Thursday, November 26, 2009

Suzann's Green Beans

Our second Thanksgiving as a married couple, I decided to make homemade rolls to take with us to Joe's sister's house (I can't remember what we did our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, but it's possible that we drove to Boise and stopped at that Denny's in Nevada where I played the slots with the change we'd gotten after paying for our meal and Joe said I was throwing the 50 cents away and I came back to the table four mintues later with $30 in quarters -- or maybe that was some other time). We were living two doors down from Joe's sister's family in San Diego, renting the second story of an old craftsman style house near Balboa Park (directly under the flight path of the San Diego Airport -- every morning at 6 am the planes flying 50 feet overhead shook us awake). We had this tiny galley kitchen where Joe taught me to cook. He stuck to the basics -- bake the chicken breasts in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, make some rice on the stovetop and then steam some vegetables only he would eat. But that year at Thanksgiving, I decided to make homemade yeast rolls to walk over to Julie's house for Thanksgiving. The recipe instructed me to cut out the rolls with a biscuit cutter, which of course I did not have. I had a wine glass. So I cut the rolls out with a wine glass. On the third or fourth roll, the stem of the wine glass broke in half and I stabbed myself below my first knuckle on my right hand with the broken stem. It wasn't a long cut, but it was deep and I bled and bled, and I should have gotten stiches. But I didn't want to go sit in the emergency room for four hours on Thanksgiving Day -- especially when I was making homemade rolls! So I washed it out, bandaged my throbbing hand and continued on with the roll-making. For many years, the scar on my hand from that cut looked exactly like a turkey's head -- that is no lie. But after about 6 or 7 years, the scar changed shape a little bit and now looks like a cross. There is absolutely no reason to tell you that story -- no object lesson here about turkeys that turn to crosses -- just a little Flamingo family Thanksgiving Day lore. I can't even remember how the rolls turned out.

By our third Thanksgiving together, we were living in Macon and I was going to law school. Flamingo Joe had gotten a recipe for Moroccan turkey (was it Moroccan, honey? It might have been some other exotic land). The recipe called for beer and capers, among other things. Beer I knew where to find. Capers, not so much. Neither of us knew what a caper even was, so we didn't even know where to look for them in the grocery aisle. I made a couple of visits to different groceries, and asked more than one clerk where to find the capers and no one knew. Joe finally asked the person who gave him the recipe where to find capers and the woman told him they were in the aisle with the olives. My family was shocked I was actually cooking a turkey after only three years of marriage, but who else was going to do it? My mom had stopped cooking turkeys when the microwave came on the market and Joe's mom wasn't with us for Thanksgiving that year. So it was up to me -- and Flamingo Joe. That was the last year he helped with Thanksgiving dinner -- and you can't blame him at all -- it was extremely stressful. You had to get the turkey done and all those side dishes on the table hot at the same time! Who can take that kind of pressure?? I nearly killed us both running around the kitchen with sharp implements. The Moroccan turkey turned out great and my family was suitably impressed -- but I'm pretty sure we ate cold mashed potatoes and abandoned all efforts at gravy after adding flour, then water, then flour, then water, then throwing out the lumpy gluey nastiness after 20 minutes of effort. I still can't do gravy. Which leads me to my friend Suzann -- cause Suzann can do gravy. And fried chicken. And blackberry pie made from fresh-picked blackberries.

Between the Moroccan turkey in Year 3 and the first-time-ever-brining turkey from last year, I really can't remember every Thanksgiving -- that's nine years' worth of Thanksgivings that have slipped from my memory. Because really, I don't have long-term food memory. I'm not a foodie like some of my friends who can remember exactly what they ate at which restaurant on which day and how it compared to some other meal they had at some other place. I remember when I had real gnocchi for the first time in an Italian restaurant in San Diego and I keep looking for that some gnocchi high every time I see it on a menu, but I can never recapture it -- but that's it. Unbeknownst to me until two days ago, my husband actually is one of those people with long-term food memory. For the first time in our 13 years of marriage, I asked Flamingo Joe if there was anything in particular he wanted to have at Thanksgiving dinner (before judging me too harshly -- the reason I've never asked him before what he wanted for Thanksgiving dinner was that I was afraid he'd ask me to make brussel sprouts or spinach or, heaven help us, beets -- and quite frankly, heretofore I just haven't loved him enough to make beets for him and only barely enough to steam him up some brussel sprouts -- but this year, our love has blossomed and I was ready to make him whatever vegetable his heart desired even if it meant I had to swallow throw-up to do it). So I said, "Sweetest dearest honey, is there anything in particular you would like to have at Thanksgiving this year?" And without stopping to take a breath, he says "Suzann's green beans." Suzann's green beans????

