A blog experiment by Brad Mills.


Nourishing body and mind

First things first... the meal was a great success. Lots of work, but a huge payoff at the end, and I managed to feed seventeen people. That was a truly awesome feeling. And, a surprise visit from half of the Babineau clan, which was awesome as well.

There were multiple great moments for me in the preparation of this meal. One of these came while I was stringing the green beans. "Stringing" is perhaps not the most accurate word here, as many varieties of green beans are now stringless. At the same time, "stringless" is perhaps not the most accurate word either, as these beans — while much easier to prepare than the string beans I remember as a kid — all had a vestigial string of some sort. Fortunately this didn't impact the edibility of the beans at all. But, it made me realize that you simply can't force something to be what its nature says it is not.

Another great moment: I finally unlocked the dark art and science of making gravy. I have a history of attempting to make gravy and failing, and coming from a long line of people who've made gravy, not to mention being an Appalachian native, I felt like I should be at least somewhat competent at it. After trying and failing enough times over the years, at some point I gave up and settled for gravy mix in a pouch (which at least gave the modicum of cooking) or premixed stuff in a jar (which always tasted, unsurprisingly, like it came from a jar). Mere days ago, though, the methodology behind making gravy came to me all at once, and I was so confident it was correct, I leapt in today with no backup plan. And... magic happened. That's the best way I can say it. With that, I realized that success only comes to those who persist, and that sometimes, the correct answers will come when you least expect them.

After the meal, everyone started mingling and conversing. I ended up in the same room as the Babineau clan, which was partially planned because I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like. The name Babineau is an acquired name. Underneath that veneer, the genetics of my family shine through, and I can see my father and grandparents reflected in my aunt, and much of myself reflected in my cousin. I saw again today the love of food in my family, and realized that cooking and eating well has very deep roots in me indeed. Its lineage may stretch back in time a hundred fifty years or more. We discussed two recipes none of us can seem to master — specifically, Kahlua cake and a certain macaroni and cheese — and we lamented the loss of the traditional Sunday dinner, a spread fit for a king but instead prepared for the likes of us in sleepy little coal towns, for no particular reason, on no particular Sunday. The world has moved beyond such things, and whether that's progress or not is a matter for debate. But we did agree that there are factors at play in the unmasterable recipes we probably aren't considering — the day's humidity, for example — and that merely following a recipe isn't necessarily going to bring you the desired result. Adaptation is a must. And sometimes it's not even going to be something quantifiable.

And the biggest surprise of the day? My complete lack of the traditional Thanksgiving after-dinner nap. I just never reached the point where I wanted or needed one, and honestly, most of the conversation I heard and took part in was just too stimulating and interesting. I'm not complaining about that, though... not one bit.

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