Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Other Thanksgiving Food

I've written a long essay about Torrey in the winter but I imagine more people (6 people) read what I write here than they do in lit mags (4 people), so I'm not feeling incredibly redundant. In the olden times, the years of the great drought, Erik's parents kept the cabin in Torrey open all winter long. When you left the cabin after a long weekend, we had to drain the whole water system, including the water heater, put RV anti-freeze in the toilets and turn the heat down to fifty and pray that the amount of water left in the pipes wouldn't freeze. The cabin had suffered two major pipe explosions that resulted in much re-drywalling. Not even Erik, master drywaller that he is, likes to do the same walls three times so now they shut the house down completely. Rick, Erik's stepdad, hooks up the air compressor and blows every spot of water out of the pipes.
But they opened it up this year for Thanksgiving so we could see them and my mom and so we wouldn't have to drive all the way to Salt Lake.

It was cold. 1 degree one of the nights. All of the stores were closed. The only restaurant open was Tom's "Chillzz" which is more of a soda shop than a restaurant. If we neglected to bring whipping cream, well, then no whipping cream on your pie.

I did forget whipping cream but Erik's mom, El, brought three tiny cartons of it. My mom brought steaks, brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Rick brought ancho peppers and goat cheese and stuff for breakfast. I brought the turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, celery, butter, breadcrumbs, apples, pumpkin and evaporated milk. Nothing makes me think of cooking in dire circumstance as evaporated milk. I didn't know El would bring whipping cream so all along the drive I wondered how I might convert evaporated milk into pie topping. I also brought flour and sugar. So did El. She also brought potatoes and onions. A little redundancy goes a long way. She would have been redundant to bring whipping cream if I'd remembered mine but I didn't. She also brought beans, tortillas and sour cream. This would be key to our happiness later.

Thanksgiving went as thanksgiving goes. Everything was easier than it seemed like it would be and everyone ate faster than one thought humanly possible. Mom's cranberry sauce with pineapple was particularly good. I just cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and tossed half of them in cinnamon and black pepper and half in cayenne. That might have been a high point. The gravy I made like an hour early. That made finishing the mashed potatoes, the brussels and the rolls (El made rolls from scratch. I burned them by putting them on the bottom rack of the oven. Sorry El) totally easy. Gravy first. A good policy.

Pies were fine. I couldn't even eat any that night. Zoe and I had to take a short run down the street just to try to overcome the feeling that my stomach was full of rocks and on the verge of making me tip over like the wolf in Red Riding Hood.

The next night, we had steaks. Rick made them with a delicious roasted red pepper, ancho chili sauce. He cooked the steaks, topped them with goat cheese which didn't look like it melted but it had, and then a dollop of the sauce. In terms of flavor, maybe because it was new and maybe because it was spicy-ish, this dinner trumped Thanksgiving. I even loved the baked potato, with just scallions, butter and sour cream, better than the mashed potatoes. But maybe it was better because I cooked none of it.

The next night, we went to Chillzz for pizza and it was just fine. We got fries too which came with fry sauce which means that fry sauce is within a 6 hour drive rather than 8.5.

Speaking of 6 hour drives, we were supposed to leave the next day (Sunday) but a huge storm came in and the roads were awful. So we stayed even though there were no grocery stores open and we only had what was in the house. It turned out to be a surprising lot. El had made pinto beans. There was a box of vegetable broth and tomatoes and another can of beans and another ancho chili pepper equaled chili with bean burritos. This might have been the best meal of all.

I love Torrey in the winter. It's completely empty of people. Austerity measures apply. You have to make do. I love that. I also love hiking in the cold even though it was too cold for Max. His cheeks didn't thaw for an hour after one of the hikes. We did see the most amazing petroglyphs I've ever seen. The size of a Volkswagen, some of them (a small Volkswagen, maybe just a wagon. But still.)

And the pipes in the cabin did freeze a little--even with the heat on--but Rick caught them in time and with a very strong spotlight, he warmed the pipes and the dishwasher and shower worked again. Super-austerity averted.


Sandy said...

Where can I read your long essay on Torrey in the winter?

I'm trying to figure what it is that I don't like about pumpkin pie. The flavor? The consistency? I like pumpkin bread, ice cream, and cheesecake.

I'm thinking of making sweet potato oven fries for Oscar. He loves sweet potatoes more than anything, and I am running out of ways to make them, although Oscar is perfectly happy eating them microwaved and cut into chunks.

Lisa B. said...

I love being all kinds of places in the winter, for the very same reasons. This sounds kind of heavenly, austerity included. I love Idaho for this same reason--it's not so far to a reasonably full-service grocery store, but it's far enough that it's a disincentive, and therefore an incentive to make do with what you have. I love this story and this post, and well done for not having the pipes freeze, at least not much.

Dr Write said...

Thanks for writing this. Sounds amazing and reason enough to drive to Torrey. Or wherever you and your kin are driving.
Can't wait to see you!

Michael said...

Your topic is nice. The same situation happened in my life, I like all the places in the winter. Sweet potatoes, turkey foods were the main dishes in Thanksgiving food festival. Pancakes with potato flavor had a beautiful taste.