Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sweatshop Linens and Holiday Hydration

Of course, things are not going perfectly as planned.  My parts are.  Other people are having more trouble.  Other people meaning my mother. 
Do you remember the whole scandal with Kathie Lee Gifford and the sweatshop? That was so unfair.  I don't believe she had any idea that her clothing line was being manufactured in a sweatshop.  I, on the other hand, am fully aware of the sweatshop conditions under which my labor is performed. 
Bread for stuffing.  I let it burn slightly so it would hold more firm when cubing.


I absolutely adore my mother.  But that doesn't mean she is immune from driving me fucking insane.  Every year, she wants--and downright insists upon making a tablecloth for Thanksgiving.  She loves Thanksgiving--she is the reason I love Thanksgiving so much.  She taught me the beauty of the fleeting color, appreciating the volatility of November, and the importance of family around a table.  What she didn't teach me is how to actually just get shit done.  Oh my god, the poor woman. Every year, there is the same drama.  Everyone in the periphery of my family knows about it.  Last week at the dentist, the hygienist asked me Soo...I hear we have another tablecloth in jeopardy...why can't she just finish it? Well, the short answer is that she's a perfectionist.  Perfectionists never finish things because--guess what--things are never perfect.  She obsesses over every single detail and has never said good enough.  Her work is undeniably spectacular.  When it's finally finished (five-ten years after the deadline), it will take your breath away. 
I got the fabric for her in MAY and I'm pretty sure she didn't touch it until September.  My instructions were please just do something simple.  Sew some panels together and let's call it a day.  What she heard, apparently,  was make me the Taj fucking Mahal of tablecloths.  In the skirt for this tablecloth there are 54 feet of fabric.  it's a pleated design, and therefore, a lot of fabric.  I am now using straight-up-sweatshop tactics to get her to finish.  Let's hope for the best...I have a backup, but I really don't want to use it.  
Regardless, I've had the most fabulous time preparing, chopping, fluffing, and drinking.  My Thanksgiving-prep cocktail is just about my favorite thing in the world.  It's so easy and seriously so good.  It will almost distract you from your missing tablecloth. 

I always roast celery, onion, carrot, and garlic to puree and
include in the gravy. It adds texture and deepens color.

5 carrots, 5 stalks of celery, 1 onion, and 6 garlic cloves. Tossed in olive oil,
salt,and pepper.  Roasted at 450 until burnished.  Add to food processor
with wine or stock to help liquefy. 

Don't bother with this if you're in a rush. but if you have some
spare time it's a nice touch. Just whisk it in to your finished gravy.

I usually use the timer on my phone, but with so many dishes to juggle,
this makes it a little easier.  Plus, no flour stuck on my phone.  

Cranberry relish + gin + Sprite Zero, in whatever proportion you'd like.  Mine is about 1.5 shots of gin, 2 Tablespoons of cranberry relish, and topped with Sprite Zero.  Enjoy until you're singing along to a Mariah Carey song.  Slow down once you're doing an interpretive dance along with a Kate Bush song.  





Do you have any gravy tips?  Have you ever managed a sweatshop?

74 comments:

  1. Ok, first up, your matching Le Creuset with the bread is just fabulous. I am also in awe at how perfectly you've chopped up those spring onions.
    I'm feeling the pressure on behalf of your mother though. Although clearly she isn't! Fingers crossed you get the table cloth finished.
    My gravy is made with a table spoon of Vegetable stock paste that I make and keep in a big jar in the fridge. It makes everything taste better. It contains a lot of herbs, like parsley (whole bunch), a bay leaf, carrot, tomato, onion, and lots of celery. And salt (to preserve it). I cook it for 20 min then pulverise it to smooth consistency. Then I use that in pretty much everything from bolognase sauce to the salmon I poached for dinner tonight.
    Also, wine is good in gravy. Actually, it's good in everything. Good luck with all the remaining prep - I'm sure it's going to be spectacular

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    1. Haha thank you so much! What a great idea, making the paste. I may steal that. I'll bet something briny like olive or caper would be great in that, too! I'm very happy to report that it's actually finished!! She is, of course, not happy with it. But I think she's glad to have it done!!

