Cartouche's Blog

Writing My Way Out of Something


Someplace, somewhere else, USA
February 09
Mind My Own Business
Artist, former newspaper columnist and restaurant critic. Award-winning author of "In Pursuit of Excellence". In my spare minute I can be found blogging here, on Huffington Post and other places that don't pay and (more often) writing for some places that do. Occasionally I tweet random thoughts and observations as @nonconfromist. I keep the really good ones to myself.


NOVEMBER 21, 2010 10:12PM

There was that Thanksgiving......

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There was that Thanksgiving the cat almost ate.   The turkey was resting comfortably in the kitchen, minding its own business, awaiting its fate as everyone mingled in the living room. Even as their stomachs growled and their mouths drooled, the adults sipped "Mad Men" cocktails and my siblings and I hungrily anticipated digging into the meal that made us feel American, at least once a year.  Its aromas had tortured us all day long. 

Suddenly, there was a loud crash and a thud.  My mother raced to the kitchen like a quarterback on crack. She slid into first base in the knick of time and grabbed the turkey out of Rocky’s mouth as he attempted to drag it across the floor without getting caught or anyone noticing.  What house did this cat think he lived in? 

Bursting at the seams and splattering apart at touchdown, the turkey probably weighed more than Rocky did.  Like Humpty Dumpty, my mom put that turkey back together again.  None of the guests were the wiser when she brought it to the table to be carved and served as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.  My father’s chainsaw massacre with the electric knife was a second-rate performance compared to my mother’s dexterity and her magical cut and paste job.  She had twine.  And a big needle.

There was that Thanksgiving in Paris in the Chinese restaurant. With the exception of my friend Gary, I celebrated with a group of complete strangers.  We had soup, Singapore noodles, chicken, pork, shrimp, and lots of greens, oysters, lobster and squid.  No mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce or stuffing in sight.  The closest thing to dark meat came from the crispy duck.  Every time somebody wanted mustard, we deferred to Gary, whose claim to fame came from being the actor who had said, “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” 

The dinner was memorable, even if the dessert was not.  As much as I dislike pumpkin pie, I’ll take that any day over lychee nuts in heavy syrup.  Lychees are soft and nowhere near as nuts as some of my Thanksgivings before or after have been. 

How can a nut not be crunchy?

There was that Thanksgiving with Obama.  Any questions?


There was that horrid Thanksgiving where, against our better judgment, we allowed our friend Jerry to coerce us into eating cooking a dinner that is probably still hiding in parts of my colon as part of the "Whiteness Protection Program".  It’s also on the FBI’s "10 Least Wanted List".  There was absolutely no color or taste to any of the food that he prepared.  Unfortunately, there was also no pet to feed it to.  If old Rocky had been alive, he probably would have run away to the Humane Society claiming abuse and won a judgment.  It was that inedible.  My friend Lisa and I joked for years that nobody dreams of a “White Thanksgiving”. I know I don’t.  Once is more than enough.

There was that Thanksgiving more than 20 year ago where I was visiting my mom and we decided we would go out to dinner, reasoning that it was not worth all the trouble to prepare our own since it was just the two of us.  For some reason, we decided that having all this free time on our hands without any performance anxiety could best be spent rearranging the furniture in her condo.  Pulling a Persian rug out from underneath an entertainment center, massive leather sofas, love seats and a coffee table is not nearly as rewarding as enjoying the fruits of your labor, as long as they’re not lychees.  The only leftovers you get are a sore back.  We ended up making a Hungarian dish containing potatoes, kielbasa, sour cream and hardboiled eggs that was long ago renamed “Rumpelstiltskin” (don’t ask) and added beets to it to give it autumn color.  No “White Thanksgiving” for us.

This year, I have accepted the challenge to cook at a friend’s home.  Some of the guests are people I have never met.  In a nod to some of my odd Thanksgivings past, along with the traditional turkey and sides, I’m preparing curried butternut squash soup, a fennel and arugula salad with tri-colored beets in a grapefruit/clementine dressing and Szechuan green beans. I’m hauling some of my own tools and equipment down south to do the job, including the chainsaw massacre carving knife I grew up fearing.  I may need it.

My friend owns a cat and said cat has her own place at the dinner table.  Seriously.

Somebody, please pass me the Grey Poupon.


