by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here!
The Great Food Search has been an interesting experience, with FoodQuests exploring Chinese restaurants, taco wagons, chain diners, burger joints, donuts, grilled cheese sandwiches, pumpkin dishes and summer cool treats. This time, the suggested subject was…Turkey. What was I going to do? Go to different submarine sandwich places? I tried to think of ways to approach the article, and what came to me were memories of Thanksgivings Past. They crowded out any new ideas, so I am going to share with you two of these memories: The Thanksgiving Without a Pie, and The Slow-Cooker Turkey.
The Thanksgiving Without a Pie
For many years, Thanksgiving meant a trip to Bakersfield and a feast with my family: my parents, my brothers and sisters, and their families. At noon, the dining table filled with food for the dishing, and we sat around doors that were placed on sawhorses, or we were seated at card tables. After dinner, we would relax for a while, talk theatre, and have dessert. Later, we would raid the kitchen for leftovers. One year was different.
Byron, my older little brother (I am the oldest brother…and the shortest) had moved his family into a house that was three blocks from my parents’ home, and they wanted to showcase it to the clan, so we were invited for a Thanksgiving spread.
It was wonderful! Byron’s wife, Jeannette, cooked a massive and succulent bird, along with some sides. The rest of us brought/bought family favorites:
• Deviled eggs (Mom’s recipe…a chunky, grainy style with olives and relish that I still prefer to the pudding-consistency type.)
• Green-Bean Casserole (Of course, we used the Cream of Mushroom Soup and French’s Onion recipe.)
• One container of Pickled Tongue (My sister Nondus and I loved this stuff. Jackie, the younger sister, didn’t. Mom loved it, too, but she couldn’t eat it any more, so she’d buy a container at our family’s favorite Italian deli and watch us eat while she smiled.)
• Pies (Mincemeat, apple and Costco’s pumpkin pie [I had to drive over 100 miles from Sanger to East Bakersfield to get there, so my branch of the family tree brought something simple and spoil-proof.])
The food was good, the house was big-yet-cozy, and it was nice to have the family together, but—as soon as the meal was over—everybody had to leave, because Byron and his brood needed to go to Jeannette’s family’s Thanksgiving gathering. We all waddled out and trundled over to the family homestead and collapsed in turkey-induced stupors. About 5 p.m., we started thinking about dessert and attacking the leftovers. That’s when we realized that we didn’t have any. We had left all the food, including the pies, at Byron’s place!
What were we going to do? I took George (my very-tall baby brother), and we drove to Byron’s to see if we could get in. All the doors were locked. Looking through the back kitchen window, we could see the pies sitting on a counter.
What to do?
George said, “Let’s break the window and get in!”
I said, “Byron’s an electrician. He’s probably got the place wired up with alarms and everything. I don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving by being arrested.”
Back at Mom and Dad’s, we had 10 “ungry” (somewhere between hungry and angry) people. We pooled all the money in every purse and wallet, a total of $24.
George and I headed out, looking for some place that was open on Thanksgiving Night. The supermarkets were closed. McDonald’s and Burger King: closed. Pizzaville USA: closed. Long John Silver’s: closed. Restaurants: closed. I was driving, and George was riding shotgun as my spotter, but I was beginning to worry about how things were back at the house. I imagined a Donner Party situation where people turned on each other. Who would survive?
George shouted, “There!” and I saw a bit of red light out of the corner of my eye—an “OPEN” sign! I didn’t care what it was, it was OPEN!
I pulled across lanes and into the shopping center. It was a Chinese take-out place I’d never been to. As we rushed for the door, the OPEN light turned off…but the door wasn’t locked! I barreled in, threw down a collection of coins and bills onto the counter and said, “We’ll take anything you’ve got for this much money.”
The victorious hunters returned to Mc Arthur Central with an odd assortment of rice, chow mein, sweet-and-sour, some unidentifiable items, and everything they could scrape out of the bottom of the soup pot. We ate it all…and that was
The Thanksgiving Without a Pie.
We never told Byron what happened…until this week.
The Slow-Cooker Turkey
As time and relationships changed, the family didn’t gather as frequently. We often stayed in Fresno County, dining with my daughter (Phoenix) and my wife (Marilyn) and my wife’s brother (Ralph). A whole turkey was too much for us. We needed an alternative that would serve a smaller group.
When Phoenix discovered the joys of slow-cooker food presentation, she unearthed a recipe from a website that she can no longer find. It didn’t need a whole turkey, just a packaged turkey breast.
Easy and Delicious Turkey Breast
3-lb turkey breast (thawed and rinsed…and make sure you take out the gravy packet. You don’t want plastic on your palate)
1—15-oz can whole-berry cranberry sauce (It has a healthy texture)
1 envelope of dry onion soup mix (You don’t need the famous brand. A generic house brand may be as tasty, and it saves money)
½ cup orange juice (That’s what the recipe said, but Phoenix prefers apple juice, so that’s what we use)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
That’s all you need. Stick the turkey breast into the slow cooker, mix everything else in a bowl, pour it over the fowl, cover it, cook it on low heat for 6-8 hours, and prepare for a mild case of Bliss.
Check out more food articles and more of Terrance’s Great Food Search column in our Food Fun section.