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  2. 1. I want and covet your awesome le crueset!

    2. Like Heidi, my real life friend, I make stock and then I make a roux from butter and flour and I use pan juices and I use a gravy separator. I also add wine.

    3. When I whip up a cocktail hat, I feel like I am running a sweat shop, population 1! At Christmas I always rally the troops to help out- my aunt is the overseer and I am the illegal worker but I do luff it.

    4. Please never let these posts end- we all LUFF them!!!

    5. Check out my awesome updo with back combing and a sequin leopard cocktail hat with netting and a veil (made with my paws) on my blog- structural integrity was not compromised for even a minute!

    xxx

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    1. Oh FF! Your headpiece is a treasure. I love Wuthering Heights!

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  3. PS I am listening to Kate Bush wuthering heights as I type! Heeeaaathcliff!! It's me it's Cathy Ive come home nowwww……I am not wearing a red dress tho x

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    1. Seriously, just the mention of this song (anthem?) is enough to make me tear up. Done.

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  4. I too love all the Le Cruset. I have a mom (we call her Honey) who drives me NUTS at the holiday time. I love her deeply but the family photo that she insists on yearly at Thanksgiving is a pain in our butts. Happy Thanksgiving! I wished I liked to cook only a fraction of what you do.

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    1. So funny! Honey! You are too busy decorating to cook! Hope the wedding planning is going well!

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    1. And some of Gary's garlic, too, I hope!

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  6. I'm going to roast up your vegetable puree today, that looks handy and would likely have many uses, like Heidi's stock paste she describes above? I can't get over these preparations, and it's all so visually pleasing. Now I'm nervous about the tablecloth, what's going to happen? It sounds like it will be fantastic. Oh you're in the final stretch now! Is your mother working on it today? XOX

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    1. And it smells so good! Okay I am so happy to report that it is indeed finished! She finished around 3:30 and then my sister called her and said she needed her at the office! Poor thing. I'm making her a fab dinner tonight though as a reward.

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    2. I came back to the comments to see what happened, how excellent. Finished! Please take a picture tomorrow to share, I bet it's beautiful even though she may not like it. How torturous to be such a perfectionist. Good job making her a fab dinner last night XOX

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  7. So hilaarious!! I am assuming there will be a visual of this creation. What a dear woman! Our tablecloth when we have Tgiving here is cotton Indian printed with pomegranates, wonderful wine and green colors with the white nantucket basket china; old family huge well-worn linen napkins my mom would iron when she was well enough to come up. Love to see a properly celebrated holiday!

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    1. Thank you! I have some Nantucket pieces! It's so versatile and classic! I love the sound of your tablecloth! Yes, there will be visuals!

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  8. You are putting us ALL to shame, I'm pretty sure. You know that, right? And you.. are your mothers son :-) I love your gravy tip! WOW! who woulda thought and yet it makes perfect sense that it would make the gravy simply wonderful. Dinner at your house must be a truly special and delicious occasion. I hope all appreciate you -

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    1. Haha I hope I'm not making anyone feel that way! I'm sure most of you get yours served with a lot less drama! Yes, try the veggie purée and let me know how you like it! I like that it makes the gravy a little less hollow. Thank you so much! I am very lucky, they all really do appreciate it. I don't invite the ones who don't!

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  9. omg stephen your mother would be ashamed of me. i was making 24 napkins yesterday and just decided to fringe the edges instead of sew them b/c i'm already exhausted. i doubt anyone will really even notice but i will. 54 yrds of fabric? what does that weigh? lol

    like everyone else, i never want these posts to end. xo

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    1. So funny-I was working on my napkins this week and was going to give up and leave them frayed because I just didn't want to deal with them. My sister is also a wonderful seamstress and she just surged the edges for me. Though they're blue toile and the thread is orange, but I really don't care!
      54 yards would be truly mind-boggling! The skirt, all stretched out, is 54 feet long and about ten inches wide. Can't wait to see your Thanksgiving!! Good luck!