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wow. these are hum dingers. but i am heartbroken you're not lychee fan; canned or fresh i could live on them.

if the cat lunges this year, you know what to do....
At least, since the cat has his own seat, he will wait for everyone to be seated before consuming his fair share of the turkey! I love all your stories.
yummy, nutty & crunchy! and love your mixing up the sports metaphors! Go Mets! (sorry, inside joke). (r)
There is so much I loved about this post. The chainsaw massacre. Your mother putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. the French Chinese Thanksgiving. Most of all, I wish I could be with you and your friends on Thanskgiving in what I know is going to be the dinner with the BEST after-dinner conversation EVER. Plus I love butternut squash soup. Happy Thanksgiving!!!! RRRRRRRRRRR
Who's bringing the lychees?
ahh the animals.. I have one quite similar to that first tale..
those kind of stories last for years..:) and are passed down
rated with hugs
It seems you've experienced just about every conceivable version of Thanksgiving possible! I've never seen a cat consume a turkey, but one year our Newfoundland did...carcass and all....:) I don't think my current dog, a chihuahua, is up to it...but I'm not going to test my theory:)) Happy Thanksgiving, Cartouche!
those are some great stories. the cat part reminds me of the scene in a Christmas Story when the dogs get the turkey. Hope you have a festive holiday!
Funny stories. My late Siamese boy had his way with part of the Christmas pheasant once but like your mother, I managed to patch the bird together. I am drooling over your menu, especially the Rumpelstiltskin. I will have to get that recipe from you some day.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and watch out for that pampered puss in the chair.
"My mother raced to the kitchen like a quarterback on crack." I love that line!

Your Chinese restaurant in Paris reminded me of "A Christmas Story" after the doges got ahold of the turkey.

And hey......great shot with Obama!!!!! (heh heh...)
Ah, some levity ...thanks.
For years my Asian customers brought lychee nuts as gifts. I have tried them in various concoctions and though I remain open, I am still uncommitted. Being a 'cat person' I think it's nice that the cat is an honoured guest at the table. As long as there are no hair balls forthcoming ...
I think everyone has a 'the animal ate the turkey' story... yours is much better written....

Happy Thanks giving!!!!
The best moments of Thanksgiving are the foibles that go along with it -- my daughter caught our dauschaund running down the hall with a stick of butter in her mouth -- a butter ball, sort of....great stories..
Fun stories! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
whatta combo of thanksgiving stories, patricia! and though the cat gets top billing, my fav is the 'white' thanksgiving. blecccch! nothing worse than tasteless, colorless. we have a rule: not *everything* can be some shade of beige/brown (including orange/rust). there must be something green - and more than one green thing is better. so yay for the chinese beans and the fabulous salad! hoist a glass of pinot or reisling for me. a votre sante!
anything that cat wants, i would gladly give it to him.
Cat got your turkey! Obama got a photo taken with you! Clementine got a grapefruit! We got a great post about this venerable holiday---my absolute favorite one of the entire year!
I love these stories. Wish I had some like them.-R-
Where's my seat at the dinner table going to be at? Hello? What do you mean, outside and to the left?

:( ~grin~

By the way, who's the babe with the President? Ooooolaaalaaaa!!!

**wanders off into the thorn bushes**
What a great read ! A welcoming addition to my morning coffee. I changed my Thanksgiving meal this year to match Mom's traditional meal she use to cook. I'd forgotten the delights she always put on the table and this year we're adding them all. I love the..Obama pose! Was sort of a flat Thanksgivng there huh? Am grateful for not owning a cat asswell ;-) !r
Thats' what holidays are for! To lodge in our systems like undigested white meat...

You have the gift of good humor to get you through the holidays!
I'd love to have a seat at that table this year... You sound like a marvelous cook. ( Btw, you and the President actually make a stunning couple.) ~r
Happy two year anniversary and thanks for the feast you always serve up here! Great nostalgic, burp, thanksgiving post...and fabulous cat! Very funny! rated and appreciated...the post and you!
Thanksgiving smiles can be the greatest treats.
Sometimes screwed-up holidays can be the most memorable--somehow, American Thanksgiving in Paris can't help turning out weirdly (I've done this twice). You're smart to bring your own gear to this year's festivities--your contributions sound great!
i, too, dig lychee i dig this post, too terrific writing as usual and a great 'eye' for detail R.
Patricia, thanks for sharing your range of interesting Thanksgivings! Since U.S. Presidents always pardon a turkey just before Thanksgiving I was wondering if tofu turkey or pb&j was served as the main course? Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
A dinner still hiding in parts of your colon--that is hilarious. What a great post to start a dreary Monday morning with. Thank you! And, you do look good with the Prez.
Just made butternut squash bisque yesterday, sounds good for TG also. Quite a mishmash of holiday memories, all interesting and memorable.Enjoy, sounds delicious.
Your Thanksgivings past seem to be just as creative as you are..with or without cats. Hope it is just as good this year!
Great stories both...but mostly, great to see you upright and looking great, out of the pool in your OS photo! Happy Thanksgiving!
Sweetie never looked better! And we are all looking forward to the feast. (Bring the handsome dude. He looks familiar, and there's always room at the table.)
I expect the cat will eat quite well.
I'm craving that salad right now. Mmmm. My in-laws had a basset hound that grabbed the prime rib off the table and ran out the door to the park. My mother in law chased her down, wrestled it back, rinsed it off, stuck it back in the oven for a few minutes & served it to her guests.
You know the Grey Poupon guy? That's a lot better than knowing Obama anyday!
I guess you have never had a lychee milkshake. It's absolutely delicious. Come over any time... there are canned lychees in the cupboard.
"What house did this cat think he lived in?"

