It’s Thanksgiving in the year of the Covid. For most everyone, that means this special day will be different to any in years past. For starters, fewer will gather around the table to partake of a large meal in the company of family and friends.
This year there will just be the three of us – me, my husband and our son. Perhaps this year we could have skipped the turkey dinner altogether. Then it was “well, let’s just get a turkey breast. We don’t really like the dark meat anyway.” Then the next decision was what to make for side dishes. Sure, I could do the usual or, I could experiment! I could make each dish something I have never tried before. That might make preparing the meal a little more exciting and goodness knows, I could sure use more of that right now.
On the shopping day, list in hand, I headed out, checking that I had lots of bring-your-own-bags in the back seat of my car. One of the items I planned was Baked Acorn Squash with “vacuum packed chestnuts.” When visits to my two name-brand stores failed to deliver “vacuum packed chestnuts” I realized I needed to check out the fancy store downtown with higher prices but speciality items.
First I met up with a girlfriend for coffee at a nearby bakery. I should have known right then that this day was not going to go as planned. We both spied these huge, thick bear claws, encrusted with toasted almonds. We looked at one another, “shall we share one?” and turned to wait our turn to order. Smiling, we asked for a bear claw and asked if they would be kind enough to cut it in half? “I am sorry”, the server said, “the gentleman before you purchased the last of the bear claws.” We had to settle for something with raspberry jam…and it didn’t even come close to a real bear claw.
While the server was cutting our raspberry treat, I found myself asking if they had any pumpkin pies or if I had to order one. My husband loves pumpkin pies and while I am not fond of them myself, thought I should have one for Thanksgiving, for tradition and all that. “I am so sorry but we just sold out. But, wait a moment, I think they are baking more.” She dashed off and then came back with a big smile, and a modest sized pie. “It’s still hot from the oven” she said. How could I say no?
Actually, hubby loves the pumpkin pie from Costco. Its huge, feeds a dozen people and costs around $8. Here was the bakery pie, less than half the size and frankly, costing three times more than the Costco pie and four times what it would have cost me to bake. He had better like it, that’s all I can say!
Then it was time to do the grocery shopping. I went to the entrance of the speciality store and I should have known there would be a line. Out the front of the building, down the side and around the back. What choice did I have but to join the end of the line and wait. At least surely they would have the vacuumed packed chestnuts.
As soon as I entered, I asked if they had them. “No I don’t think so but I will ask my supervisor” said the young girl, dressed in black, black apron, black hair, black makeup and a black mask. “ I am so sorry but we don’t have vacuum packed chestnuts but we do have fresh chestnuts. Let me show you.”
There they were, no ordinary chestnuts though. These were large, shiny, brown and imported from Italy. At $16.99 a pound they had better be good. I purchased half the amount called for in the recipe. Next on the list was acorn squash. But where were the squash? Back to the young lady in black. “What’s an acorn squash?” she asked. We found a crate of squash and among all the butternuts, crookneck pumpkins, kabocha, and turban squash there were several acorns. These were enormous, much larger than I usually buy. Normally I pay per squash but the cost of these were “per pound.” Two squash weighed almost the same as my third newborn and cost about as much!
Then it was time to buy the turkey breast. I was rather taken aback. Seems you pay more for just a part of the turkey than you do for a whole one. So now what to do. I had already spent so much money on the pie, the chestnuts, the squash and now it was the turkey breast dilemma. I moved over to the other case. A 15lb turkey went with me to the car for a whole lot less than just a breast.
Once home I thought I would begin with those chestnuts. I googled what I should do with them. First task is to score them horizontally with a knife. I don’t know if you have tried pulling a sharp knife across a curved hard surface toward you but you are in a serious position of getting your palm split open. Another suggestion on google is to take a pair of scissors, rest one point on the counter and the other on the chestnut and close the scissors. If it doesn’t scoot off the counter and onto the floor, well done! The You Tube video then directs you to “soak them in water for two hours or you can use wine!” Then she continues “ After two hours boil the chestnuts for two minutes, then dry them off in a towel, before tipping them into a hot pan for another few minutes. Then its back into their towel for a few more seconds. “Peel them while hot “ using some special gloves. “There you have it” says the lady in the video. Oh no no, what I have are some Italian chestnuts obstinately refusing to open their jackets allowing themselves to be peeled. I even tried microwaving them and still they refuse to cooperate. I’ll show them – they won’t be on my Thanksgiving table this year. I will substitute hazelnuts instead.
Next year I just might think twice about cooking at all. I hear you can purchase an entire cooked turkey dinner that serves six to eight people for $49.99 and it includes pumkin pie!