I didn't even know this animal was there until someone caught it on camera. See?
Since my last post, my husband has expressed some concern over the fact that I characterized his people as "knowing how to eat". He said something along the lines of: It makes us seem like bunch of fat a's. Except he, of course, would only say "a's", not the unedited version of the word. That's the difference between he and I. And I'm pretty sure he's wincing right now, or at least executing a gigantic, "honey, why do you always have to go there" eye roll. Sorry, babe! I Yam what I Yam!
But, just to be clear, allow me to take this opportunity to say that in my untrained medical opinion, they are all of an average weight/height ratio. I would post a photograph, but I don't think it's healthy to to indulge these insecurities. Plus, the only photo I have on hand is one from last Thanksgiving, right after they've all eaten and look like a bunch of stuffed ticks. Ha!
So, anyway: The Relatives came. And my hopes of a paper-lantern feast were dashed, but my parents were so kind to open their hearts and home for our holiday table that I could have just bursted (word?) with actual thanksgiving. Plus, we still all got to be tangled together for late-night talks and breakfasts and sleeping, but since my dad was doing most of the cooking, I didn't even have to stick my unsuspecting hands inside the nether-regions of a turkey...bonus!
Right around the time I'd started to feel really chillaxed about the whole week, however; Joshua had this idea. That we wouldn't have enough food. (IRONY alert! Man with body-image issues fears meal-time deprivation!) He began throwing the names of random animals and their parts around in conversation. Pheasant, goose, duck breast. And then: PORK SHOULDER.
Excuse me? Since when do pigs have shoulders? His plan: to smoke said shoulder (there were actually two, I'm assuming a right and a left) and serve alongside the bird. I laughed him off-he couldn't be serious-until the Monday before Thanksgiving, when two gigantic paper-wrapped hunks and an economy-sized container of chili powder from the restaurant supply store showed up in my kitchen.
For those of you who haven't smoked anything before, in the pork family, at least, it is WAY harder than a turkey. Or at least more time consuming. Alright, fine. It's not that difficult. I was just jealous. Suddenly, my husband was twenty-four-seven smoking the pork. But what about the gigantic floral delivery I had to make? Sorry, honey, I have the pork. Hey, wouldn't it be fun to take everyone to the science museum since we can't play outside? But who's going to look after the pork? he says.
It was the longest 24 hours of my life. And the aroma? I have said before, on occasion, that one of my favorite smells is that of campfire and rain. It reminds me a childhood trip out west with my parents, during which everything was wonderful except when I had to go to the local Urgent Care for od'ing on regional southwest cuisine. But I digress. Carcinogens aside, I generally love anything prepared over an open flame. For some reason, though, this time--the smell put me in a mood. The kind of mood wherein every little annoyance could be traced directly back to the pork. My headache? Must be the pork. Broken glasses? Well if I hadn't been so distracted from the pork... Miscalculating the amount of bread-cubes I'd need for the stuffing and accidentally buying six times too many? Definitely the pork.
I'll admit: this was not my finest cheerleading hour. I was a complete nay-sayer, whereas I usually consider myself one who excels at pumping people up. For some reason, though, I couldn't help it. Maybe it was how the smell combined with everything else I had going on that week: nonstop rain, fifteen children in my basement at one time, some of them barely potty trained. Imagine, if you dare.
Then, on Wednesday night, after a much-needed trip to Whole Foods with my two sisters-in-law, we returned to find the beast had outgrown the confines of the smoker. After hours of flames and smells and rubs and tinkering, it was determined that the meat needed to be finished inside, in the oven. That's when I hit rock bottom. Valerie took me by the shoulders, looked deep into my eyes and said: The pork is in the house, in a voice one might reserve for doling out information regarding a serial killer, pack of snakes, or flesh eating bacteria. My reaction was equally dramatic. I took to the sofa and cried.
We're very open in this family. There is no putting on airs-we don't even pretend to be normal.
What happened next, though was a Thanksgiving miracle. Someone brought me an Advil. My husband, in an act of heroic self-control, ignored the keening that was coming from the living room. The sisters-in-law worked on my glasses-which, it was decided, were beyond repair. And since there hasn't been money in the budget for either a glasses upgrade or fresh supply of contact lenses, they did what they had to do: hand-filing, with old tools from our garage, the lenses from my old glasses into a pair of $24.99 drugstore readers.
When they placed the frames on my face, I could really see, for the first time in weeks. Everyone, and everything, looked so lovely. I had, for weeks, been looking at the world through broken glasses. I'd wanted a picture-perfect holiday that went exactly my way. After living out a year I'd rather not repeat, ever--where very little seemed to go my way--I just wanted to orchestrate something really wonderful, that I could feel really swell about. But some things just orchestrate themselves, don't they?
I'll end with this: Sometimes it is better to just crank up what's on the radio and dance, than to wish for a better song. Oh-and this philosophy also applies to the pork, tofurkey, or whatever non-traditional something your better-half is fixing to add to the holiday mix. Change is good. In fact, it really was delicious.
**Photo credit: Circle the Sun Photography...thanks, Melissa!