The Kitchen Cabinet

On Thanksgiving I suddenly started humming the 1980 Jona Lewie technopop hit You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties. Allow me to refresh your memory:

What’s it been, 30 years since I heard that song? It was certainly forced up from my subconscious by the oppressive turkey day crowd in my kitchen.

It’s not like our kitchen is unusually small, but it’s small enough that when five people are standing around it feels crowded — and when you’re juggling Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps having five extra people standing around is not helpful.

I managed to drive away several guests during my expletive laden attempt to lift the hot turkey from the roasting pan, but it was only temporary. Soon the kitchen was again filled with people eating appetizers, offering gravy tips, asking questions…

But let’s be real: it may have been mildly aggravating, but it beats the alternative. To have my family and friends around was a real blessing. Now, please, go watch some football.

Christmas Tree Index 2014

For our family, Christmas begins not in late October (like at Lowe’s), but on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when we go to Bob’s Trees in Galway for the annual Tannenbaum hunt.

You may be wondering why we drive more than 40 miles to get a tree. Surely there are many trees that are just as good at half the distance. I’ll tell you why 40 miles matters: tradition!

I don’t remember why we started going there, but who cares. When you start applying logic to your traditions, soon you won’t have any. But that doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate some statistics, hence the annual Christmas Tree Index.

Last year, after more than 25 years of cutting down Christmas trees,  it seemed like an interesting idea to rate our performance. Interesting because some of our tree harvests have been… well, horrendous experiences.

My system rates the tree cutting on a scale of one to 100 based on mood
, weather, field conditions, tree quality and transportation. Each of those criteria account for 20 points.
 This year’s score was 90, beating the 85 we tallied in 2013.

I’d say that this year things were damn near perfect, with the notable exception of field conditions. The Thanksgiving storm meant we trudged through half a foot of snow, some of it covering soggy ground. The snow, while picturesque, also made it somewhat difficult to assess the trees adequately. Ten points off. I nearly took off points for the extreme mud in parts of the parking lot, but it did not significantly affect the day.

Also of note is that we cut down two trees: our own and one for my son’s apartment. It was actually easier tying two to the roof of my car, so no points lost for transportation.

It may seem to you that with recent scores of 85 and 90 that tree day is consistently trouble-free — but don’t be fooled. There have been dark years where we would have been lucky to scratch the 40 point mark.

One area that would always get a perfect score is tree quality. Once the tree is standing in the living room, festooned with lights and ornaments, it would be hard to give even the gnarliest and most misshapen tree anything less than 20 points. And when you sit and look at it there in the corner, it’s easy to forget any trouble that might have come along with keeping up the tradition.

Eat the Bird

Turkey -- not body parts.
Turkey — not body parts.

Working in the dark of night, the black plastic bags, the cooler — whenever I brine a turkey it reminds me of something out of Dexter. I hope none of my Thanksgiving guests are reading this.

Anyhow, it would not be Thanksgiving if I didn’t post a link to my recipe for sweet potato crunch. People remember two things about Albany Eye: the wiseass commentary and the sweet potato crunch recipe I first shared in 2006.

It’s getting sort of like NPR’s tradition of running Susan Stamberg’s horrible relish recipe with one important difference: the sweet potato crunch is something people will actually love to eat. Stamberg is fond of saying “It sounds terrible but tastes terrific.” Susan, let’s be honest: most people hate it.

Take my word for it, this will be one of the most popular things on the table — but I’ll share one tip about the recipe that I wrote when I first shared it:

Cook’s note: DO NOT DARE used canned sweet potatoes; you’re making dinner for your loved ones, not the inmates down at Coxsackie.

Maybe they could punish unruly prisoners by giving them nothing but the Susan Stamberg relish? Nah… that would be cruel and unusual.

A Nation Divided

Americans were so outraged with the Ferguson grand jury decision that many of them actually tweeted about it.

If only we’d had Twitter during the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Who knows what would have been possible with so many people sitting on their couches blurting out their opinions to nobody in particular.

Turkey Flambé: 2014 Edition

Yay, Americans are getting smarter!

You’re probably saying, “Rob, that’s not very likely. What proof do you have?”

Easy. Every Thanksgiving, I scour the internet for videos of people having horrible mishaps when frying turkeys — and these videos are getting very hard to find. The most recent fryer fire I could locate was uploaded to YouTube more than a year ago, on December 10, 2013.

