Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Again

This was the post I wrote back in 2008 around this time. Way back then I guess I hadn’t really tried to tie everything into a business theme as I do now. It’s just a reflection of how my family enjoys the routine and repetition of the day. 8 years further down the road, I realize that there is a good reason why having the same thing every year is a wonderful thing. Just about everything else I wrote about in the piece below has changed. People have moved and one has died. Houses have been sold and others have been bought. The kids are all grown now and are working and the rarity of everyone getting together has increased.

If there’s a business lesson in all of this, it just might be to appreciate the familiar moments and not to complain too loudly about routine. Rest assured that there will be enough chaos and change for everyone along the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo

My family loves Thanksgiving.  For the most part, so do I.  The entire family getting together is not something that happens with great regularity anymore – grandparents winter in Florida, kids are in college or living their own lives, brothers and sisters and other relations have busy schedules too.  So when 20 or 25 of us can pile into one location, it’s special, and each gathering is unique.  Except for one thing.

Thanksgiving’s menu in my house is something that descended directly from the Pilgrims.  It is etched in two tablets made from the skin of the original bird (and we can have the discussion about whether that bird was in Plymouth or in St.Augustine another time).  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and apricots, cranberry mold, cranberry bread, veggies, stuffing and gallons of gravy are pretty much it.

I cook every year and love to do it.  Except I can do it in my sleep at this point. I am under strict orders from all parties NOT TO FOOL (they use another word) WITH THE MENU.  The only choices I get to make are what kinds of stuffing and which veggies to serve.  But I don’t, really.

One year I caused a huge ruckus by announcing in advance (mistake) that I would be frying one of the birds (we usually have two).  The discovery of a cure for cancer would have caused less of a ruckus.  Of course, now a fried turkey is mandatory.  Another year I made four dressings – one a cornbread and andouille, one a sausage and herb, one an oyster, and one a vegetarian version that was very traditional.  Of course, only the last one was eaten up.  No more oysters (and don’t even start the discussion about that’s what the Indians ate) in the damn dressing and leave that andouille stuff south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Another year, I slow cooked the green beans with bacon.  “Darling, do you have any less cooked?  I’m not sure I know what I’m eating…”  Another year I served carrots with a tangerine glaze.  The next, I was berated for not serving carrots.

I’m writing this now because there are only two weeks to go and my Mom is asking if I’ve shopped yet (Mom is always ready well in advance).  I tell her I haven’t shopped because I haven’t planned the menu yet but who am I kidding?  The menu was done years ago.  I don’t have the heart to tell her I’m roasting the other bird in a Caja China and not an oven and that I’m seriously considering bringing back the cornbread thing.  But I’ll cook them whatever they want since having the family all together is more important to me than my exercising my chefly prerogatives.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

Turkey Day

It’s time for the annual Thanksgiving post. Many years I’ve posted about the 3F’s that drive this holiday – family, football, and food. This year I’ve gone back to 2008 for a take that has little to do with business and a lot to do with why this is a special holiday. Enjoy!

My family loves Thanksgiving.  For the most part, so do I.  The entire family getting together is not something that happens with great regularity anymore – grandparents winter in Florida, kids are in college or living their own lives, brothers and sisters and other relations have busy schedules too.  So when 20 or 25 of us can pile into one location, it’s special, and each gathering is unique.  Except for one thing.Thanksgiving’s menu in my house is something that descended directly from the Pilgrims.  It is etched in two tablets made from the skin of the original bird (and we can have the discussion about whether that bird was in Plymouth or in St.Augustine another time).  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and apricots, cranberry mold, cranberry bread, veggies, stuffing and gallons of gravy are pretty much it.

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cook every year and love to do it.  Except I can do it in my sleep at this point. I am under strict orders from all parties NOT TO FOOL (they use another word) WITH THE MENU.  The only choices I get to make are what kinds of stuffing and which veggies to serve.  But I don’t, really.

