lifetime’s worth of knitting stash and lots of pointy sticks, and my spice rack is so full, I get attacked by five-spice powder every time I open the door.Â I can make memories–for me, for my son, for a few friends.
These are the things I want to remember when I sit in my rocking chair at, Lord willing, age 85, gnashing my gums and cackling. I want people at my funeral to say, “When life gave her lemons, she made lemon curd and lemon pound cake and lemon marmalade. And she shared!”
Aunt Jemima’s Asian Turkey Soup
3 cups shredded turkey
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
one large yellow onion, chopped
10 or so shitake mushrooms
1 very large knob of ginger, peeled and grated (about 3 Tbs or more–you can’t have too much)
one bunch cilantro, chopped
3 Tbs butter
1-3 Tbs fish sauce (to taste)
1-3 Tbs soy sauce (to taste)
2 cups cooked brown rice
3 quarts Turkey stock (turkey carcass, 2 quartered onions, 6Â stalks of celery, 6 rough chopped carrots, 6 stems of thyme, one bunch parsley, 6 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf - cover with water and bring to boil, lower to simmer about 12 hours, adding water as it evaporates, discarding solids and reserving broth)
In large soup pot, saute vegetables in butter over med-low heat until softened. Add chopped turkey, cilantro, and ginger and stir until fragrant. Add stock and fish and soy sauces, tasting as you go. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minute, adding the rice after about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust soy and fish sauce as desired. Add more cilantro if you forgot some and find a small pile of it hiding under your dish towel.Â Enjoy steaming hot, especially if it’s raining. It will make you feel very smug.