A Reggie Black Friday

(Today’s post, Thanksgiving dinner from the land of perpetual sunshine, is courtesy of Reggie Black.  I’m thankful for Reggie’s contribution today and even though I’m not out shopping, this makes it officially “Black Friday” here on the blog…”Reggie Black Friday.”) 

She didn’t get home as early as planned from her mother’s, which made her late getting a start on Thanksgiving dinner.  Fortunately, I discovered that a rolling Igloo cooler filled with hot water from the shower does wonders to defrost a frozen turkey.  I put the bird in late yesterday afternoon, and this morning the bird was soft and the water still warm.  At least she would have a ready turkey to work with.

Instead, her first job was dessert; the girl has her priorities.  She made strawberry pie from local strawberries, dicing them up, putting them in a baked crust and then pouring a boiled sugar sauce with a little corn starch over them.  Into the freezer to set up, and on to bigger things.

A few years ago we started cooking the turkey using very high heat, breast down and sealed in foil so the juices don’t escape.  We learned to leave the cavity of the bird open so the high heat cooks from the inside out.  This year, she tried leaving the bird uncovered and turning it from side to side every twenty minutes for the first hour and a half before finally leaving it breast up for the final baking.

Outside I tended to the autumn cucumbers, stringing them up to a mesh they will climb.  Her autumn squash are covered with blossoms, the spinach is growing, the arugula is ready for our salads and the mustard greens and lettuce are right behind.  It’s probably about time to start pulling the sweet potatoes out back, too.

Despite occasional calls for help turning the bird, my son and I worked on getting the rust off of our tools.  I trained him how to brush the rust off and use naval jelly on a shovel gone badly rusty.  He worked hard at it, but the poor quality metal in the shovel might not be salvageable.  He turned the compost heap which has shrunk to half its starting size, even though we keep adding kitchen scraps to it.  I showed him the rich black compost forming down below, and he was pleased to see his work rewarded.

While our white cat followed us around outside and my daughter worked steadily in the kitchen inside, I was struck by how quiet this Thanksgiving was.  There was no noise.  Every other day of the week some lawnmower, some leaf blower, some zero-turn grass cutter with a budding Dale Earnhardt at the wheel can be heard grating and blasting nearby, but not today.  It was very peaceful.

I feared the turkey would be dry, but it was done perfectly.  She succeeded again.  Mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, dressing.  Where’s the vegetable?  Her eyes turned skyward and she whistled.  She even made a cinnamon buttered sweet potato for me.  He, meanwhile, becoming more aware of where our food comes from, commented that our turkey probably didn’t get to express its turkey-ness much in life.

Through dinner they quizzed me about Sparta, Athens and the Persians.  I told them about Xenophon’s Anabasis, the ambushed Greek army deep in Persian territory (now Turkey) and their long fight to reach Greece again.  I reminded them that Leonidas and his men sacrificed themselves to hold back the Persian army long enough for the rest of Greece to mobilize and ultimately defeat the Persian invaders.  We also discussed the imperial overreach of democratic Athens, and how it ultimately led to Athens’ fall.

“Do you remember going to Sicily?” I asked, and they did.  “Do you remember going to that quarry in Syracuse, the one with the cave in the rear that carried sound perfectly up to the king so he could spy on his prisoners?”  They did.  “That was where the Athenian army that invaded Syracuse ended up after surrendering, left to starve to death in that quarry.”  Their eyes opened wide.

How did we get on ancient Greece?  Because I was reminding them that ancient peoples, and even the bushmen of Africa and the aborigines of Australia, had far more rigorous tests, far more knowledge to learn, than children of today have to pass to become adults in their societies.  “Remember the beginning of 300, and Leonidas out in the wild facing the wolf?”  And we were off from there, all over ancient Greece.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving.  This was not the first Thanksgiving dinner she has cooked entirely by herself, and she normally cooks our household dinner more than once every week.

She is 13, her brother is 12, and they are homeschooled.

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4 Responses to A Reggie Black Friday

  1. jbomb62 says:

    There is a great deal of noise and talk about “basic skills,” at least in some of the circles that I butt up against. These rarely ever include the kind of “basics” you are writing about here.

    Looking back over my life, I recognize how ill-prepared I was for the world of adulthood. Somehow, Mary and I managed and we learned about parenting, making a living, and as we get a bit older, finding a different way of living our lives.

    I’m happy to read about your daughter cooking Thanksgiving dinner and you helping your children know about food and where it comes from.

    There was an article in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram about schools deep-sixing their home economics (now called consumer science) classes because of budgets and the need to adhere to core requirements. http://www.pressherald.com/news/Family_and_consumer_science_on_chopping_block.html?pagenum=2

    It seems like home schooling is an alternative way to go, as public education in many instances has become an absolute joke.

  2. Loosehead Prop says:

    When she was at school in England (which school was far from good, but this is to make a point) she and all her other classmates were expected to arrive, mix a batch of brownies/cookies/biscuits from scratch, cook them, clean up all the dishes, and leave with the cooked items in a one-hour class.

    She came here to one of the most highly rated middle schools in the state, the feeder to one of the “top ten” high schools in the state, and found a cooking lesson consisted of she and her classmates sitting and taking notes while a teacher, one of those highly skilled, highly trained professionals, ripped open a box of Betty Crocker. Kids, don’t try this at home, she’s a skilled professional.

    The one time the students actually prepared something, the teacher sat behind her desk and the students gathered in clumps, helpless. It was my daughter who ran around from group to group telling them what to do, what not to do, and getting these babies who had never mixed an egg and flour and oil and milk together in their whole lives–who had been reared to be helpless, with the school as willing accomplice–and she got chewed out by the teacher for it.

    Yep, they are homeschooled now, and they both say they are so much busier and learning so much more, now that they have eight hours per day of their lives back from the state. They cook, garden, learn guitar (self-taught and I am impressed how fast she caught on to it). Without the impedimenta of government schooling telling them when to stop and start and holding them back, children learn with blazing speed.

    BTW, that’s not her turkey, that’s a chicken she cooked in England. We had a camera failure on Thanksgiving.

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