Slowly but surely

We’re making our way toward Thanksgiving day pictures, really. With tons of images to sort and resize, and rolling out our upgrade gifts to our clients (and let me tell you how much it warms my cockles to have some idiot bitch about how long it takes to get through hundreds of servers to give them something for FREE), there simply are not enough hours in the day to get everything done so I can whittle down my to-do list. We’ll get there.

What happens next

I really had planned to do a number of things well before Thanksgiving actually arrived. Alas, between other things in life intruding, the only thing I managed to do in advance were to make a huge batch of cranberry compote and talk my mom and brother into making some batches of stuffing.

So the day before found us not only going to the store, but starting on some of the other things that needed to be done/could be done before the big day.

The Boy and I had driven down to Citra to pick up a pastured turkey – organic, and, according to the wrap, “grown as nature intended”. The bird was still huge.

At 20.2 pounds, this bird would be more than sufficient (when combined with everything else) to feed everyone. He (she?) went into the brine first thing in the morning so he would be ready for roasting on Thanksgiving day.

We had also picked up a breast-only, about six pounds, for the smoker. Since it was frozen, I also tossed it into a brine after dealing with the big guy. Normally, for such a portion, overnight brining would result in Bad Things, but given the block of ice it was, it did not harm to give him about 24 hours, too, as it allowed him to get his freeze off in a good, non-bacterial-inducing environment.

After dealing with the birds, it was time to move on to a couple of other things. This is why counter space is so very important.

We started making compost.

Kidding, sort of: that was part of the remains of what became actual food.

We put this together.

Wrapped it.

Crimped it.

In the background above, you can see more compost material, courtesy of the remainder of what was used to make tarragon pickled mushrooms.

Vented it, courtesy of The Boy.

Mmm. Pie.

The final product.

Oh, and did I mention that mom and The Boy were making a cherry pie while I was slicing up the apples and getting that mixed? No?

‘Twas the day before Thanksgiving

A bit of a foggy start to it, truth be told.

But the day rapidly turned into a clear, sunny, gorgeous Fall day in Florida. Who says we don’t have fall here?

That was the view from a stop light as The Boy and I made our way to Publix. The day before Thanksgiving. At noon. Crazy, you say? Sure to be a madhouse? Not at all: the super secret, brand new store, near a development that isn’t anywhere near capacity is a win. No crowds – there are never crowds at this store (yet). The people are friendly to the point of being annoying, since every worker bee from managers to stockers will ask you how you’re doing and if you need help. And since there were all sorts of staff on hand, vastly outnumbering the shoppers, we were asked probably a dozen times each of these questions.

What were we buying? Stuff. Lots of stuff.

This was in anticipation of the 20-30 people we expected to appear. On the way back, we got to enjoy more of the palette Mother Nature thought it nice to share with the rest of us.

And we made it home safely with our loot.

What happened next? That’s another episode.

The little injustices

Anyone who has ever been to Jacksonville will tell you the city is always under some kind of construction. For the past however long, there has been a major construction zone where I-10 and I-95 come together, to expand the amount of traffic the interchange can handle. One of the things that happens during all of this is of course changes to the various exits along the way. Normal, functional people who know how to merge and deal with traffic such as, oh, that sort of traffic you might encounter going to a football game, have no issues with this. Either you manage to make it over, or you just head up to the next exit. Simple, right?

Except for the total moron who stopped dead in the left hand lane – the very lane other people are also in, looking for an opening to merge right in order to get off at one particular exit. This idiot didn’t just stop: they slammed on their brakes, even though they’d not yet reached the area where the exit was even available. We all know what happens then: the person behind them has to slam on their brakes, and the person behind them, and the person behind them.

So today, for the first time ever, I was involved in a traffic accident. I rear-ended the guy in front of me after slamming on my brakes to try to avoid him after he slammed on his brakes to avoid the guy in front of him, who slammed on his brakes to avoid the guy in front of him, who slammed on his brakes to avoid the jackass who stopped in the middle of the damn highway because apparently the concept of merging and changing lanes was simply too difficult to grasp.

