Holiday Hysteria, Indeed!

by | Dec 7, 2016 | 16 comments

Holiday Hysteria…Everyone suffers from this malady to some extent. Worrying about things like who to invite for the big holiday meal? Who sits where? What do I give my boss for Christmas? Should I stand in line for three days to make sure my kid gets this year’s must have toy that will be obsolete before I pay for it? Ohhh, we’ve all been there. But for our family, the madness takes on a bit of a different form. As we own a meat company, our stresses are making sure that all of our Meatheads get exactly what they want for their holiday tables. And getting our Holiday Reservations page ready. And making sure the dozens of Prime Ribs are perfectly prepped. And making sure the hams are out of the smoker in time. And that we have enough meat cut for all other contingencies. You get the idea…

A few years back we started a new tradition in our family. We actually went out for Thanksgiving dinner. For years we have had as many as 30 people for dinner at my mom’s house, and for the past several, I did a lot of the cooking. I really enjoy the cooking part. I actually did a New Years Eve party at a friend’s house a few years back where I cooked 18 dishes for about 20. Some were as simple as bruschetta, and then there was the whole grilled salmon. But that’s another story altogether. As usual, I digress.

The point is that we are a different family now. I like to think we are better for it, now that it is Laura, the kids, my mom, my aunt and me. These are the people that mean the most to me. So it made sense to forgo the eight hours of cooking time and go see our good friend John Ash instead. This was perfect back then, as we also had a Christmas tree farm to get ready, a whole ‘nother level of stress, trust me!

This year was a whole different story. I am very different now. 157 days ago I quit drinking. Cold turkey (that is some awesome foreshadowing as you are about to find out!). Those that know me well, and probably a lot of folks that don’t know me at all, will not be surprised that I am now a recovering alcoholic. Well, they may be surprised by the recovering part. At any rate, the holidays present a unique set of stresses for us “alkies”. I pretty much thought of the holidays as an excuse to drink all day. A little brandy in the coffee, a spicy Bloody Mary during prep, and then a steady flow of bourbon while cooking the family meal. Seemed normal to me!

It has been a few years since I cooked a big meal, so in my new-found sobriety I decided I would tackle it myself this year. Man, was I organized! Shopping ahead of time (I even made a list!), check. Mise en place (that’s chopping carrots, dicing onions, etc. for those of you that don’t watch the Food Channel), check. Turkey on the counter coming to room temperature an hour before hitting the oven, check. Everything was perfectly timed for a 5:30pm sit down. The turkey hit my mom’s high-tech oven at 1pm on the dot and we were on our way. I was sipping on my sparkling water and feeling pretty full of myself.

I continued prepping all the side dishes in a nice, relaxed manner. No reason to rush as I had it all planned out. Side dishes going in the oven would all be cooking while the turkey was resting. Smart, no? Years past at this time things would start to get fuzzy around the edges, and the lumpy gravy and soupy mashed potaoes I thought of as “rustic” cooking were usually a result of making my way through a handle of Crown. But not this year! 3o minutes in and I remembered that I was cooking the bird at 450 to start and it was time to foil the breast now that skin was perfectly browned and turn the oven down to 325. Check! On to more side dishes…

I took some of my homemade turkey stock (not only did I make my own stock, I made it 2 days in advance…call me Butter ‘cause I am on a roll!) that I had simmering on the stove and made the stuffing. I had fat chunks of bacon rendering in the skillet for the roasted brussell sprouts. The potatoes are boiling ever so gently. Time to check on the turkey as it has been in for about two and a half hours now. This is easy!

I open up the marvel of modern technology that my mom calls an oven and the bird looks amazing. Of course it does, I started it on high heat to seal in the juices. But something is amiss…I can’t quite put my finger on it….oh I know… there is no $%&*)%! heat coming from the oven! You have got to be kidding me. Serenity, my ass! I have everything timed to the nano second and my bird is cooking in a freakin’ igloo…

And so it went… I held off the side dishes like Jim Bowie at the Alamo. I got the oven fired back up and cooking again. And I drank my sparkling water…Turns out that the dinner served at almost 8pm was pretty good. I was surrounded by my most important support group, my family. And best of all, I remember it all. A wise man in one of my meetings likes to say “I’ve been drunk, and I’ve been sober. Sober is better.” Maybe it really is as simple as that…

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