Thursday, November 27, 2014

Time Passages

History may repeat itself, but it should always be open to tweaking.

As one who rarely goes out of town for Thanksgiving, I long ago decided to make the most of Thanksgiving Eve. Considered one of the biggest bar nights of the year, I've made it a ritual to spend the evening out and about with other city-bound friends.

Last year, we switched things up and chose to stay in and make dinner instead; it was such a hit that we decided on a repeat this year. Taking a cue from the media and their made-up terminology, you could call it a "Friends-giving Eve" celebration. Or not.

By the time I walked home from a late afternoon interview, wet and cold from the wintry mix that was falling (two days after it was 78 degrees, what the hell?), I needed to jump immediately in the shower to make my FGE party.

When I arrived, seasonal Beaujolais Nouveau had already been poured and garlic was being prepped. I immediately began helping peel as a glass of Picpoul de Pinet was poured for me.

You see, what we'd discovered last year was how much fun we'd had all making dinner together as our cocktail hour activity. And, of course, it isn't an hour, but several.

My host is a stickler for choosing the appropriate soundtrack for an evening, beginning tonight with the 1978 album by Al Stewart, "Time Passages." I admit, I'd probably never heard the entire album before. But, sure, why not start with 1978?

So while it wasn't exactly a "Big Chill" kind of a kitchen prep scene (none of us were dancing at this point), there were a lot of different activities and multiple conversations going on at any given moment in one of the two adjacent rooms that make up my friend's kitchen. Yes, two rooms - one has a stove and refrigerator, the other has sink, dishwasher and counters. It's no weirder than my friend.

While he's sauteing onions and she's opening more wine - the smooth Gassier "Sables d'Azur" Rose - I'm instructed to remove the Sausagecraft mild Italian sausage from its casing. No problem.

I do this the only way I have ever done it, the totally satisfying way. I squeeze the casing until the loose sausage spurts out, leaving a slick but empty casing in my hand. Then I slide my hand down and repeat.

Think what you will, but I feel like the Sausagecraft guys would totally approve of my hands-on method.

My curly haired friend is aghast at my technique, presuming I was going to delicately slice the casing open to remove the sausage. Where's the fun in that, I ask? She watches in amazement as I squeeze out the contents of 15 inches of sausage, laughing at my fat-slicked hands.

When I explain that it's satisfying in the same way that popping bubble wrap is, my host pipes up from the stove where he's making sauce, asking, "Do you want some bubble wrap now?" He's giving me the raised eyebrow that says he can make it happen. Negative.

Instead, he pulls out a diminished bottle of Espolon and pours the remaining liquid into three mini shot glasses for a Thanksgiving eve toast. Looking at his girlfriend with a pained expression, he tells her they'll have to wait until Friday to replace the bottle since ABC stores are closed tomorrow.

This leads to a lively discussion of the "deals" the ABC is offering on Black Friday and the drawing they're holding for a gift certificate. Given the abundance of archaic ABC regulations, the notion of sales and prizes seems out of whack for a state agency.

But I also saw on my way to the Northern Neck yesterday that Southern States is opening at 7 a.m. on Friday and for the life of me, I can't imagine who'll be there at that hour. To get a deal on feed? Grain? Seriously?

At one point, my friend looks at me solemnly and announces apropos of nothing, "Your bangs are too short."

This is meant as humor because he has a long history of telling me my bangs are too long every time I see him. Even funnier, I'd been about to walk out the door tonight when I'd gone back into the bathroom and trimmed my bangs so he couldn't chide me for a change. "Just kidding, they look great!"

Everyone's a comedian on Thanksgiving eve.

As I move on to slicing a baguette for garlic bread and arranging antipasto in bowls, the music gets a bit rougher with "Sticky Fingers: The Alternate Album," a Rolling Stones' bootleg. So while the songs are mostly familiar, they may lack lead guitar or overdubs; maybe it's just a rehearsal take, a mono mix or an instrumental.

Not being a big Stones fan, I enjoy some cuts more than others. My host plays air guitar and air sax to "Sisters Morphine" and "All Down the Line" while I prefer the "Wild Horses" track with Gram Parsons on pedal steel since I play air nothing.

Over dinner, we share stories from last week's Beaujolais tastings, experienced on two different evenings since he was out of town the night of the release I attended. This leads to stories about the annual conference that kept him away, the meals he ate and the demise of the chocolate bombe dessert he's had in years past.

Our dessert had come from Fresh Market's bakery which he said looked like it had been sucked dry by hordes of hostesses buying them out of almost everything. He'd spied some bakers in the back frantically making Napoleons while he'd ordered our chocolate. All that mattered to us was that he'd secured it ("Do you want some chocolate, little girls?" he inquires lasciviously).

Eating behind us, we adjourned to the living room for wine and music, beginning with something so rhythmic I immediately began dancing. He followed suit. It was the Mavericks' "Melbourne Mamba," and I'd heard of neither the group nor the song.

Our host claimed that they were a country band, but I found it hard to hear that since the music had a decidedly Latin flair. Turns out they're from Miami and have taken on a far more Latin bent since leaving Nashville behind. By that point in the evening, it was a terrific choice for someone who loves to dance (that would be me) and friends who'd been partying for hours.

"Haven't I been nice to you tonight?" my friend asks as I go to leave. We've all been nice to each other. It's all part of another evening of Thanksgiving eve music, a group-made meal and the kind of fun worth repeating every year.

Too short, my ass. Friends are so much easier than family.


  1. so what do you'll be fun.


  2. So by VMFA, I assume you mean Best Cafe for lunch?