One year I caused a huge ruckus by announcing in advance (mistake) that I would be frying one of the birds (we usually have two).  The discovery of a cure for cancer would have caused less of a ruckus.  Of course, now a fried turkey is mandatory.  Another year I made four dressings – one a cornbread and andouille, one a sausage and herb, one an oyster, and one a vegetarian version that was very traditional.  Of course, only the last one was eaten up.  No more oysters (and don’t even start the discussion about that’s what the Indians ate) in the damn dressing and leave that andouille stuff south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Another year, I slow cooked the green beans with bacon.  “Darling, do you have any less cooked?  I’m not sure I know what I’m eating…”  Another year I served carrots with a tangerine glaze.  The next, I was berated for not serving carrots.

I’m writing this now because there are only two weeks to go and my Mom is asking if I’ve shopped yet (Mom is always ready well in advance).  I tell her I haven’t shopped because I haven’t planned the menu yet but who am I kidding?  The menu was done years ago.  I don’t have the heart to tell her I’m roasting the other bird in a Caja China and not an oven and that I’m seriously considering bringing back the cornbread thing.  But I’ll cook them whatever they want since having the family all together is more important to me than my exercising my chefly prerogatives.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 Comments

Filed under food, What's Going On

Getting A Few “F’s” And Being Happy

A roast turkey as part of a traditional U.S. T...

Image via Wikipedia

This is our final screed until Monday.  I’m going to enjoy the Thanksgiving break and hope you can do so as well.  The post below was written the day prior to Thanksgiving in 2008.  It’s still very appropriate, whether your gathering is 20+ people like ours, or just 4 of you enjoying the day and one another.  It’s not the size of the family (everyone who comes is family to me!) that matters or even if some members are missing.  It’s giving thanks for what you have and sharing the day with some people who matter to you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a lot of work in my house – maybe in yours as well.  If you’ve been reading along, you know that the menu planning, shopping, and prep work has been going on for several days and today (Wednesday) is the biggest of the prep days.   Tomorrow is focused on bringing all the pieces together, hopefully at the same time, and entertaining the horde that will descend.  I like to think of those pieces as the three “F”s. It’s also important to take a few seconds and reflect on them.  What?  You thought I meant the various dishes we’ve been wrangling up here?  Nope!

  • “F” number one is Family.  It’s the thing for which I am most thankful and the thing that has literally saved my life over this past year as I’ve made some pretty big life changes.  Having them here at this holiday is a labor of love and I hope they’ll all keep showing up for many years more.
  • “F” number two is Feasting.  We do ask everyone to bring something – an appetizer, wine, or a dessert, usually.  Obviously it’s not because it lightens the work load very much but because it makes them a part of the process.  It’s OUR meal as a family and our shared celebration.  The word “feast” comes from the same root as “festival” (yes, it’s also the same root Seinfeld used for “Festivus“) and we try to make it one.  All those days of prep come together in a 45 minute orgy of eating.  This holiday is very much like Christmas or Hanukah in that way – you prepare for quite a long time and then it’s over way too quickly.
  • “F” number three is Football.  This is America’s national sport and we’re very much a sports-oriented group.  I’ll never forget my Uncle Harry who would sit with us every year and watch the games.  “I don’t understand,” he would say, “they all fall down, they all get up, they do it again.  What kind of game is this?”  It could be paint drying – the point is that it’s a family ritual and through it we bond.

Hopefully those three pieces come together tomorrow in your house or wherever you’ll be as well.  Enjoy them!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Timing Is Everything

Today is prep day for tomorrow’s feast.  Since I’m busy doing many other things (including praying the pending snow storm misses us), I’m reposting my Thanksgiving screed from 2008.  Not much has changed in the intervening 6 years about my approach to the task at hand.  It’s also a decent observation on the value of planning and attention to detail.  Happy Thanksgiving!

