my father was at the cafe this morning picking up the turkey and all the thanksgiving food ingredients. he came by my place at 10:45am to pick up the flan, two bags of mussels, and 5 clumps of scallions.
using a ladder, i went into my alleyway and replaced the bulbs in my motion-sensing spotlight. one of them was a PAR38 90W halogen, while the other was a simply incandescent. either way, both was costing me more money versus led bulbs, which is what i put in. each led bulb was only 11W, 22W total, versus the 90W for just a single halogen, and the led's seem plenty bright.
i finally left for belmont by 11:40am, via motorcycle. temperature was in the 50's, not at all cold. my father was busy in the backyard setting up his stainless steel tent furnace and using it for the very first time. there's always this calm before the storm early on thanksgiving, as we've yet to start cooking. my parents made some hot and sour soup and i had some leftover for lunch. i also told them about a new coronavirus variant of concern (omicron), and how it seems to be taking over south africa and some other african countries. preliminary data says it's 500% more transmissible than the original wuhan variant (delta is just 70% more contagious). this was indeed the calm before the storm.
around 2pm i preheated the convection oven; about 2:30pm we started cooking our 22 lbs. turkey. earlier we put the turkey on a rack inside of a disposable aluminum turkey pan. the pan is only rated up to a 20 lbs. turkey, but were willing to risk it. because the aluminum was kind of filmy, we put a large baking tray underneath for stability and so it'd be easier to move the turkey in and out of the oven. i never know what temperature and how long to cook the turkey, so every year i consult the butterball website. they tell me that for a convection oven, to roast a whole turkey at 325°F. at 22 lbs. we should cook anywhere from 2-1/2 to 3 hours for an unstuffed bird, but my parents said to cook it less than more so the meat won't be dry. i set the oven countdown timer to 2-1/2 hours, so the turkey would be ready by 5pm, just in time for the guests arriving at 4pm.
my father continued tending to his tent stove in the backyard, boiling a kettle of water for his tea. the heat had already colorized portion of the stainless steel, especially the exhaust pipe and the removable cooking disc. the wood was no longer smoking, having turned white.
my mother had already prepared some cold appetizer dishes, placed on the dining table. because we only had a total of 7 guests this year, we didn't expand the leaves of the table. that turned out to be mistake, not because people were crammed too tightly together, but because there wasn't enough room on the table to fit all the food. next year, no matter the number of guests, we need to expand the table, not for the people, but for the food.
my parents were outside enjoying the mild weather and the tent stove fire, boiling some pu'er tea on the kettle.
my sister showed up at 3pm, bringing with her hailey and my 2nd aunt. my sister also brought along bouquets of flowers to put around the table, but we barely had enough room for the food, let alone the flowers. my 2nd aunt brought a wood ear mushroom salad of her own creation. my sister also brought along some pastry desserts she'd made.
my parents started the 2nd phase of thanksgiving preparations. my father made his chun bing (??) while my 2nd aunt helped my mother roll spring rolls. i also opened the oven a few times to drizzle turkey drippings on top of the turkey to keep it moist. my mother was also roasting some sweet potato in the same oven, on a top rack. after an hour it was time to remove them, but because she used leftover cooking oil that'd previously been used for frying, the potatoes had an unappetizing rancid flavor.
my aunt called saying they were running late and wouldn't arrive until 4:30pm. that gave everyone time to go out in the backyard and check out my father's tent stove, which he was proud to demonstrate.
my aunt and matthew showed up at 4:30pm bringing with them a bowl of grilled jumbo shrimps. even though it was already dark, my father insisted on showing them the tent stove still burning in the backyard.
we began eating after 5pm, now that the turkey had finished roasting. we started off first with some fried spring rolls, which need to be eaten fresh and hot. my father took the turkey out of the oven and left it to rest in the kitchen while everyone ate spring rolls. this was followed by 2 bags (5lbs. total) of prince edward island mussels, steam cooked in a butter-garlic-wine sauce. this marked the return of the mussels after several years hiatus, it was easier to do this thanksgiving because we had less people. the mussels themselves weren't that special - we've had bigger ones in the past - but were still tasty. my mother collected all the shells and dumped them into the cambridge compost bin.
after 6pm was when the turkey was brought into the dining room and carved up. normally we've eaten so much by that point, the turkey is just an afterthought. my mother also went back into the kitchen to stirfry some squid my aunt had wanted, but it wasn't that good, shacha flavored; there's probably a more delicious way to prepare squid, like calamari-style.
around 7:30pm we were all done eating, clearing the dining table and waiting for dessert. my father brought matthew and my aunt to the basement to show them our grow room. my 2nd aunt also came down as well, collecting a handful of lemon verbana when i told her they can be used to boil tea. both my aunts went upstairs while matthew continued to inspect our various plants. my 2nd aunt then came back downstairs and said my aunt needed matthew, something about hailey biting her nose, and she may need to go to the hospital. i thought she was joking at first, but when we went back upstairs, we found out it was for real. apparently my aunt was sitting next to hailey who was sleeping, and tried to sniff her. it must've startled the dog because she woke up and snapped at my aunt involuntarily, cutting her face with one of her teeth. matthew and my aunt ended up leaving abruptly, to return home to get her insurance info before heading to the emergency room. i caught a glimpse of my aunt before she left, like somebody had sliced her across the face, from her eye over her nose.
nobody was in the mood to eat after that. my sister wanted to leave as well, and left soon afterwards with her dog. earlier she was bragging that hailey hadn't been vaccinated for rabies because of her age, but now it wasn't so funny.
not to let good flan go to waste, we ate some flan before my father gave my 2nd aunt a ride back to her house, while i returned to cambridge via motorcycle.