Ok, imagine this...
I was 19, and decided I was ready to be on my own. I found this cute little studio in Sunnyvale that had a walk-in closet and a dine-in kitchen in its own room enough for three people to cook in. Yes, it was pretty big for a studio, but I got it and was hyped up about that. So, with my then boyfriend, I decided to host my very first Thanksgiving dinner for my folks.
So first came the shopping.
I didn't have much money so I only bought the turkey, cans of corn and Stove Top stuffing. That's it, but I was determined to make it work, so I made sure the turkey was thawing in the fridge and the stuffing and corn are easily found. Eventually, I was able to scrape enough money to buy juice and dessert, but my main goal was the turkey. I was so excited I kept testing out the oven to make sure that it worked since I've never used it before since I moved in.
I woke up early and prepared the bird. I carefully took out the neck, rubbed vegetable oil on it, cleaned the other end, and gingerly placed it on the roasting rack that came free with the turkey. I put it back in the fridge, preheated the oven and glanced at my list for what's next(did I mention I don't do recipes?). I just trusted the instruction on the turkey wrapping and hoped for the best. The oven beeped as I was answering the door. My boyfriend showed up early to help and I had him place it in the oven for me and watch the clock for the 6-8 hour cooking time.We cleaned the whole place; he mopped and vacuumed; I took care of the kitchen and the bathroom. My mattress, bed linens and pillow were folded and placed in the closet. I had one sofa, a small TV, and a table with four chairs.
After 5 hours, I checked the turkey, basted it and started to set the table in front of the sofa, surrounded by the chairs. I started the rice in the rice cooker and started to boil the turkey neck for my "turkey and corn" stuffing. I checked to see how chilled the juices are and if we have enough glasses. Prior to moving into my studio, I found very inexpensive glasses and some plates. So, my very first Thanksgiving table was decorated with a paper tablecloth but with real plates, glasses and utensils. I didn't know about vinyl tablecloths.
7th hour comes around and stuffing was assembled and cooked, rice steaming happily and the turkey's smelling great... I was feeling good!
At 6:00 PM, my family shows up, and the turkey's mouth-watering aroma is invading the whole studio from under the foil. I started to assign their seats, but couldn't fit everyone on the table, so back it went in the kitchen with the food. We ended up using the table to hold the dinnerware. After everyone had a plate full of the stuffing and the rice, I had my boyfriend use the table to carve the bird. We put it back in the living room in front of my family and everything went just great. The turkey was moist, the skin crispy and golden. The stuffing was surprisingly delicious. My mom approved. Then, my family asked for seconds,mainly the dark meat.
As my boyfriend hacked at the legs, I remembered the stuffing inside the bird and I asked if people wanted some. Everyone said yes, so that was next to be divied up. I get further inside, and I couldn't dig through, I try again and pops out this perfectly steamed envelope of giblets! (My mom, just minutes before asked if I used the giblets in my stuffing and I confidently said, "it didn't come with it, they must have forgotten".)
We all thought it was so funny, my mom was still laughing until after she was out the door. My perfect evening quickly ended with the giblets; cranberry and apple juices kept on spilling, plates full of food kept being dropped (thank goodness for carpets!) and the TV didn't work! I don't remember the dessert, but I know that we had just enough for everybody.
Overall, it was a great evening and I will always be grateful for how my family showed up and as a family, we celebrated our very first Thanksgiving together- typically, we just bypassed Thanksgiving or we were invited at some relatives house, but never quite felt very welcomed.
That night was my first real attempt at hosting a holiday dinner.
Back in 1997, as a new wife to Charlie, my family again asked me to host a Thanksgiving dinner that was followed by two more, but in different years. That adventure was another story for another day. In those three years, we always had a great time and the turkey was always a hit. Now, every year, my mom asks me, "where is the turkey?" I miss her so much...
The following pictures should give you an idea on how I, a Filipino (there's no Philippine Thanksgiving), personally adapted to this holiday after each move. One staple drink we always had since we moved to AZ, is the Mango Pineapple juice from Dole. It was our way of honoring me, a tropical chef in an arid climate. It's still a tradition to this day...
I'd like to think that I grew up a bit in my preparing for Thanksgiving.
Of course, we weren't always the host, some were only videotaped and some Thanksgiving where we had so much fun, we forgot to take pictures!
November 29, 2007: Texas (moved here June 2007)
November 24, 2005: Arizona
November 25, 2004: Arizona
Please leave comments; I love tablescapes, and I welcome any new ideas.
Wait for my 2008 tablescape on the next post!