Suzann's green beans go waaaaaay back -- to the first summer we were dating. Flamingo Joe and I met in Idaho -- that tedious love story is another blog post (or three) altogether, but suffice it to say that I was in Idaho getting a master's degree in English and Joe's mom introduced us at church the first spring I was in Idaho. So we had been dating all of two months before it was time for me to go home to Georgia for the summer. Quite honestly, I didn't really think he liked me that much and expected the big romance to fizzle right out while I was away for two and a half months, so I was very surprised when he called me up one day after I got back to Georgia and said he was going to come for a visit. Great day in the morning, I was a nervous wreck! What in the world was I going to do with Joe for a week in Douglas, Georgia?? (If you've ever been there, you know why I'm saying this -- I mean, Douglas is great, but you can only go to Danny's Pizza so many times with your out of town guests before they up and decide they want to go somewhere more exciting -- like Alma). So I came up with a plan where Joe would only have to be in Douglas for a few days -- I would pick him up at the airport in Atlanta and instead of heading south to Douglas, we'd head north to Boone, NC where my friends Suzann and Durema were going to graduate school at Appalachian State. So I picked Joe up at the airport and we got in my little Chevy S-10 pickup, where he promptly laid down across the seat and fell asleep for an hour with his head on my leg. We got to Suzann's and Durema's a few hours later and at some point over the next couple of days, Suzann cooked a meal for us -- it included fried chicken, gravy (naturally), and green beans. And don't forget the sweet tea -- Joe had just met Suzann, but for some reason felt comfortable enough to mimic her all night, saying "Can I have some more 'Swate Taaaaaay'?"

So when Flamingo Joe said he wanted Suzann's green beans, I was a little offended -- that was almost 17 years ago!!!! I've been cooking for the man for 13 years!! And when asked what favorite dish he'd like on Thanksgiving, he picks ANOTHER WOMAN'S GREEN BEANS?!? I tried to warn him off of the dangerous path he'd taken -- I told him that I was sure Suzann's green beens were cooked in a pound of lard and a big chunk of fatback, but he was oblivious and said he didn't care. Hmmph.

The next day, I emailed Suzann and asked her for the recipe, which is quite simple, really. Fresh green beans, beef bouillon cube and some sugar, all boiled in water for 1 1/2 hours. Voila! Suzann's green beans. No lard. No fatback. Apparently I could have been making these for the past 13 years and making my husband happy on a weekly basis. Go figure.

I did have to buy these "fresh" green beans in bags because Publix didn't have any of the long, unwashed variety, but they cooked up just fine and complemented my bacon-wrapped turkey quite nicely.

A few days ago, my friend Ahlem told me about how her inlaws put bacon on their turkey at some point during the cooking process and the turkey turns out very moist. And she was right, by golly! All the fat from the bacon just soaks into the turkey and oh my lands you should taste it -- and the bacon from off the top of the turkey made a tasty little appetizer for me while I was carving up the turkey.

And though it took me 13 Thanksgivings (and two ovens) to accomplish it, everything you see (except the salad, of course) on the table below is hot. And fully cooked.

It's a Thanksgiving miracle.

1 comment:

  1. I really thought I posted on this blog! Anyhooo. I think it's interesting that you were worried about my green beans having fatback and lard, yet you wrapped the turkey in bacon . . . hmmmmmm. LOL!

    I'm so glad the beans turned out tasty, and I promise to send you at least one can of homegrown canned green beans this year :-)
    Love you! <3


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