I can’t even say how much I admire all you grownup adults who have cooked Thanksgiving dinners. Whether you’re a mom who got up early to do whatever you do to a turkey, a grandma who painstakingly prepared a dressing (or stuffing) from an old recipe, or a college student who mysteriously knows how to turn out perfect pies and cakes, happy Thanksgiving, and happy Black Friday. I figured I’d write something for you to read while everyone else is watching the Sports Event, or Gone With the Wind on Sundance. Or maybe you’re already camped out in line for the Bass Pro Shop Gift Card Giveaway, or sitting in an airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Anyway, this one’s for you…
For Thanksgiving, my extended family always congregates at my parents’ house. A smoked turkey always sort of appears, my mom and aunts make dressing (stuffing—whatever), my dad concocts a brilliant dessert, and I make a less-than-brilliant gluten-free one. This year, I decided to make a flan (Mexican custard with delicious molten sugar topping), and a gluten-free chocolate pie with whipped cream, pomegranate sauce, fresh fruit, and whipped coconut cream for those in my family with food allergies.
My mother warned me not to try and make too many things. But I ignored her. I’m a grownup adult, I thought—I’m gonna make desserts, they’re gonna taste great, and they’re gonna look great online. Then I actually got started.
First, an old standby—flan.
To make flan, you need six eggs, a can of evaporated milk, and a can of condensed milk. All these things go in a blender, then the custard mix goes in a pan coated with liquid sugar. I’d braved the baking aisle, crawling under carts to get to the evaporated milk, and I knew I had everything. I assembled the ingredients, ready to caramelize the sugar and not get ANOTHER scar (long story…no, not that long. I burned my hand really bad making the flan topping when I was in high school and still have the scar. The end.) But I realized, as I prepared to blend the custard together, that I was missing something…a blender.
My food processor is too little. And I just don’t have the patience to sit there and blend things by hand. Plus, what if it came out wrong? With much moaning and groaning, I decided to skip the flan.
Thomas, always one to say stuff people already know, reminded me that my mom had warned me about trying to make too many things. I scoffed. So I didn’t have a blender. I had other stuff I could make…I was a grownup adult, after all. I had a blog and access to Pinterest. I could make another dessert—and people would be proud.
I had a recipe I’d been dying to try—Blackberry Gingerbread Waffles. Sounds good, right? Ginger, molasses, blackberries…like autumn in a batter. I figured I’d make the batter, but instead of turning it into waffles, I’d make muffins. Add some icing, done. How does Lindsay do it, my family would ask? How does she get Andrew into clothes, get herself showered, and make TWO desserts, all while working part-time?? She’s a miracle. A wonder of God’s own creation.
Anyway, I’m convinced they knew they were supposed to be waffles, not muffins. They were baked, but they cracked and sweated and generally looked up at me with indifference. Never mind. This wouldn’t happen.
“Just make the pie, that’s enough,” Thomas told me wearily. But I refused. I was determined to salvage the idea of two desserts. He sighed and continued watching Wallace and Gromit with Andrew.
I wasn’t going to be defeated. Toffee! That’s what I would make! I’d done it a million times in my life—or at least twelve. I’d make some toffee covered in chocolate, everyone would eat it, and life would continue to be social-media-worthy. I dumped all our butter, half our sugar, and a pinch of salt into the boiler and began the long process of “constantly stirring until the toffee becomes amber-colored”, or whatever.
I stirred with a white plastic spoon, staring down at the yellow-white mixture, listening to the butter sizzle in the pot. The parchment paper was lining a cookie sheet, ready for the toffee that would be perfectly toffee-colored and covered in chocolate.
About halfway through the long process, I realized I was having to stir harder than I had been. No giving up, you dork, I told myself. Then I lifted the spoon out and realized that it had melted. Yep…the entire spoon part had been consumed within the fires of Mount Doom, and all I had was the handle part. Like Gollum, I felt really stupid and realized I’d wasted a lot of time. But like Frodo, I had to face the rest of the movie (I didn’t finish the book, so…all you LOTR nerds, keep it to yourselves).
Dejected and mortified, I threw out the entire pot of gross plastic-toffee, gathered up all the rest of the sugar, and ordered a now-tired-of-this Thomas into the kitchen. “Read the recipe for chocolate pudding from scratch!”, I demanded. “Mix butter into the graham-cracker crumbs!” (For the crust). “I want this pie out of my life!” He was all too happy to have that happen.
I beat the sugar, egg, and flour with a fork, singing sea shanties to keep my motivation up, until I realized halfway in that I’d promised the pudding pie would be gluten-free—the bowl of custard was tossed into the fridge, then tossed into the trash when I realized that a sleepy me might mistake it for oatmeal in the middle of the night.
By this point, the sink was piled high with dirty dishes, none of my tablespoons were clean, and with the help of an online conversion chart, I was ladling a thousand teaspoons worth of cocoa powder, almond flour, and sugar into the last clean bowl we had, praying I hadn’t lost count. An hour later, the pudding was made and cooling in the crust. The pie was done, and I was off to bed.
All night, visions of flan and the ghosts of muffins chased me through stress dreams. When I woke up, I drank a bunch of coffee and began the last part of the dessert—the toppings. Whipped coconut cream that wouldn’t whip (so a bunch of vaguely coconut-themed shaving cream), fruit that didn’t make it out of the house, and a pomegranate sauce that…actually turned out ok.
We brought Andrew and the surviving desserts over to my parents’ house, where my father was sauntering around in the same shirt he’d worn for two days, taking impeccable apple frangipane tarts out of the oven and carving turkey with a chill attitude that just ticked me off. I also informed my aunt that never mind, I would NOT be Black Friday shopping with anyone because a series of disasters had rendered me exhausted.
But hey, my mom ate the pie with pomegranate sauce and she said it was really good. And that’s all that matters.
So anyway, to those of you celebrating by snoozing in front of a sporting event or awkwardly sitting on couches wondering if you’re the only one watching, as well as to those already waiting to storm the gates of Target at midnight, Happy Thanksgiving.
If you want to make pomegranate sauce, just get some of that POM Wonderful juice, throw in a dash of sugar, and heat it until it’s sticky.
Thanks, Team 🙂
(This post is dedicated to the memory of…
The White Plastic Spoon
Blackberry Gingerbread Muffins
…lest we forget)