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  10. Stephen Andrew.....I just love you. Thank you for making me laugh - always!

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  11. I sort of love that you posted this at 1:17 a.m. I think that speaks volumes. I am in awe of your stunning Le Creuset collection. God I love that stuff. When the husband and I were first dating, I think on my first Christmas with his family, his mom bought him (and I think the rest of the family) a Le Creuset. He of course had no clue what it was or why he would want it and I just sort of vaguely knew (I was in college at the time and cooking was not high on my priority list). To this day (um, 20 years later), I use that Le Creuset all the time and mentally thank my mother-in-law for her excellent foresight every time I use it.

    Gravy: I have no input. My recipe is to have my sister-in-law make it. She makes a mean gravy and thank goodness because my mother has no clue on gravy and I'm pretty sure that's the most important part of the meal. That tablecloth will be fab! Have faith :)

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    1. Your gravy advice is sound! I've had so many gravy disasters! What a wonderful gift from your MIL! So thoughtful and how fabulous that you still use it! Yes I was so exhausted I could hardly stay awake while the damn photos loaded! I am not a night owl in the least :)

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  12. Oh what a wonderful pre-holiday post, to remind us that those we love dearly are sometimes dysfunctional when it comes to some things...like tablecloths! It's funny that we watch family members go through the same iterations of things year after year knowing that's just who they are. Oh and as usual your prep is amazing. I am definitely stealing a couple of ideas from you, one of which is enjoying some sophisticated adult beverages while cooking. I think I tee-totaled last year, thinking it would make me work harder. It just made me bitchier.

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh you absolutely need some drinks! I like it because it's sort of my way of settling in and slowing down to enjoy the whole process. Plus one drink lasts so long when you're doing lots of other things! Bottoms up!

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  13. Thank you for all your lovely posts. I'm really enjoying them even if we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in The Netherlands. Had to think of you when I saw this post-see link
    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/06/a-visit-to-the-le-creuset-factory/

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    1. Thank you so much! And I loveeeeee that! Thank you! I'd love to go there! Can't imagine the trouble of get into!

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  14. Your posts always amuse me, sometimes makes me spew my coffee through my nose. But seriously, I just don't know how you manage it all??? Casual is my middle name...but I can only imagine how delicious and how very beautiful your Thanksgiving table's going to be. :) Hope momma comes through with that tablecloth!! Take a pic to show & tell.
    Your cocktail sounds good - just the thing!

    I have but one problem with this post.

    Mariah Carey? Really? *shaking head*

    Happy Thanksgiving SA!!

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    1. Oh I love it! It's too much work if one doesn't love it! Thank you so much! I'm happy to report that she's finished!
      Oh how can you not love some good old Mariah?!!? Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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  15. Hysterical! And now I have a major case of Le Creuset envy. OMFG on the precision prep!!

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    1. Thank you thank you! So here's the deal on my LC collection, go to the outlet between 7/31 and 8/2. It's the end of their fiscal year and they have really good deals then!

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  16. Oh these posts are fabulous...and wow Stephen your collection of Le Creuset pots is amazing!
    I oven roast several pounds of turkey wings with some diced celery stalks, chopped carrots and sliced onions cook in oven until they are slightly brown and gooey...cool them then pick off all the meat...puree with the drippings and place in the fridge ready to add to the turkey drippings...add veggie juice or a bit of water mixed with flour and whisk to the desired consistency.
    Mothers can drive us crazy...mine does and I know my kids have said that I do as I am known as the kitchen "Nazi" especially at these big family holiday feasts.

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    1. Thank you! Oh what a fabulous and easy idea for incredible flavor! The truth is that someone needs to be the boss! Everything falls apart when there's no one in charge!