C'mon, Car -- you know better than that. It was HIS *%$)# house.
Oh. And congrats on the two years.... It's been a trip reading you.
Happy second anniversary, mon ami. Your blog doesn't look a day over 18 months. As always, I will trade you, straight up, pumpkin pie for beets.
Now that's a serious collection of Thanksgivings!
I have a Maine Coon, too! And, yes, I have sat him at the table to eat some turkey off of a little plate. He's a very good citizen & it was his first Thanksgiving not spent in an abusive home, so I felt it was appropriate...ok, overzealous, but still!
I LOVE this account of your many strange Thanksgivings. The one at the Chinese restaurant in Paris sounds sublime - and then I read about Gary the Grey Poupon guy and it got even more amazing. And this year, the cat who has a place setting! I'm not laughing about that, I actually think it's much less hypocritical than what I do with our cat, which is either to feed him scraps all night under the table, or apologize profusely for the fact that he's jumped on the table...and continue to feed him there. Your friend is progressive. Thanks again for an utterly delightful post, and you look so sophisticated with the President! R!!!!
I had Thanksgiving in Sudan once. We ate sand.
Happy 2 year Anniversary!
Happy Thanksgiving!
Obama looks curiously like a cut out - or maybe its a Patricia cut out. Great stories, as only you can tell.
Have happy Thanksgiving. Wonderful stories...had forgotten we had GL in common. Makes me smile.

{R} for: " My mother raced to the kitchen like a quarterback on crack. "
“Rumpelstiltskin”: Instant Coronary in a Casserole. Just reading about it clogged one of my arteries. I wish you were cooking at my sister's house Thursday. Those dishes sound great!

Even your Thanksgivings are not the traditional, typical scenes--I love it-- everything about you is original! My dog almost got the turkey last year--I wasn't planning on telling the guests either.
I read the Chinese restaurant in Paris bit three times. yum!
Lychees. Shudder! It's the texture, not the taste....well, partly taste.
Your menu sounds scrumptious!
I was fortunate enough to have one of you fabulous Thanksgiving dinners with your Mom and all of those dogs and my drunk boy friend and my drunk ex-boyfriend along for amusement. They were beginning to multiply, attaching themselves like atoms. My dog, the Springer, once got the turkey off the counter at a home to which we had been invited for T-giving dinner. Fortunately my hosts just rolled with the punches, mostly because we had been rolling in the punches ourselves for several hours including my drunk ex-husband. Do you see a pattern here?
Have a good one, my dear...
That cat looks like it's just waiting for someone to leave the turkey unattended. Score!!!
I wondered what had thrown the President off his game. . .
I'm thankful for you having stories that begin, "There was that Thanksgiving in Paris"

Grey Poupon for everyone!
I just read that post about the cat at the Thanksgiving table but it doesn't seem she will be much of a problem. This all sounds really delicious and friendly and fun. I wish you much happy cooking, eating and friendship.
What a beautiful cat. I am a Leo, so I am biased, but I love felines.
This is a cats tales if I ever heard one. Nice kitty too. Thank god it wasn't a dog. They really make a mess of things.
I guess that, by now, I should know what a quarterback on crack looks like, but if you would - just point one out so I'll recognize it the next time I see one.

Two years, that is definitely deserving of some Grey Poupon, and some other poupon as well I would imagine. So glad you've hung in for the good times and not so much good times, P. Great storytelling you Mad Woman.
Oh! You had dinner with Lea! How wonderful!
I might have shown the cat just how stuffing works.... and I only use lychees when I want to coerce someone into giving up national secrets, forget waterboarding