I had an assistant once who developed the concept of “the Ritter factor” when estimating time.  The basic concept was that if I said something would take a certain amount of time, that amount needed to be multiplied by 4.5 to determine the actual time required.  While not admitting to the accuracy or even existence of this factor, I can state that Thanksgiving‘s biggest challenge is time. “Time?” you’re thinking, “that’s the biggest challenge?  HA!  This idiot has really lost it!”  I’m sure you could put together a list of this week’s challenges which would contain items such as where to stash all the coats, how to fit 25 people around a table made for 12, and how to step over Uncle Elmer to get to the bathroom without waking him up.  However, as the conductor of the Thanksgiving orchestra around old Rancho Deluxe here, let me assure you that the primary challenge of the day is delivering all 39 items on the menu to the table at the same time, appropriately hot or cold as required.

The key to the entire day is a timed checklist.  Seriously.  I take enormous amount of crap from everyone who sees mine each year until they realize that the meal is being served at exactly the time requested by the Mrs. which happens to coincide nicely with halftime of the football game.  This list is created by using back timing – something TV and radio producers do all the time.  Beginning at the desired end time and factoring in the availability of necessary facilities (ovens, stove burners, etc.), you work backwards and piece together the time required for each dish until you have a road map.  Anything I can knock off ahead of time (baking, prepping all the dressings, parboiling vegetables) is done up to 24 hours in advance.  It even gets down to resting time for the turkeys before carving and the time it takes for the oil to heat up in the fryer.  In fact, we’ve started frying a turkey in part because it frees up an oven late in the process.  This sounds like a silly bit of overkill to get the meal ready, but it prevents you from leaving the soup in the refrigerator or forgetting you were serving carrots and finding a 20lb bag the next morning.

I’d be happy to share my list with you but it really would only help you a bit.  The cooking facilities here are pretty damn good although we spent the money on them instead of indoor toilets (kidding).  You have to tie your back-timed list to the menu, the facilities you have available to you, and your cooking skills.  Even though my former assistant (who comes most years for the Thanksgiving meal) thinks I’m chronologically challenged, I’ve got 25 full bellies Thursday evening that think otherwise.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Helpful Hints

The Same Old Thing

It’s the last Foodie Friday post before Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I thought this might be a good time to reflect upon that meal. I’ll start cooking this weekend by making turkey stock and I’ll be doing a little each day right up until mealtime on Thursday. Hopefully the 25 folks in attendance will all get fed at the same time and fall asleep watching football in a food coma.

English: Thanksgiving cheer distributed for me...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the truth be told, I don’t love this meal although it’s one of my favorite holidays. It’s a favorite because the family gathers together, something that’s a precious occasion as we all get older and become more spread out. But I don’t love the meal because it’s always the same menu with the odd little variation – a different take on a vegetable or maybe a new pie.  It’s kind of boring as a cook but I know the people who are being fed love it.  Which got me thinking.

All of us in business seem to be under a constant imperative to innovate.  To make our products better.  To change things up because if you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you always get.  If you’ve spent any time here on the screed you know that I buy into looking at our businesses through new eyes as often as we can.  Then I think of the Thanksgiving meal.

The family likes the familiarity.  They look forward to some of the dishes that they only eat this one time each year.  They know what they’re going to get when they traipse over to Rancho Deluxe for the meal. Our customers are like that too, I think.  When you walk into most QSR chains you know what you’re going to get when you order a menu item. Whether you’re in New York or Los Angeles it will be the same.  For many people who are risk-averse, that’s comforting and critical.

The balance between innovation and stability is something we need to maintain as we go forward in our business thinking.  When I switched over to frying the turkey on Thanksgiving I still roasted one so the family could make the move in their own minds instead of me imposing my will.  We no longer roast a bird because everyone’s preferences changed.  There’s no need for any of us to repeat the “New Coke” disaster.

I’ll be serving the same old thing for Thanksgiving.  It makes my “customers” happy.  You?

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

On Time And Hot

While today isn’t Foodie Friday, it is a major food day here at the world headquarters.