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  17. I think we need a live feed from your kitchen. In would pay good money to see that. The bread and the color creuset! Not even ina nor Martha even nigella have done that!! You need to see Tampopo the forefront movie on food nuances. I use this thing called taste no 5. It's full of umami and natural msg. I use it in everything. It deepens everything and gives it that yummy leftover histamine flavour. I'm cheering for your mum to get it done do she can sing for her supper! It's the final countdown this week but then you gotta do s whole Xmas feast thing too ;)

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    1. Oh I will look into this! Thank you! Haha okay a live feed from my kitchen would be SO boring! I promise. Very happy to say that she is finished! I'm doing a dinner for 17 (I think) on Christmas Eve!

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    2. No it wouldn't! I too would pay good money to watch all the nostril flaring action and precision dicing!

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    3. Hahaha well there is that I guess. But mostly it's just hours and hours of chopping and loading and unloading the dishwashers! Either way I am confident you'd be requesting refunds.

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    4. Yes but if you really were on a live feed then we could have the producers (Barbie?) send in people to try and "help you out" in the kitchen every once in a while and that would liven things up!

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    5. At this point I am willing to fly over to Ohio and set up a skype camera in his kitchen for free!

      I know you won't have any time to do a post while baking slicing dicing yelling bossing drinking crying eating wincing - so can i just wish you a happy thanksgiving and I am sure most of us feel this way but you have been a beacon of cheer and smiles during what has been a really dark time in the world - normally I am not this cheesy I swear. so now let's just pretend this didn't happen.

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    6. PS Heidi if you are reading this - you can do a vlog xmas with FF - I would pay to see that too!

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    7. Naomi after this I'll pretend this didn't happen soon but first I wanted to say thank you :)

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  18. So I discovered you relatively recently and you have totally won my heart. Please please please post a pic of the famed tablecloth, whenever it arrives. February is good. June even.

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  19. I'm taking a break right now from making stock for my gravy - my Great Dane and Black Lab are both hovering near the stove and licking their lips -- and I was so happy to sit down for a few minutes and find some more Thanksgiving prep words and photos from you! My mum made gravy that was so delicious you just wanted to tip the gravy boat to your lips and glug it down. This will be my second Thanksgiving without her, and without my dad, and I miss them both so much I almost don't even want to "do" Thanksgiving this year. So give your mom a big long hug from a jealous reader -- you're lucky to have her, and she's lucky to have you. (And as much as I love 'Wuthering Heights,' the Kate Bush song for me would be 'Running Up That Hill.')

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    1. Running Up That Hill is my favorite too! What a sweet comment and thank you so much. I absolutely will. Thank you for giving me some perspective. I'm so sorry your mom isn't still physically standing in the kitchen with you, but I'm sure you still feel her there all the time! Poor doggies! Holidays are no fun for them. Barbie got so bored this afternoon she just glared at me and sadly walked up to bed.

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  20. my god.
    you have more talent and personality in your little finger than is on every single HGTV show currently on the air.
    i spent one whole night catching up with every post i'd missed. yup. love you.

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    1. Oh Tammy! Thank you so much. You are too sweet. Oh I have no talent in the realm of HGTV! I can cause thousands in damage just trying to hang a painting!

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  21. Spectacular as usual. Good luck with it all!

    If you lived close by, I'd give you a bunch of my dad's home grown celery which has amazing flavours I've never encountered with store bought celery. It looks like crazed parsley really with SSS (short skinny stalk syndrome) but wow wee the flavors. It lifts lentil soup, white bean soup actually all soups and stews/ casseroles even salads. Den x

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    1. Thank you! This is so funny because I was just bitching about celery yesterday! One of my friends grows it and it has the best flavor! I never even knew it could have such a strong taste!

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  22. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in your kitchen! Better yet, to be sitting on a counter stool in your kitchen with a Thanksgiving prep cocktail (I would have to substitute vodka), listening to conversation about the tablecloth. Finished and on the table, UNfinished and on the table or UNfinished and NOT on the table? Please don't keep us in suspense.
    As for managing a sweatshop, my mother or my older sister have always hosted Thanksgiving, so I am spared having to prep my house. However, my clients' houses are a different story, and there have been many years where I've been breathing (as politely as possible) down the neck of a workroom or supplier to make sure furniture, rugs, window treatments, etc. are delivered and installed in time for the holiday. Bribery is not out of the question. In theory, I should be the manager, but more often than not I become the sweatshop worker - moving furniture, ironing tablecloths, steaming draperies, etc.,
    so I can totally empathize with your mother. Can't wait to see her tablecloth, I'm sure it will be gorgeous!

