Tuesday, December 04, 2007

noah complex, or: the great potato massacre of '07

finally finals! five whole days of sitting at my desk knitting, drinking tea, and getting to go home for lunch, which i've just done. on the way back, i took scissors to that spider ceiling i mentioned yesterday. rather than get all those spiders in a froth by stretching taut their sticky web until it broke, i simply snipped in twain the important threads, and the spiders drifted gently to two sides. problem solved.
japan is constellated by spiders. often they are pretty in their way, clouds of webs flecked by insects so tiny and formless that they look like dark little stars, green arachnid bodies floating in the outer space of visible galaxies stretching from telephone poles or garden tomatoes. but sometimes they are just gross. i rarely kill them anymore; there's just no point. they eat or at least compete for territory with bugs that are even more of a nuisance. i have literally seen a mukade caught in a spiderweb inside my house, and for that i will forgive them a great deal.

anyway, i went to a foreign food store last weekend, and when i came back and unloaded my bags on the kitchen table, i realized i had gotten exactly two of everything. the unconscious effort of shopping has on several occasions revealed to me things about my life i didn't notice before. in college, when i plunked various items from the bookstore on the counter, i realized red was my new favorite color--it was the color of everything i had chosen. i wonder if this sudden need to pair everything is a reflection of my desire to be part of a pair. or maybe i just like to stock up on beans.

i was going to ignore thanksgiving altogether this year and maybe head to tokyo, but it meant so much to me last year that emily planned a traditional dinner when i was still new to the expat business, and i figured some of the new people might feel the same. plus, i travel north constantly; i wanted the fun to come to me. the task of planning the event (and by default, cooking the turkey) fell to me, and it was my first one. i have a teeny-tiny convection oven and a two-burner stove; i was responsible for cooking a 12-pound turkey and enough sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce to feed ten people. my mom was "cooking by email" the day before...giving me last-minute instructions.
i had to order the turkey online, along with several other things not widely available in the japanese countryside. because the typical japanese refrigerator is about 1/4 the size of a typical american one, people aren't really in the habit of storing whole poultry. when it arrived, i tried to fit it in my oven, and it was, uhh, a little tall. granted, it was frozen solid, but i was sure i was going to have to give it a slight chiropractic "adjustment" when it thawed...
turns out turkeys are more solid than i thought. though i leaned my whole weight on it, cpr-style, it didn't flex at all. i had to buy a special pan that b a r e l y fit in my oven so the top of the turkey wouldn't touch the heating element.

megan came over the night before to bake pumpkin pies. i made mom's fantastic, jammy (my new favorite word) cranberry sauce full of fragrant orange peel and walnuts. i also made sweet potatoes. sweet potatoes deserve a whole paragraph all to themselves, because they are my favorite thanksgiving food. the sweet potatoes native to this land are purple. they're not as moist or delicious as the orange ones, and last year when i tried to cook them for thanksgiving, they turned green in the oven (ghastly), and were dubbed ogre potatoes. not the kind of infamy i was hoping for. only once each year does the local store sell something which resembles the elusive orange sweet potato. i was waiting anxiously this year, hoping it wasn't a fluke, scanning the stores every three days or so. finally i spotted them! in my overwhelming excitement, i bought no less than fifteen potatoes. i felt light-headed with happiness.

megan and i were up till 1am making preparations the night before the party. the next morning dawned too soon, but we got down to business in the early afternoon.
i feel like i've watched my mom wash and prepare turkeys a hundred times, so in a way it felt natural, as natural as cold, raw birdflesh can feel. we stuffed, trussed, and squeezed that thing in the oven and slammed the door!

like a big, 3-D photograph, we had to dodge the top of the turkey with a big foil mask or "turkey hat" to keep the skin on top from burning, but check out the finished product!

the fun showed up, bearing other glorious food and drink, and we had a choreographed toast. the turkey was done on time, cooked through, and i had had two martinis by the end, so i carved like a maniac, literally. megan was an indispensable wingman. get it!? she made the entire three days possible and fun. considering my tendency to be a kitchen dictator, her graciousness throughout the weekend gave me a new appreciation for just how cool she is.


  1. I was more than happy to be your wingman, or winglady!
    Thanksgiving dinner made me sooooo full, the martinis made me loopy, and spending 2 days at your house made me want to come over and visit more often! Love you, girl!

  2. Congratulations on hosting a successful Thanksgiving - the turkey looked delicious.

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

  3. charlie chanDecember 08, 2007

    my goodness, gracious. here i was, not checking the blog daily anymore and then i stop by the other day to find not one, but two wonderful posts, which together prove my theory that turkey and queen are the great unifiers of the modern era.

    can't wait to see the next installment of "the l-chan life"!

    (Oh, and btw, MAJOR boo-urns on blogger for not letting me link to my homepages any more.)

  4. Dirt Eating Girl,

    I have read all your blog entries in the past several days. You are a beautiful writer. The way you write an informative blog that is interesting and well tempoed is impressive enough; but every once in a while you write a poem or a life observation that is pure art in type. You have a way of looking at, and living, life that is very uncommon and very special. People who are around you (friends, family, faculty, students) are very lucky to be in the presence of someone who is truly full of a lust for, and in awe of, life. That is something that all-too-often gets lost in the transition to adulthood. Don't be discouraged in the love department. You are a special gal. There is going to need to be a pretty special dude to fill the role of "the boy". I look forward to reading more in "The life of the dirt eater". Until next time laundromat lady.

  5. megan: come visit anytime. really!

    larry: thanks! the turkey was delicious. you have a merry christmas too!!

    cc: good thing you told me about not allowing links, or i would have accused you of being lazy.

    dgoleech: hello, old friend. what can i say except your words were very good to hear...all things i need to be reminded of. must have taken you a long time to read the whole blog! you speak with authority and maturity, too. and you're right about needing a very special dude. one of these days i'll find the boy. thank you!

  6. Two words: YUM YUM! Everything looks and sounds very cozy.