01 December 2009


After a while, four-day weekends start to feel kind of like the fifth or sixth really good downhill run on a long bike ride: it finally dawns on you that what goes down must go back up, and you stop saying "woo-hoo!" and start focusing on gathering steam for what comes after. It's not a bad thing, just not the wild, unfettered jubilation it started out to be.

I mean, hills are good. They're where you feel the strength you've gained since the last ride. They're where you push and test yourself, where you build more strength still, where you feel it surging up through your calves and thighs and lungs even as you wonder whether you'll make it to the top. They're where you learn your limits, and where you learn to bull your way past those limits. There aren't many things as potent as cresting a hill that scared the crap out of you when you saw it coming, and realizing that you did it, and you never once had to get off and push the bike.

Which is a similar feeling to that which comes on the second day back at work, when you get tossed a project that's big, requires a total rewrite -- with imagination thrown in, because the business owner doesn't even like the format as it exists -- and has a two-day turnaround request attached. It takes two hours to beat it into a form that's workable. The Word file is uneditable because it's in a fragmented table format that refuses to be converted to text; the PDF has to be exported and sorted out first. By the end of the day, it's starting to make sense, but now you've got to figure out what to do with it.

I love what I do -- translating "corporate-speak" into real, everyday language so our customers can understand it. Much of it's legalese, and almost all of it's obscure and jargony, and I take pleasure in wrestling half-page paragraphs down to a few concise sentences that actually make sense.

But Wednesday, I had other things to do. I'd ridden the bike to work, and I was grateful to have the only director to show up in our department declare the holiday to officially start at 1 p.m. instead of 5. It gave me time to ride home by way of Spring Street (Clifton Community Garden at left), Frankfort Avenue (the Wine Cellar), Shelbyville Road (Breadworks), and Evergreen (Anchorage -- big hills and bigger money). By the time I arrived at the house, my panniers were loaded with two bottles of wine, two large loaves of bread, and of course, my shoes and dress clothes from the office. We stopped at Paul's Vegetable and Fruit Market on the way back to church.

Thursday, I shared the kitchen with my daughter. In summer, we share space in the garden -- in winter, it's the kitchen. We work around each other very well, and when called for, we collaborate effectively. Mostly, though, she has her areas of expertise and I have mine and we negotiate timetables. Briony bakes, I do sides, Ed smokes the turkey on the grill (a charcoal kettle grill that's about three feet tall, 18 inches in diameter, and has more versatility than you could ever imagine). Bri mixes, I wipe counters, Ed brings the turkey in after two hours to finish up in the oven. I chop, Bri rinses mixing bowls and implements to use again for the next project, and Ed goes to watch a football game.

Eventually, my daughter always saves the day, because eventually -- inevitably -- I sustain some kind of inadvertent injury and have to take a break. This year, it was the finger that found itself under the knife blade as said knife was slicing through the whole-grain cranberry loaf that went in the stuffing. Not sure how it happens, but I always manage to NOT bleed in the food. But bleed I did...

Bri's fiance, Rob, helped me with bandaids. We got four on the cut, and it immediately soaked through and started dripping blood onto the floor. I held a paper towel over the cut, tightly, but every time I let go, it started running down my hand again. We put on four more bandaids, tighter. It dripped. They were talking stitches, I was arguing that it would be ridiculous to go to the ER for a cut finger on Thanksgiving Day. The cut was a whole quarter of an inch long, on the side of my finger between the nail and the pad. You wouldn't think that much blood could come out of such a teensy slice.

Finally, Ed called the urgent care clinic at my request. I agreed I'd go there if they were open. They weren't, so Rob wrapped the finger in several layers of gauze and tape. It soaked through pretty quickly, but it didn't drip. I sat down for a few minutes to catch my breath and manufacture a few replacement red cells, Bri finished constructing the stuffing, and life went on.

The turkey was perfect. Early in the day, we'd had Lynne Rosetto Kasper on the radio with her Thanksgiving Day "Turkey Confidential," and she'd inspired me to try something I hadn't done before. I'd loosened the skin from the bird's chest and thighs and rubbed butter and seasonings densely under the skin -- parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. A Scarborough Faire turkey. More butter and seasonings in the chest cavity, two hours on the grill, two more in the oven, and I don't think we've ever had a more perfect turkey. It was juicy, tender, and actually even easy to carve, a task that's always been a challenge for us.

The key ingredients in the stuffing were Andouille sausage and the cranberry bread -- rich, dark, and spicy. Bri made spicy sweet potatoes, I made Brussels sprouts in cream. (I was the only one to eat any of them, but the rest went into a vegetable chowder last night, and it seems to be something of a hit, at least!) I'd found a recipe for cranberry-citrus chutney, but forgot to get the lemon and orange it called for. Fortunately, I still had half a box of clementines, three of which went in the chutney. It was probably sweeter than it was supposed to be, but still lovely. There was a savory pasta salad that had been marinating in the fridge for two days -- the perfect amount of time for something like that to gather flavor -- and apple pie and ice cream for dessert.

The best part of the meal came when I asked for an opinion on the stuffing (the recipe called for cornbread, and I'd just decided on impulse to substitute the cranberry bread). There was praise for the modification, and then Rob said, "It's all good. I mean, you remembered to put the sugar in the cranberries this year!" Bri started giggling and said, "Yeah, and the pies are actually cooked!" They were recalling Thanksgiving three or four years ago, when they'd only just begun dating, when I had indeed missed putting the sugar in the cranberry chutney, so it had "pucker power" that couldn't be beat. And Bri had pulled some diced pumpkin out of the freezer and made pies, only to discover the pumpkin had been put up raw -- when the pies came out of the oven, the pumpkin was still frozen in spots.

I think it was last Christmas -- or maybe it was Easter -- the kids were suggesting we pack the rolls up and send 'em to the Marines. The yeast hadn't done its job, the dough hadn't risen, and the rolls were basically the consistency of artillery shells. This holiday, the rolls didn't come until Friday morning -- I didn't start them early enough, and they didn't have time for their second rising -- and they weren't a whole lot better, although you could at least bite into them without risk of breaking a tooth. Eventually -- someday -- I will locate that good recipe I used to have, and we will have rolls again. Until then, I think I'll stick to my fallback position, which is a third stop on the way home, at Plehn's Bakery in St. Matthews. It's right on my way, just a couple miles east of the Wine Cellar, on the bus route to Middletown in case the bike and I decide to ride, and they have rolls that can't be beat!

Friday, the kids were off to work and Ed and I sat around and digested, for the most part. Saturday, I actually got out for a ride with the Louisville Bike Club, from Waterfront Park to Shawnee Park and back. I only rode as far as Shawnee Golf Course -- a couple miles shy of the round trip -- but between that and the ride home, I put in 30 miles altogether. Unfortunately, I left my fleece headband at home. The damp chill and the wind settled in my left ear, and it's been aching ever since.

But it was a wonderful weekend. I've felt rested and glad to be at work this week, and I'm thankful. As I said at church Wednesday night, when the mic came around to me, I'm thankful for music, for laughter, for my garden, and for people to share them with.

And, I might add now, for my bike, my kitchen, my family, and Lynne Rosetto Kasper. For Andouille and for cranberry bread. For brussels sprouts, heavy cream, and clementines. And for sweet potatoes, apple pie, and Breyer's ice cream.

For every good gift and every perfect gift, thanks be to God.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday! Thanks be to God!