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    1. Oh I promise it would be so boring! But I would happily pour you a WASPade with vodka instead-maybe absolut ruby red grapefruit. That might work well with the cranberry. Can't imagine the stress of finishing things for clients! That would be so stressful! Very happy to say that the tablecloth is complete! Thank you!

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  23. OH my god you are too funny! I also notice how damn organized you are in the kitchen please come here and HELP ME! My food does end up tasting good but the kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it when done! I need 3 timers too! I cannot wait to see that table cloth!
    xo

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    1. All that matters is that it tastes good! And trust me, my kitchen always looks a disaster too by the time I serve! I try and try to keep it clean but I never can! The timers are such a tiny detail but they make the whole procedure so much easier!

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  24. I hear the Le Creuset angels singing........beautiful!! I want that delicious cocktail too! Since finding your blog I have had a SAJ blog marathons. awesome!

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    1. Thank you so much! It is so so easy to make! You'll love it! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  25. I'm so glad I found you! Anybody that can make me laugh out loud is a treasure. I have a long list of what I'm grateful for and you are on it. My sweet ma died on St Patrick's Day 2011....which she would have love being an Irish lass. Mom made the very best gravy and turkey. I kick myself because I didn't learn from the best. Luckily my daughter seems to have the knack. Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season! You have a fan in Iowa.

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    1. Hello, Rose! I absolutely love your name. Thank you so much! You are right, I'm sure your mother loves that she went out with a party! I'm so happy that your daughter has the knack for gravy! It really is a natural talent I think. I don't have it! I've had many, many gravy issues over the years! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  26. Stephen, I'm so glad I discovered your blog! At this time of year I love to watch holiday cooking shows to get me in the mood. All that chopping, stirring, pureeing! So yes, I'd pay to watch the goings-on in your kitchen. After 40 years of Thanksgiving dinners at my house the younger generation has taken over but I'm still called on to make the gravy! Can't wait to see your recap, you are marvelous!

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    1. Thank you so much! How did it go passing the torch?! Gravy is a good thing to delegate! I'm sure it turned out fabulously!

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  27. So here we are, just shy of 8pm, two glasses of wine in, on the day when I feel most sorry for myself of the year. Yes, it is today somehow and not actually Thanksgiving itself because it is the dreamy part that gets me every time. Tomorrow I will talk to everyone on the phone and feel a bit better but tonight? It is lonesome oh woe is me goings. So thank goodness I have your blog to make me laugh!

    Sadly, I do have a sweatshop story. No, I didn't run it, nor did I even know of its existence until months later. My very first job in NYC in the 80s was as a sales girl at a very "chic" boutique in a then blossoming arty neighborhood. I can't say more for fear of repraisals but it had a jungle theme with a special VIP "hut" where guests were offered lots of things to imbibe...well, it was the 80s. I was a terrible seller. The worst one. I was always signaled out as the loser at the weekly sales meeting but I think they kept me on because they loved my look. I became friends with the manager and after many months, one night late after closing, I was taken down into the basement. I had always thought that the clothes were crap, even though the labels said that they were made in a European country in which I know live. Well, I am sorry to say that there were three seamstresses working like crazy to make the clothes. I quit immediately after but if only I had not been barely 18 then I would most certainly have turned them in...they went out of business six months later.

    There you go, another NYC story. I am sending great energy for tomorrow. Oh what I wouldn't give to be somehow at your table and then be driven up to my Mom's (who always serves later)!

    Gros Bisous
    H

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    1. Oh, Heather! I completely understand. Well, I guess I couldn't completely understand. But I understand very much. The night before is the best part of anything . I hope you got a little feeling of the anticipation! :) how awful about that store!! So glad they went out of business.

