Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Challenging (Thanksgiving Post #2)

Thanksgiving is not, for my family of fairly particular palates, the right time to go too far out on a limb. We like what we like. That does not mean, however, that we avoid trying some new tricks now and again.

I was re-elected main cook and bottle washer this year for our feast. My son the chef was coming off a string of 11 nonstop stints at the very exclusive Spa where he works. Among the challenges he routinely faces there are guests like a recent one, who asked him to prepare a different dessert for several evenings running that had to be both gluten and fruit free. I was happy to step back up to the counter and let him have a well deserved day off.

Mom in charge meant our usual menu was reinstated. After dozens of Thanksgivings, I have the timing for this meal down pat. I can shop and cook ahead leaving just enough to do on feast day for optimal results without risking being too tired to fully enjoy the results. My daughter graciously volunteered to help, which tweaked my timing a bit as I attempted to identify which dishes she'd like to get hands on experience with, and then synchronized preparing those with her availability.

Mid-morning on turkey day, there I was, waiting for my kids to arrive and my husband to get back home from making rounds at the hospital, and I was bored. I arranged and rearranged the room. I played around with the table set up, and chose the music I wanted to set the mood. As I triple checked that I hadn't actually forgotten some major essential component of our meal, I was restless, looking for something new and more creative to do. I decided to devise something of a challenge for my daughter with regards to the dressing she and I were going to make.

I downloaded and printed up recipes for making dressing from scratch, including one for "poultry seasoning", and waited for my daughter to arrive.

Then I proposed to her that we try something different this year than the admittedly reliably delicious option of going with Pepperidge Farm dressing prepared by the instructions on the back of the bag. I called it "A Gifted/Talented Challenge".When my daughter was in grade school, she was part of the G/T program. The Gifted/Talented kids had demonstrated they could read and parrot information, this program was devised to challenge them to use their intellects to move past parroting and into demonstrating mastery of various types of knowledge. To get them thinking creatively, outside the box, or bag.

So I put out the bag and I put out the basic ingredients for dressing and let her choose. "By the Bag" or the "G/T" challenge?

Demonstrating how incredibly smart she truly is, my daughter opted for a combination of the two.

I've shared how serious we are about wanting Thanksgiving foods to be "just so". My daughter knew that if the dressing we came up with from the basic ingredients and recipes I'd located was delicious but too differently so? She and I both would be fair game for a series of comparative compliments that might veer dangerously close to thinly veiled criticism.

So she put together some dressing from scratch, which she then prepared along with some of the bag components in the classic style. The combination dressing hit all the expected notes yet had a little something extra, which elevated it just enough to warrant the effort.

I am thankful for a LOT this year. All 4 of us together at the table for one. Two adult children who are not only capable, but actually creative in the kitchen, is another. Yet a third thing I am grateful for is a new recipe for a dinner "post-turkey day" that is so far removed taste-wise from roast poultry that it proved just the thing for our jaded palates. Stay tuned - that recipe will be posted next, because as we all know, good things come in threes......

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