The Annual Tradition was going to be more than a little different than years past. For one, our home is currently a boarded-up mess of dust, boxes, stacks of things, boxes of tile, hardwood floor samples, paint cans, stacks of lumber, loose A/V wires, unhinged doors, and a whole lot of stray nails. As nomads for the last year, we’ve been living in a technically-two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, but without nearly the amount of room we’d need to host the whole family... even if we could get them to come up here in the first place.
Plus, there was another fun thing to consider... several of the PhillyChix were gonna be in Los Angeles for a conference, and decided to stay on through Thanksgiving! Who could pass up the opportunity to have Thanksgiving with, like, FIVE of my best friends (not to mention having Durannies be the majority versus non-Durannies – take THAT, Mom! – for the first time ever for a holiday celebration)?!
I admit it... we toyed with the idea of having the year’s theme be A Very Durannie Thanksgiving. But when I asked my decidedly non-Duran-appreciating mother what we’d serve at such a feast, she snipped “A dried up old turkey!” Oooh, BURN! I can’t top that, ladies and gentlemen! So we quickly nixed the Duran theme. Instead, the idea came to us somewhere in between Colorado and Wyoming as we were driving back from our Summer Travels: A Road Trip Thanksgiving!
What with remodeling chaos this year, The Husband-Type Man and I have been living pretty much everywhere but at home. We spent last spring in the Venice Beach House. We went back and forth to Boston a lot to visit Sugarbear. Then I went to Virginia for the summer to do my 6-week Chillun’s Lit program, while THTM headed to Germany for 7 weeks of World Cupping. I drove cross-country – TWICE – just because it was something I’ve always wanted to do, and planned a careful route so I could experience everything from the fictional Lloydsboro Valley of the Little Colonel books to Graceland to visits to numerous friends to Historic Route 66. Driving to Virginia, with my Road Trip Playlist cranked on the iPod, I stopped by a Harvey House/Route 66 site in San Bernardino, stayed in Flagstaff in hopes of finding two historic rock houses that my grandfather’s stepfather, Daddy Bob, had built back in the 1910s, and explored Indian Trading Posts that were simultaneously awesome and horrific. I visited Cadillac Ranch at sunrise, visited a truly scary Wal-Mart in the middle of Oklahoma to have a flat tire fixed, and visited too many giant gas-station-fast-food-convenience-store-truck-stop places to count. I stayed with Cyndi in Indiana, and ate at an insane Amish buffet. I made literary pilgrimages: Pewee Valley, Kentucky, which was the fictional “Lloydsboro Valley”; Faulkner’s house in Oxford, Mississippi, which lent a Gothic creepy feeling to a humid and hot summer morning; Helen Keller’s childhood home, Ivy Green, in the disgusting town of Tuscumbia, Alabama, where I drove, lost, for almost two hours and didn’t even find the house until 5 minutes before closing. I helped rescue a dog that some stupid RV-ers had left at a random bathroom stop on a little windy road in Tennessee. I took two-lane roads through New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama. I visited the Clinton Library in Little Rock to do a good chunk of my Christmas shopping. However, I got through Texas and Oklahoma as quickly as I fucking could! And 8 days after pulling onto Santa Monica Blvd., I made it to Roanoke for an intense, study-and-work-filled summer.
In the meantime, The Husband-Type Man hopped trains all over Germany and Austria, sending me missives from this or that little hotel. He snacked on pretzels with mustard, visited with sports-fanatics from Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and the US in countless beer gartens, read Harry Potter books in small parks in a dozen different German cities while lunching on bratwurst and rolls, and drank Apfelschorle and sweet white dessert wines in the nicer restaurants with his dinners.
Reunited in late July (after only a quick cross-Atlantic booty call for my birthday in June), we took our time driving back to California. We stayed in Atlanta with Goddess Caroline and Mr. Goddess. We stopped to visit Ben and Kelley and meet their new baby daughter, and Dave and Monica and their new baby son in North Carolina. We went to Pedroland, Graceland, and Chicagoland for the first-ever Greecie-Con! We went to Denver by way of Milwaukee, to Memphis by way of Atlanta, and eventually, to San Francisco by way of Cheyenne, Salt Lake City and Reno. I really wanted to go to Four Corners, which seemed a near-mythical destination when I first heard of it at age 10, but it would have added 2 days to our route, and by that time, we were sick of the road, sick of driving, sick of Dita the Wünderkaar, and just wanted to be done with travel, so it’ll have to be a special trip all its own someday.
Me and THTM got to San Francisco, set up camp in our little Russian Hill/North Beach pad, and commenced to jumping headfirst into everything the city had to offer... including trips to favorite coffeehouses, local markets, and lots and lots of restaurants.
When it came time to plan our Road Trip Thanksgiving menu, needless, we had a LOT of cities to choose from. Because the PhillyChix were coming, they decided some Philly foods were also in order. Then Parlance insisted on traditional “black folks’ mac & cheese” and scored the recipe that her mom used to make back in Chicago. I pored through the Elvis cookbook from Graceland, THTM compared Boston baked beans recipes, and here’s what we collectively ended up with!
The cooking orgy commenced. There were heated anti (me) and pro (the PhillyChix, Gram) battles about that cursed green bean casserole. There was a stuffing throwdown that involved the kidnapping, sabotaging, holding-for-ransom-ing, burning-at-the-stake-ing, and outright lying over a heinous box of Stove Top. Birmie Squicky Kevy’d the inside of the fridge. E.Beth stirred sour cream and herbs into diabolical mashed potatoes. Mommy had an “I’m not helpful!” meltdown. New recipes were attempted, old ones celebrated (except for that fucking green bean casserole!). And once all the food was cooked and consumed and the results were in, the hands-down winner was Par’s mac&cheese. Jayzus! That was food porn! The chocolate chip pie ran a close second (and was quite yummy the next day when the lot of us settled in for a couple stretches of NaNoWriMo-ing).
Good eatin’, gang!
A Road Trip Thanksgiving
Foods from All the Random Places We’ve Been This Year
Appetizers and Cocktails
- Selection of California Cheeses
- Roasted Georgia Peanuts
- German-style Pretzels and Mustard
Main Courses and Side Dishes
- Good New World Puritan Turkey and Stuffing from Heaven
- Virginia Baked Ham
- Mashed Potatoes a la [PhillyChix]
- [Parlance’s] Chicago Mac & Cheese
- Autumn Root Vegetable Puree
- Iowa Baked Corn Casserole
- Southern Ratatouille
- Boston Baked Beans
- Green Bean Casserole from Hell
- Elvis’s Good Ol’ Southern Boy Buttermilk Biscuits
- San Francisco Sourdough Bread