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  28. First and foremost, you have to keep these posts coming. The after-holiday blues are bad enough; I cannot add the lack of SAJ holiday posts to those emotions.

    I bought fabric for Christmas napkins today, and I was sweating at the thought of how late I was getting started on these so your post makes me feel so much better. My mother is much the same as yours when it comes to lack of follow-through (or deadline motivation--however you want to frame it, right?). I'm happy to say I inherited my creative gene from her but also my get-shit-done gene from my father, so I like to think it's the perfect combination; however, I do have a college friend who referred to me as "Martha Stewart on speed with a dash of Joseph Stalin," so I guess it's a matter of perspective, really. ;)

    I didn't think I needed to make another grocery run, but that Thanksgiving-prep cocktail sounds too good to pass up...

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    1. Haha thank you! Oh I get the WORST depression after the holidays. I hate Januarry and wish I could skip it entirely. How did your Thanksgiving go? I hope you did make my cranberry gin concoction :)

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  29. Stephen, your mother and mine, a pair! Though I'm sure yours isn't 95 yet. (Stay tuned for a blog post about nonagenarian antics again, sigh.) And 54 yards of fabric, whoa. I cannot wait to see this creation. I hope you have a stress-free Thanksgiving....I know it will be delicious. Your guests are so lucky!

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    1. Haha! Thank you! The skirt stretched out to 54 feet, but luckily was only ten inches wide!

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  30. Super impressed with your knife skills. Is that celery that is so tiny and evenly diced? Love your tip for the gravy, will do that for my Christmas turkey this year. My sister has been busy with her Thankgiving prep, was a little concerned as she thought she may have been a little heavy handed adding the Bourbon to her cranberry sauce. In our family that is called an 'oops' measurement. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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    1. Thank you so much! The chopping is my favorite part of the prep! Oh I love the oops measurements! Just add a little more and make it a cocktail!

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  31. Wonderful posting!

    Hoping you will have a post that outlines some possible Host/Hostess gifts for the Holidays ... I am always at a loss for ideas .... this year I am taking a bouquet of fresh herbs from my garden to our hostess for Thanksgiving .... but simply NO ideas here for possible Thanks-for-inviting-me gifts for the upcoming festivities .....

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh I am the worst about gifts. I hate it! I'd rather everyone just bought what they wanted! I guess the advice is buy what you'd like. So for me that's wine. Haha but not just any wine, their favorite! Or something I thought was very thoughtful and practical that one of my uncles does is a gift card to where you know they shop for ingredients. It's an easy conversation to have because the host has no idea you're thinking its for a gift and will be honest.

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  32. OMG I just peed myself laughing at this, fortunately I was in the bath. My mum used to drive me crazy too, sadly she passed away in August. But it is her birthday this weekend so we are having a party for her, she will be livid of course she isn't there.

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    1. Haha thank you!! I'm so sorry about your mother. I'll bet the holidays will be hard this year being your first without her. But I love your idea about celebrating her birthday with a party! I'm sure you had a few things over the course of the day where you felt her.

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    2. Oh just seen your comment and you are so right, just as the party was starting the lamp in our living room flickered twice, never done that before or since. I think she was saying 'i'm here'. Also we sent off Chinese lanterns with our birthday messages, it was so poignant. It was good to get together as a family but there were a few tears. We miss her so much, she was such a character. I love your blog, I'm a new fan so reading lots of old posts and catching up. I love your writing, so descriptive, makes me feel right there with you. Thank you so much.

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  33. Oh Stephen, I miss you! Looks like your Thanksgiving prep went wonderfully and hopefully your day did as well. I'll have to text you a pic of the dishes I used. Ours was just simple as Allie was away and my mom had recently passed. I love all your Le Creuset and will have to give your drink a try. I've got to get in the mood to decorate the house for Christmas, wish I could have you come help!

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    1. Hello, Donna! Happy Thanksgiving! I'd love to see the plates! I don't have the tree up in the salon yet and really need to get on it!

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