As we celebrated the last day of Chanukah this week and are now on the fast track to Christmas, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a holiday we celebrated only four weeks ago — Thanksgiving. It is a holiday we look forward to every year. As part of our tradition, we gather in our home with A.J.’s family for a long weekend of cooking, laughing, occasionally bursting into song (Alice’s Restaurant for one) and long chats about life by a roaring fireplace. Books and newspapers are everywhere. Dogs sprawl, ruling the couches and cats rule everything else, including the dogs. At any given snapshot the scene is like a cover of the Saturday Evening Post with a twist of modern living. In the early morning, the six-burner gas stove and two ovens fire up and rarely lose their heat the entire weekend. We make a lot of food. One traditional turkey and one smoked turkey and scratch biscuits, both cheddar and pepper, are a mainstay. Three kinds of stuffing that eventually get turned into pancakes with eggs over easy smothered in leftover gravy. Scrumptious homemade pumpkin pies, pecan pie, and a too-rich-for-words chocolate pecan pie become part of breakfast if any is left. Roasted brussel sprouts, cranberry dressing, garlic mashed potatoes and Hasselback potato gratin. Everyone’s favorites. And a lot of great wine and spiced beverages. Needless to say, overindulgence is overlooked. Although every day is a day to be thankful, it is a time that all of us reflect on the people in both of our lives – family and friends who keep us grounded and sane. We also remember family and friends who have left us much too soon and give thanks for having been able to have loved them and been loved by them. And we are grateful for our good fortune to all have each other. Loss and the acknowledgment that life is precious is a grounding force in how we live our lives.
This year, as timing would have it, we began this journey south later than we had hoped. After soul-searching, looking at logistics and timing we made the difficult decision to spend Thanksgiving on our boat, just the three of us. Jasper was not happy. The family was naturally disappointed but incredibly gracious, understanding and supportive. We also decided that we would find a place to eat out because we don’t yet have an oven and most things on my menu need one. Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving we got the great news that Captain Pauly (peace and love) would be joining us for a stint (he has a great blog post if you haven’t read it). His plan was to head home the Monday before Thanksgiving and spend the holiday on land until we got a phone call from his other half, Jojo Beans, with a proclamation! She would be taking a thirteen-hour drive with their pup and Jasper’s best friend, Lady, down the coast to spend Thanksgiving with us on board OLOH in Beaufort, North Carolina.
Jojo is an incredible spirit who isn’t afraid of a little adventure. She’s a nurturer and an incredible mom to her two grown kids and though she is like a big sister to us, she can even mother us a little bit! She’s also very intuitive and knowing how much we would be missing our Hudson Valley Thanksgiving she didn’t want us to spend our first holiday on the boat without family. We became friends with them at our marina many years ago and they quickly became family. We laugh hard and often. We share stories of our families’ trials and tribulations, accomplishments and joys and we shed tears together. You don’t get better friends than these two. They are the type of folks who will do anything for you with love and never ask for anything in return… Well, there is one thing Jojo will ask for well in advance…a shopping list! She is a consummate planner. The minute after her proclamation she wanted her shopping list from me. It was at that moment when I decided to throw common sense to the wind and take the challenge of cooking Thanksgiving on the boat in our galley that remains to be refit…with a three burner cooktop and a Cuisinart toaster oven. After all, the pilgrims didn’t have either of those things and they figured it out.
Jojo’s shopping list was detailed and included a fresh turkey between ten and twelve pounds (after eyeballing the interior of the toaster oven, I felt like it would fit) and she nailed every item. After much anticipation, Jojo and Lady arrived in a car laden with groceries. It was quite a happy reunion for Jasper and Lady and after some good hugs, arrival beverages and appetizers the meal planning began.
Turkey. Stuffing. Sweet potato pie. Hasselback Potato Gratin. Brussel sprouts. Scratch biscuits and gravy. Pecan pie. All the cooking happened in stages and the toaster oven performed flawlessly. Paul was my sous chef and A.J. DJ’d, of course, while he and Jojo took care of the cleanup after each dish was created and set the table. As always we were an excellent team.
It is rare for me not to be critical of my food. I am constantly striving to make something a little better. So when I tell you that my toaster oven turkey was one of the best turkeys I’ve ever made, I tell you that humbly and THANKFULLY! Each dish turned out terrifically and I realized that while all the bangles and beads of a modern kitchen and fantastic appliances sure make life easier, when you are surrounded by people you love, have a little creativity and beautiful, fresh food, anything is possible. There’s also a little gem that I can’t live without and use for everything — my Victorinox classic paring knife with serrated edge. I’m not one to wax fantastic about sharp objects but I love that little knife. It’s the perfect helper and you can get them online for about seven bucks. It’s a must-have in my galley.
We will never be able to appropriately express our thanks to Jojo, Paul and Lady for making our first Thanksgiving on OLOH so incredible and memorable. But, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank them. And, we thank our families back home who continue to love and support this new journey on OLOH. To you who reads our blog, posts comments, shares the love of boating or food or adventure, we are thankful for you as well. We wish you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy Holiday, whatever or however you may celebrate, and can’t wait to send more good stuff your way. Spend time with your families and friends. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love and cherish them. Be kind and compassionate. Remember those who are in need. And remember that you are all a part of what’s beautiful about the whole human race… Until we eat again, slainté — your seefaring Admiral