Compliments to the chef, or whoever


    Thanksgiving, our national paean to overindulgence, has passed without a wrinkle. Unless one counts the Bush administration’s announcement of its donation to the timber industry of a bazillion acres of public land to clear cut in the name of forest management. This was cleverly timed to coincide with nationwide family gatherings where we make our annual donation to the country’s turkey farmers.

    This festival is a big deal in our family, so big that it usually puts me in a state of frenzy preparing enough food to feed an infantry platoon and spiffying up the house, which nobody ever notices anyway. Well, what would they say? Congratulations on cleaning the stains off the living room furniture? Wow, Mom, you dusted behind the books.

    Every year, I try to simplify. I finally figured out that nobody cares if there’s dog hair on the side of the couch. They don’t care if every morsel of food was cooked from scratch according to our now ancient traditions. Some traditions have deservedly become irrelevant.

    And in the great tradition of our government, I’ve finally learned to delegate, to subcontract jobs to the young and willing members of the family. What our successful, and some recently indicted, CEOs call outsourcing.

    First off, I outsourced the purchase and preparation of the turkey to my daughter, Betty, who assured me she could buy a free-range bird right across the street in Manhattan Beach, a more enlightened shopping area than any within 60 miles of here. Her husband, Mark, barbecues said bird and carves it with no fanfare whatsoever in the kitchen. It tastes every bit as good, if not better, than the ones I oven roasted and presented to be carved at the table. That is in years when it browned sufficiently to be presentable. They volunteered to do this, I’m convinced, because they feared I might serve Tofu-rkey.

    My other daughter, Susan, bought a honey glazed, spiral sliced ham at Trader Joe’s for those who don’t care much for turkey (or see above) and several bottles of Rodney Strong Cabernet and Bonterra Chardonnay. My sister, bless her sweet vegetarian heart, baked two dairy-free pumpkin pies, her magnificently dairy-laden spinach dip (which she doesn’t eat), and she even stopped at Whole Foods Market to buy its fabulous baked butternut squash with caramelized onions.

    This left me with nothing to make but the dressing, which I managed to string out to about two hours of peeling and chopping (onions, celery, apples, walnuts) and baking in a huge casserole. Mashed potatoes, courtesy of Barbara’s Bakery, are whipped with soymilk and Earth Balance (faux butter sans transfat), garlic and a few herbs and kept warm in a crockpot. If I learned nothing else over the years, it’s that boiled potatoes when freshly beaten with butter and milk can turn into a gelatinous glob as unappealing as it is indigestible. Bless Barbara’s boxed (you read that right). Gravy comes in little packets from Simply Organic (barbecued birds make no usable drippings, thank heavens) and is fine when mixed with some spices and that old standby, Kitchen Bouquet. Heritage Foods Naturals makes delicious cranberry sauce that comes in a lovely glass jar even I can open. Poppy seed rolls purchased a week earlier at Trader Joe’s, after checking the ingredients for telltale dairy, went from freezer to oven and came out perfect. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out.

    My son, Bobby the cowboy, didn’t have to bring a thing but himself (he left his spurs and hat in the mud room), and we were glad to have him here since he’s usually off on some far flung ranch gathering cattle and chowing on chuck wagon fowl, biscuits and bacon gravy.

    My Thanksgiving blessings are for my children, sons-in-law and grandchildren (all but one of whom was with us, and she at least telephoned), sister, nephew, et al., their health and happiness.

    Silently, I gave thanks for Trader Joe, Whole Foods and all those who left me with enough energy to enjoy my own family gathering. May their days be long and fruitful. May their corporate leaders not descend into scandal-driven bankruptcy. May organic farming drive agribusiness out of business or at least make converts of factory farmers.

    As for me, I’m converted to outsourcing. And that’s a good thing, Martha.