I was searching high and low for turkey drumsticks. They’re normally available in most local stores, but suddenly, the weekend before the holiday, we couldn’t find them anywhere. We visited seven groceries. Plenty of whole turkeys, turkey breasts, turkey thighs, ground turkey — but no drumsticks. Finally we found them at Rouse’s on the second visit. They were buried under a mountain of turkey necks.
I bought two packages, ten legs, and marinated them in two bottles of mojo criollo for a couple days. I drove all the way out to Kenner to pick up some pecan wood chunks, but I forgot that Bassil’s Ace is closed on Sundays. Fortunately Michael picked some up for me the next day, and so on Thanksgiving I was able to smoke the turkey over a pecan wood and charcoal fire for about three hours.
I’d never had turkey mojo before, and I was very happy with the result. I’ve tried several different ways with turkey legs; this had the advantage of being supremely easy as well as delicious. The skin was a little tough. That’s the only thing that might bear improving, though I’m not sure how. Other than that they were just about perfect. Even Persephone liked them.
More is merrier for Thanksgiving. My parents came to visit, and we were joined by our friend James as well. At the last minute I also invited my old friend and guitar hero Jeff Lee whom I’d only recently learned was here in town, but he couldn’t make it.
Of course we had plenty of other items on the menu besides just turkey, a vast array in fact, prepared mostly by Xy and my mother, everything from sweet potatoes to turnip greens to cranberry salad.
I’d found a pamphlet full of “Inclusive Mealtime Prayers of Thanksgiving” online, and before the meal I asked my father (as the eldest present) to pick one out and read it before the meal. This is the one he chose:
We thank you for this earth, our home; for the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the ocean and streams, for the towering hills and the whispering wind, for the trees and green grass. We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendor of fields of golden wheat, and taste autumn’s fruit, rejoice in the feel of snow, and smell the breath of spring flowers. Grant us a heart opened wide to all this beauty; and save us from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aflame with glory. For each new dawn is filled with infinite possibilities for new beginnings and new discoveries. Life is constantly changing and renewing itself. In this new day of new beginnings, all things are possible. We are restored and renewed in a joyous awakening to the wonder that our lives are and, yet, can be. Amen.
For desert we had pumpkin pie, which Mom made from scratch, from a real pumpkin — not canned. I didn’t think that was done anymore, and I seem to remember a gourmet chef actually recommending canned over fresh, but Mom’s pie certainly made a powerful case in the opposite direction.
After the game we watched the Big Game. Dad and James and I all caught a nap during the second quarter, but we made our way down to Michael and Therese’s house for the second half.
Of course, my parents came down for more than just a meal. Wednesday morning I took them to campus and we toured the new Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion. Then we went to City Park and wandered through the Besthoff Sculpture Garden for an hour while we waited for the New Orleans Museum of Art to open. Amongst all the paintings, we made a special point to visit the life-size portrait of Marie Antoinette, as recent genetic test results indicate she’s a relative on my father’s side of the family.
My parents are really amazingly active — I was about to add, “for their age,” but the truth is I’d be just as amazed if they were in their twenties instead of their seventies. They were constantly going out for walks and exercise, and they made their way back to City Park at least once to enjoy the loop around Big Lake. A neighbor expressed concern over my father’s safety as he roamed the blocks around our house. I just shrugged and said, “He’s lived a long full life.”
Dad was in the midst of a book about the notorious Skull and Bones Club, and he kept making dark conspiratorial comments about the various skull logos emblazoned on my shirt, scarf and bandanna. Eventually I hinted that he should check out the Illuminati. I shudder to think what might happen to him if he investigates too deeply.
And no visit from my parents would be complete without putting Dad to work on some house projects.
Friday night we headed back to City Park for the first night of Celebration in the Oaks. The crowds were surprisingly thin, perhaps because of the sudden turn in the weather from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold — or maybe people don’t really turn out in great numbers until later in December.
It was a good visit, and a good holiday. I’m also happy to say Thanksgiving no longer vexes and perplexes me. I now understand it as a time to celebrate a particular sentiment — namely, that sense of gratitude we all feel, at least occasionally. Last year I posted a list of people to whom I’m thankful, and that remains pretty accurate. If I wrote such a list now, the main thing I’d want to do is expand the scope, to include the Earth and cosmos.
But Thanksgiving is over, and I’ve got to get back to work on other things.
PS: I finally caught up with Jeff on Friday evening, and we had a blast jabbering into the night for hours on end.