Combine the lack of videos with the proliferation of phones that shoot video and it can only mean fewer fires.

What you will find on YouTube are many videos of fire departments staging turkey fires to demonstrate the dangers of hot oil, open flames, turkeys and (presumably) alcohol. Having served as a firefighter, I can tell you that they pass up few opportunities to light things on fire for training. Here’s a good one:

So, if we connect the dots we can surmise that all these demonstration videos have made a difference and yielded smarter Americans. Now, all we need are some videos about how local talk radio can rot your brain…

True Crime

It’s been ten years since Christopher Porco attacked his parents with an ax, leaving his father dead and mother horribly maimed. It doesn’t surprise me that the Times Union would commemorate the brutal murder with a slide show of the “Unforgettable Crimes of the Capital Region,” but this Facebook post seemed strange.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 1.49.16 PM

Seriously? Maybe “some crimes remain in our psyche” because you celebrate their anniversary with a slide show. I’m sure it got lots of clicks.

“The Ghost of Christmas Ass”

I sometimes like to share things I like from the ad world, and I found this Christmas spot particularly inspiring. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

I was not previously aware of Poo-Pourri — and this is not their first off kilter video — but you can be certain that I’ll pick it up for the house. I may even bring some to work for those people who insist on shi**ing during the work day.

What Were They Thinking?

Our public radio station, WAMC, has a pretty serious commitment to local news. They do a good job covering serious topics — so when I heard the story, College Community Shaken by Student Death it really got my attention. The piece was about the tragic passing of UAlbany student Trevor Duffy. You can read or listen to the story here. A couple of thoughts:

I can excuse that the headline has nothing to do with what’s in the story — and that the reporter, Dave Lucas, didn’t bother talking to a single student or UAlbany staff member.

It’s also understandable that he would rely so heavily on information from other media, referencing stories from WNYT, Time Warner and “some reports” as his source of quotes and points of fact.

And the story’s tortured attempt to paint this as a town and gown issue, summoning up the Kegs ‘n’ Eggs riot of 2011? I don’t agree with the premise, but it’s a harmless idea.

But what’s truly atrocious — in fact, one of the most revolting things I’ve seen recently — is how the reporter cites several items from “an account on Twitter that appears to be Duffy’s.” He uses these tweets, presented without any legitimate context, to try making a point about the student’s state of mind. That’s just downright sleazy.

Look, I understand that sometimes you need to throw something together. Every story isn’t going to be a finely cut gem — but where are the editors who are supposed to keep crap like that off the air? That’s a mystery.

The Vomitory

Well, I’m heading to Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday for the clash of the AFC East titans as the Bills host the Jets.

I’ve got a pretty good idea what I’ll be cooking for our tailgate, but I haven’t decided yet on whether I wish to be mildly mocked by the Bills fans or severely mocked. My Joe Namath jersey will bring mild but respectful mocking, but the Mark Sanchez jersey I recently bought for $10 will certainly bring a cascade of derisive (and potentially lewd) commentary.

Buffalo’s being walloped with snow this week, but weekend temperatures will be in the 50s. If it doesn’t rain, it will be a nice day for November — and to be fully prepared for the trip, I took a look at the stadium info on the Bills website. That’s when I found this:

Wait for the Whistle Policy
To ensure the enjoyment of the game action for guests, The Buffalo Bills
enforce a “Wait for the Whistle” policy for guests returning to their seats.
Guests are asked to stay behind the yellow line in the vomitory until the
officials have halted play on the field, at which point guests are permitted
to return to their seats.

WTF? The vomitory? Having been to games at “The Ralph” I’ll tell you this: it would be difficult to define any single area as tyhe place where people vomit.

Naturally, I looked this up, and a vomitory is defined as “an entrance piercing the banks of seats of a theater, amphitheater, or stadium.”  Wikipedia offers a deeper dive into vomitory:

The Latin word vomitorium, plural vomitoria, derives from the verb vomō, vomere, “to spew forth.” In ancient Roman architecture, vomitoria were designed to provide rapid egress for large crowds at amphitheatres and stadiums, as they do in modern sports stadiums and large theatres.

So, there you go, you really do learn something new every day — but just in case, I’m going to avoid standing in the vomitory.