Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Wish Turkey

Like all food-obsessed people, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no resolutions, no egg hunts, no fireworks, no costumes, no trees and no gifts. There ain't nothin' but the food. And generally, it is precisely that fact for which I am most thankful on Thanksgiving. It is one of the few holidays in which there are no distractions to keep your eye from the prize.
But I also think there is no better time to take stock of your life. Sure, most people save that kind of soul-searching for New Year’s, when they waste a lot of time and energy making promises to themselves that they have no intention of keeping, but I think Thanksgiving is a much better time for that kind of thing. Well, not the whole part about the false promises exactly…
I (try to) spend most of the month of November coming up with my list of things for which I am thankful. And since so much time is spent on this subject, I’m able to quickly get past the obvious (like being thankful for my family) and move on to the much longer list of mundane things (like giving thanks for my funnel, which makes it easier to fill the peppercorn grinder, and which was missing for the past week because the Big Boy had commandeered it for some project in his toy box). The longer the list, the better my life seems, and the happier I am overall. After all, if the list is too short, then it’s time to take a long, hard look at myself so that I can figure out what needs to change in my life.
But I’m not talking about dumb year-long resolutions when I talk about making changes. I will not ever, for any reason, pick some arbitrary ideal that will need to be dealt with every single day for the next year. 365 days is too long to either NOT do something on a daily basis or to ACTUALLY DO another kind of something. I don’t want to learn a new word every day for the entire year of 2008. Nor will I go all year long without eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Period. That kind of nonsense is all too confining. Too serious. Too. Doggone. Boring.
I was never into making New Year’s Resolutions anyway, though there was a time in which I did come up with a List of Things I Want To Do This Year. You know, a couple of fun things, like take a vacation to a new place, or learn something new, maybe write a short story, goals in which I had a full year to find the time to get to them. But even that seemed too rigid.
My buddy DC said to heck with the whole thing and strung up a Wish Scarecrow in his yard one year for a New Year’s Eve party. He had us all write down our list of Things We Wished For in 2001 to add to the scarecrow. I remember my list distinctly because we all wrote down 2 copies, one for the scarecrow and one to keep so that we could check the list at the end of the year to see how it all shook out (my list was taped to the first page of my organizer, staring me in the face every single day). I’m sure some of us probably wished for world peace, or an end to hunger, but my list was much more ambitious.
I wished for a marriage that would satisfy us both (we were newlyweds at the time), for the perfect house to come up for sale at a price we could afford (that didn’t happen for a few more years), and for all of my friends to find happiness. I’m still waiting on that last one. A cure for cancer will be easier to find than a cure to sadness.
The whole concept was kind of fun, if a little idolatrous. At the stroke of midnight, we all put our lists in the pocket of the scarecrow’s jacket, and then DC lit the scarecrow on fire. It was whimsical, a little bonding thing amongst friends, and the fire kept us warm on that defiantly cold night out in the woods off Jefferson Road.
But when it was over, I remember cocking my head to the side and thinking,” Wait a minute. All my wishes just went up in smoke.” I walked away with little hope for my list.
So I suppose my substitute proposal is for an annual Wish Turkey. I don’t eat birds, so I have no issues with lighting the turkey on fire before the Thanksgiving feast begins.
My list of Things to be Thankful For is longer than ever this year, but I have been reminded, in much starker detail than I might prefer, that I still have friends who haven’t settled into the comfortable happiness that I would wish for them. And though I don’t have the power to make people happy, I do have the ability to reach out to those friends who are struggling and to throw them a life preserver.
And I won’t forget to give thanks. Today I’m especially thankful that Christopher Kimball has lowered the bar for all of us when it comes to preparing Thanksgiving dinner, most specifically because he is the editor of the magazine from which I spent an inordinate amount of time cooking complex recipes for last year’s feast. And, at the moment, I’m even more thankful for this Peanut Butter Bar recipe that makes a batch gi-normous enough to get us through an entire week’s worth of sweet tooth cravings. As a matter of fact, I'm gonna go practice my thankfulness by eating another piece right now...
PEANUT BUTTER BARS (adapted from the AJC Food Section)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter, plus 1/2 cup for icing
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • approximately 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  1. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs to butter mixture and mix well.
  4. Add peanut butter to butter mixture.
  5. Gradually mix dry ingredients in.
  6. Mix in vanilla.
  7. Spread in a lightly greased 11x14 inch jellyroll pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until edges just begin to turn golden (mixture will still be soft). The trick is to NOT overbake these.
  9. Combine confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup peanut butter and about 1/4 cup evaporated milk. Add milk, little by little, until you get an icing of thin, spreadable consistency.
  10. Spread icing on bars right after baking.

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