So I’d like to thank that jackass, and toss in the two troopers who showed up and decided that it was two separate incidents instead of one caused by that singular act. And I’d further like to thank the first trooper for not handing out a ticket to anyone in the first pair even though clearly one of them rear ended the other (because they “gave conflicting stories”, so he didn’t write one). Even further, I’d like to thank the second trooper for taking almost 25 minutes to type up a simple report and a ticket. For me. Because here, the person at the very back of the line gets screwed. Which is precisely what happened: I get the damage (the guy in front of me has a minor crack in his bumper, while my front bar is crumpled right into my front bumper and my left headlight is now out of alignment; the guy in front of him has minor bumper damage, and the guy in front of him has a small crumple in the hood and bumper damage), I get the insurance premium increase (because I am the only one who got a ticket out of this, and the very nice claims woman says they have to put me down as at fault), and I get the ticket (for “not exercising due care”, worth 121.50)

To sum up: I got hosed for an accident I did not cause and could not avoid.

And the jackass in the white Chevy Blazer who started it all? Drove off, and probably – unlike the rest of us – made it to the game on time.

It’s c-c-c-ooold outside

People have this rather idealized vision of Florida. Every street is lined with palm trees, and the weather is always fabulous.

Except, of course, when it is not.

We do, on occasion, have freezes here. The fact that they are bookended by 75-degree days should not fool you: when it gets cold here, it gets cold in the same way it gets cold elsewhere. Frosty, even. And I have proof.

The little blades apparently forgot to bundle up.

The big smoker, on the other hand, had cuddled under its protective tarp.

I’d covered some of the plants, and moved others into the garage, but some – brassicas – didn’t need that and will actually come out healthier for a bit of a cold snap.

The garden area is where the sun hits first, so they thawed pretty quickly.

They were none the worse for their one night with 25-degree temps.

‘Tis the season

I will never, in my entire life, understand why people have to be such blazing assholes – for no reason whatsoever. Bitching to us about your billing, because you moved some site elsewhere “months ago”? Be nice if you actually contacted us to tell us this, since we don’t communicate via ESP around here. Complaining that there is an error on your page, and it couldn’t possible be your (homegrown) code, and then demanding that we fix a server where nothing has changed one iota, shown quite clearly by the information page for that server – except that very code you wrote, which shows timestamps the day before you contacted us? A pretty fair indicator that you broke something in your “couldn’t possibly be my code”, since it was working before and isn’t working now (and we won’t even go into your leeching of other peoples’ bandwidth by including their images in your site). Telling us you requested 1.5 months ago that a certain account be removed from your profile and telling us to correct this immediately? Not so, according to the ticket history – which, by the way, you can easily access to review at any time – wherein you said that you would be removing it, and you’ve made zero requests that we hold your hand through that process. Acting like a total jackhole and demanding a response to a request and telling us that you’re going to “switch hosts” if you don’t get an answer today? Number one, perhaps you should ensure that we actually received that request (we didn’t, according to the mail logs) and number two, perhaps you should ensure that the request is supposed to implemented today (it wasn’t, according to the actual tech person who cleaned up the mess you caused by your virtual stomping of feet). And of course, there’s always my favorite, someone bitching about not getting an email that was sent two nanoseconds ago, or even better, was not received when the sender merely had the passing thought of sending that email: if all you have to do with your time is constantly refresh your site or your mailbox, looking for that latest “l0l” comment on your magnificent and oh-so-interesting blog, or some stupid piece of forwarded chain mail crap, then you definitely need a hobby. In the real world. Moaning about the lack of an instantaneous response in the dead of night/morning here, our time, when there is one person on duty (me) and said person has had to go the NOC to fix yet another issue with your server, which is chronically overloaded? Not going to win you any points with a tired and cranky admin who continually tells you the very same thing over and over again, which you conveniently ignore in favor of whining about the fact that we fixed the problem you made before answering the inevitable jackass ticket that we knew would be awaiting us on the return. Whining about something that you “can’t do (again)”, making it sound as if there is some horrible, ongoing problem? It would help if there was a first report of that problem – or indeed, if there was a ticket from you anywhere in the past six months with a request for anything whatsoever, or a ticket from before that containing a request that your password be reset because you forgot it.

