Dear Family and Friends (a.k.a. “framily”):
For the last several days, dear Cari has been dropping frequent and pointed hints that I’m due for a “Keeping up with the Family” post. So, here you are, Cari – your oft-requested post. (Ta da!)
I titled this post “Fall Frenzy,” but in some ways, it would have been just as honest to title it “Feeding Frenzy.” Have I mentioned that in addition to living with restaurant owners, the branches of my PNW framily are filled with amazing cooks? And as if those things didn’t cause me to have much yumminess to share, several of my framily members have been teaching me about the diverse gastronomic culture of the greater Portland area. Since they’ve shared with me, I can share with you. We learn together. Isn’t this fun?
As we all began to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, someone (I think it was Andy, but I can’t quite recall) had the idea that we should have a pumpkin-themed baking party. (What is it about us and themed food parties? Anybody remember #BaconFest back in January?) Obviously, we all realized what a stupendous idea Andy’d had. Three email threads and two weeks later, we crashed Kate & Brent’s house for #BakingWithKate.
The #BakingWithKate event was a pretty smashing success. We bent the rules and allowed non-pumpkin-themed recipes, as well. Everyone that tested Barb’s bacon-jalapeno cheeseball will tell you that it was probably better without pumpkin. And since it was devoured, we can’t prove it to you—you’ll just have to take our word for it. I also decided that I wanted to take a shot at making Moravian ginger cookies like we used to get from Old Salem when I was a kid. There was no pumpkin in them, but I’m happy to say there were no leftovers. (I’m thinking about making a batch this weekend to feed to the co-workers next week, as we wrap up the fall term and close up campus for the holidays.)
Since folks were coming over to bake and sample dessert-type items, Kate, Brent, and I decided we should probably come up with a heavier, meal-type offering. Brent—always happy to grill and/or smoke us some meat—provided (with Kate’s help) some amazing pork, bacon-wrapped scallops, and stuffed mushrooms. Using a borrowed crockpot (since mine is, of course, in storage in North Carolina) and a borrowed recipe (thanks, Aunt Becky!) I whipped up a batch of “crockpot potatoes.” (Taters + cream cheese + sour cream + butter = the reason why we only make it once a year!)
Kate and Brent decided to keep me overnight. Well, of course that meant that Kate and I had to make brunch the next morning. Kate made good old homemade cinnamon rolls. I made a grits casserole. Now, let me digress for a moment. Months ago, Dad sent me a bag of grits and I immediately started offering to share them with folks. As much as my folks out here love to eat, I figured the bag of grits would just disappear. But no. Try as I might, I couldn’t get anybody to as much as try a mouthful of them. But Brent, bless his heart, said, “Heck, yeah! Sounds good!” So, I made a grits casserole for brunch. Y’all, their picky children asked for seconds and I think Brent licked the pan. Seriously. Not a bite left.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving. I went to spend the holiday on the mountain with Cari, Jon, and their family. I had tweaked the grits casserole just a bit (to make it a little creamier) and I got up Thanksgiving morning and made it for the family. Not a mouthful left. Pretty sure that Jon and his Dad, Gus, finally stopped serving themselves and just started eating it out of the baking dish.
And since I fast forwarded, let’s go ahead and discuss Thanksgiving…
When I was a teenager, Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. That was about the time we finally moved close to my grandparents, and also the time that my Dad’s sister started coming down from Indiana to have Thanksgiving with us. For the first time, we started having Thanksgiving with both sides of our family—and I loved it. Lunch with Mama’s relatives. Supper with Daddy’s relatives. We got to see and enjoy them all. But then, I grew up. My Mom’s parents passed away. My Dad’s youngest brother (who hosted Thanksgiving supper) moved. And that was the end of that era. (If any of you are reading this – I MISS IT and I miss you!)
Honestly, I didn’t even consider flying home for Thanksgiving. It just seemed way too much time and expense when my family wasn’t even going to be having the holiday together. Or so I thought. (I was glad to learn that some of my family did get together for the day. Thanks, Adam and Mary for hosting!)
Then, I got adopted by my friend Cari and her family. Cari’s husband was going to fry the turkey—which I’d never had, but had always wanted to try—and Cari was going to try her hand at making a semi-Southern meal. SUH-WEET!
Collards. Sweet potatoes. Mac and cheese. Biscuits (from SCRATCH, y’all!). Try not to drool on your keyboards.
And of course, a trip to the mountain wouldn’t be complete without a hike. So on Friday, after making oatmeal pancakes for the family, Cari and I got in Creampuff (the PT Cruiser I inherited from Mama) and headed for the Salmon River. We worked off some of the calories we’d ingested over the two weeks. And had a blast doing it!
Sarah, what do you do besides cook and eat? And occasionally hike?
The answer to that, right now, is work. I’m still loving my job. It is, however, pretty taxing right now as my supervisor is on maternity leave and I’m pulling double duty. The first weekend of December was our Holiday Gala—which for me, wasn’t a party, but work. I’m excited for some time off over Christmas.
I did manage to go to the Oregon Zoo this past weekend with my friends, Chris and Malcolm, to see the zoo lights, in the rain. (Because, as Nick tells me, in Oregon, if you wait for the rain to stop, you’ll never do anything or go anywhere.) This coming weekend, we’re planning to walk Peacock Lane (a popular local Christmas lights attraction), in the rain. Well, we have a 60% chance of rain, and this is the Pacific Northwest…
And on a completely different subject, congratulations to my cousin Rachel! I was talking to my Dad on the phone today and he said, “Oh, I have to tell you something! Aunt Becky told Mom that Rachel and Justin went to the Justice of the Peace and got married today. They decided they wanted to get married on 12/12/12.” Very cool, Rach! I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m happy for you. And I wish you and Justin the very, very best! I’m coming home for a week in March. Let’s get together and celebrate your birthday AND your wedding.
And that’s my life, folks. Feel free to share what’s going on with you!