Real Cooking

Sunday afternoon found me in the kitchen cleaning up after our family’s noon meal, and to occupy my mind while I loaded the dishwasher and wiped down the stove, I turned on the little television that sits on the counter near the sink.

I tuned in to the Home and Garden Network to see what was on and hit the jackpot. Martha Stewart was showing me the appropriate way to pack a suitcase for my upcoming Thanksgiving travel.

Now for me, Thanksgiving travel is most often a trip of about a quarter mile down the road to my husband’s parents’ home and I’m more concerned about the crockpot spilling in the backseat of the van rather than if my suitcases will make it to my final destination.

I thought about changing the channel, but there was just something so mesmerizing in how Martha murmured as she showed me how to layer tissue paper between the folds of a sweater and noting how she always puts her sweaters away in her bureau with the tissue already in place.

Well, of course she does. The shelves in the woman’s linen closet are labeled, for Pete’s sake.

“What are you watching?” asked my husband, who had walked back in to the kitchen to help clear the table.

“Martha is packing for a trip.”

“A trip to jail for insider trading?” Keith said as he paused to watch Martha demonstrate how to wrap a silk suit while leaving it on a hanger. “I don’t think that’s standard prison issue.”

She didn’t pay any attention to Keith’s sarcasm and went right on to make personalized nametags to attach to her luggage. And to top off the program, she created lovely roasted pork tenderloin with red cabbage and baked apples.

I placed the remnants of the lovely hamburger noodle casserole that I had created into the refrigerator and then turned off the TV. Then I went to the kitchen drawer and retrieved a pair of scissors. Not to fashion nametags or place cards or festive Thanksgiving decorations; I needed the scissors to clip coupons from the Sunday paper.

Because I don’t live on Martha’s Connecticut Turkey Hill Farm. I live on Jost Farm where life is good but not quite so glamorous. Or organized.

I mean really, who has the time and energy to place layers of tissue paper between the folds of a sweater? (She also recommended stuffing the sleeves of blouses with more tissue so that the shoulders hang correctly. Yeah, right.) People around here are lucky if things are washed, let alone put away.

And although our existence here on Jost Farm is comfortable, it’s hardly what I would call lavish. We are now in the process of finalizing the last phase of our remodeling project-you know, the one that we’ve been working on for the past two years-and our budget is scrutinized daily.

It’s a balancing act, isn’t it? To have money for this, you live without that. You cut coupons, you make do, you look for the sales and you get creative. Most of us do it every day.

And we count ourselves blessed because even though we complain about the lack of finances to do everything that our hearts desire, we are acutely aware that many in this world survive without the basic necessities.

With the holiday season approaching, I know that I need to keep the issue of the poor before me even while I’m planning on what to buy for whom. For my own peace of mind, I need to put aside some cash to aid an impoverished family or to help finance a responsible world charity.

As Thanksgiving and Christmas draw near, Martha will provide us with lively discussions and presentations on how to be the perfect hostess. She’ll dazzle us with mouthwatering displays of her culinary skill and amaze us with her seemingly unlimited artistic ability.

At Turkey Hill Farm, Martha will grow her own pumpkin for her pumpkin pie, decorate her door with a wreath adorned by florals grown in her garden and fatten a tom turkey from her own flock.

And duck the feds.

Here at Jost Farm I’ll bake some pies made from canned pumpkin purchased on sale from Vogt’s IGA and I’ll put up a ceramic “Happy Thanksgiving” wreath that I picked up a couple of years ago off of a bargain table at Hobby Lobby. And perhaps Alex, who has brought home three pheasants so far this season, will provide for us a holiday bird.

And it will be “a good thing.”

* * *

Here’s a recipe for a streusel topped pumpkin pie that would be a fitting end to your Thanksgiving feast this year. Although the recipe says that it makes one generous 10 inch pie, you might be able to get 2 nine-inch pies from this one recipe.

Favorite Pumpkin Pie

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

2 egg yolks

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

2 egg whites

1 (10 in) unbaked pie shell

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, condensed milk and egg yolks. Stir in spices and salt. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour filling into pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated oven set at 425 degrees.

While pie is baking, prepare the streusel topping. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbs. flour, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Cut in 2 tbs. of cold butter with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Remove pie from oven and cover with streusel topping. Reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for an additional 40 minutes. Cover top of pie during baking if the topping browns too quickly.

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