Fortunately for us, the vast majority of the people we deal with day in and day out are normal, polite people. Normal people who simply ask their questions, get their answers, and move on. Without the gnashing of teeth about how terribly tragic their suffering is and complaining that we “just don’t care”. Yeah, that would be why I’m on call 24/7/365 and why I work approximately a million hours a day (ok, more like 16-18 hours) around here. Because quite clearly, we “just don’t care” about anything. Tell that to the people who venture elsewhere and then wind up back on our doorstep because of the “caring” they’ve received at other places.

Not by turkey alone

As amazing as it might seem – since I could eat the standard Thanksgiving type meal every day – there are other foodstuffs in the world just as tasty.

When we made our day trip to Citra to pick up some beef, we also picked up some pork: natural pork, produced by one of their coop members.

Rubbed down with some chipotle-honey marinade, seared, then finished in the oven, served with a pineapple salsa.

Down to the bones

What do you have after your pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal?

A carcass, of course. Looks a bit like one of those bleached out cow skulls, if you squint just right.

And what do you do with such a carcass?

Why, you toss it in a big stockpot with some aromatics and then bag it to use in the real Thanksgiving day gravy making production.

Test run

I don’t know why people don’t eat more turkey throughout the year. Not thin sliced turkey from the deli, but roasted or smoked turkey. It’s good at more times than just the holidays, people. I like turkey better than chicken, to be honest, and could probably eat it every day for lunch and not be bothered terribly much (although those who have lived with me could tell you that I can be rather boring with my meals sometimes, since in a lot of ways, to me, it’s just a stopping point on the route from point a to point b in any given day).

But when you’re expecting a great number of people to show up on your doorstep, hungry, it’s probably best to have a trial of the roasting method you’ll be using on the big day. What better way to experiment than to use the people nearest and dearest to you as guinea pigs? Surely they wouldn’t mind.

I picked up a turkey breast (with ribs and partial wing joints) for our test. At just under six pounds, it was perfect for our small test group. The turkey went into a brine for about four hours. Brine your bird, people! Trust me on this.

After its bath, the bird was rinsed well and patted dry. Since there was no cavity per se in this bird as the back was partially split, nothing got stuffed up its butt before it went into the oven. Some seasonings on the outside, and a rub of a spiced butter under the skin, and it was ready for its big show. Every so often I’d brush it with the remainder of the butter, which melted nicely sitting next to the stove.

In the meantime, my mom showed the boy how to make the stuffing.

Of course, there was extra. This was ours to go with our trial run. The others: in the freezer, awaiting their turn.

What’s a roast turkey meal without mashed potatoes? No roasted garlic in these. Buttermilk, butter, and a splash of half and half. Hey, nobody said it was lowfat.

After a couple of hours in the heat, the turkey was ready for its closeup.

Was it ever.

Turkey goodness.

The drippings? Gravy, naturally. So many people have a hard time with gravy. Too thin. Too lumpy. Drain off most of the fat, leaving a tablespoon or two. Or three, if you want a lot of gravy. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons throughout the pan, turn up the heat a little, and whisk together the fat and the flour. You’re looking for a soft paste consistency. If it clumps up all together, you have too much flour and not enough fat. Cook that for a couple of minutes, to get rid of the flour-y taste. Add your stock or broth. Homemade stock? Even better. Bring the heat to high and whisk away. One of the other mistakes people make is not bringing the heat up sufficiently under the gravy, so it never thickens. Your flour needs that heat, so let it rip. Just watch out for little volcanoes erupting and flinging lava-like gravy bits on your exposed skin. Ouch.

Then, put it all together. That cranberry compote you made? Don’t forget that.

The other fruits of your labor.

And then, it’s dinnertime.

What’s not to like?

Especially when there are leftovers.