Thanksgiving at the Trolls

(Photo credit: martha_chapa95)

Cooking in earnest for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast begins.  With that in mind, I want to revisit a post I did almost five years ago that talks about how one gets a massive project – dinner for 20+ – completed on time with all dishes hot.  As I said at the time,  Thanksgiving‘s biggest challenge is time.

“Time?” you’re thinking, “that’s the biggest challenge?”  I’m sure you could put together a list of this week’s challenges which would contain items such as where to stash all the coats, how to fit 25 people around a table made for 12, and how to step over Uncle Elmer to get to the bathroom without waking him up.  However, as the conductor of the Thanksgiving orchestra around old Rancho Deluxe here, let me assure you that the primary challenge of the day is delivering all 39 items on the menu to the table at the same time, appropriately hot or cold as required.

The key to the entire day is a timed checklist.  Seriously.  I take an enormous amount of crap from everyone who sees mine each year until they realize that the meal is being served at exactly the time requested by the Mrs. which happens to coincide nicely with halftime of the football game.  This list is created by using back timing – something TV and radio producers do all the time.  Beginning at the desired end time and factoring in the availability of necessary facilities (ovens, stove burners, etc.), you work backwards and piece together the time required for each dish until you have a road map.  Anything I can knock off ahead of time (baking, prepping all the dressings, parboiling vegetables) is done up to 24 hours in advance.  It even gets down to resting time for the turkeys before carving and the time it takes for the oil to heat up in the fryer.  In fact, we started frying the turkeys in part because it frees up an oven late in the process.  This sounds like a silly bit of overkill to get the meal ready, but it prevents you from leaving the soup in the refrigerator or forgetting you were serving carrots and finding a 20lb bag the next morning.  Which is the business point as well.

Any project needs to start at the end and work backwards.  You take into account the resources you need along with the human resources to produce the final product.  You need to be honest about the time each step will take and once you’ve written each element down along with its appropriate time block you need to keep checking the list to be sure you’re on time every step of the way.  My list even has lunch and shower time scheduled so nothing is overlooked.

I’d be happy to share my list with you but it really would only help you with your dinner a bit.  The cooking facilities here are pretty damn good although we spent the money on them instead of indoor toilets (kidding).  As with every project, you have to tie your back-timed list to the list of desired outcomes, the facilities you have available to you, and your own skills, whether in the kitchen or in the office.

Make sense?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Helpful Hints

Giving Thanks

Several years ago I wrote a pre-Thanksgiving post on the “three f’s” of the holiday.  You may recall that I described them as:

English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • “F” number one is Family. It’s the thing for which I am most thankful. Having them here at this holiday is a labor of love and I hope they’ll all keep showing up for many years more.
  • “F” number two is Feasting. We do ask everyone to bring something – an appetizer, wine, or a dessert, usually. Obviously it’s not because it lightens the work load very much but because it makes them a part of the process. It’s OUR meal as a family and our shared celebration. The word “feast” comes from the same root as “festival” (yes, it’s also the same root Seinfeld used for “Festivus“) and we try to make it one. All those days of prep come together in a 45 minute orgy of eating. This holiday is very much like Christmas or Hanukah in that way – you prepare for quite a long time and then it’s over way too quickly.
  • “F” number three is Football. This is America’s national sport and we’re very much a sports-oriented group. I’ll never forget my Uncle Harry who would sit with us every year and watch the games. “I don’t understand,” he would say, “they all fall down, they all get up, they do it again. What kind of game is this?” It could be paint drying – the point is that it’s a family ritual and through it we bond.

They haven’t changed.  Our family has been challenged this year by many of the same things that millions of other families face.  Illnesses, the economy, wacky weather, and the other day-to-day events that keep it…interesting…  Even so, we’re very fortunate and tomorrow will be a day to remember that.  If anything, the adversity has pulled us even closer.

I’m very thankful, among other things, for those of you that take the time to read the screed every once in a while.  I appreciate your comments when I hit home and even more so when I miss the mark.  Have a great holiday!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Reality checks