Hilltop Diary, 11/23/22 — Special Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving to all! It may come as a surprise to those who know that my hobby is cooking, but for me this holiday is not primarily about food. It is not about parades, football, autumn, days off from work or school, pilgrims in boxy hats or what they may have done right or wrong, or even about my own childhood nostalgia of cutting out turkeys from orange construction paper. It is quite simply a day for “giving thanks” and counting my blessings, which I ought to do more often. If it becomes too many other things, that message become too diluted or even lost in stress and craziness.

This time I am sharing another new audio mockup from my ballet, hot off the press. Here are a description and the play button:

“Raffaella Gives the Children Roses,” begins with a sweet, childlike, and delicate statement by the flutes of the Rose Theme. Most of the children are dressed in white. But at 1:02, Raffaella is suddenly moved with sadness and compassion as some other children arrive dressed poorly, including a boy with a crippling disability. Then both her attitude and the procession itself become serious, and her passing out the roses becomes not merely a kind but a heroic act, indicating her love and compassion for them. This emotional theme leads to the return at 2:30 of the Rose Theme, now in all its blossoming fulness and triumph of spirit, as she gives out the remaining white roses. (length: 3:30)

Here are some of our other doings at the Hilltop, and some of them (in spite of the disclaimer above) are admittedly about cooking. A few days ago I spent about forty minutes in the early morning sitting at the dining table with two football-sized, unsliced loaves of white bakery bread. With clean hands, of course, I tore both loaves into small, jagged, pieces and put them into two gallon-sized zip-lock bags. They will be used in making my late mother’s stuffing recipe, using my own homemade turkey stock, butter, celery, onion, and all fresh herbs. No oysters, sausage, or anything else to complicate it. Getting just the right moisture is the trick, neither too dry or too soggy. Thirty minutes covered at 350 F, and another thirty uncovered.

Crystal will once again make a low-and-slow-roasted turkey and homemade pumpkin pie, and she will also make some Brussels sprouts and roasted mini-potatoes (and my stuffing and yummy gravy made with turkey pan drippings). And that’s about it, not so many dishes this year. We are not fans of cranberry but happen to have a jar of lingonberry jam from when I made authentic Swedish Meatballs for a group of priests. They look just like cranberries (the lingonberries, not the priests) but without the bitterness. This Thanksgiving Day, we will be privileged to have two friends over to share the holiday meal who have not met each other and are each on their own this year, but both happen to be named Mark.

Another friend of ours travels a lot on business and dislikes struggling to answer important e-mails in the airport using one finger, as I do, on his tiny phone keys. Today he should receive in his mail a little gift of a full-size computer keypad that becomes near wallet-size when folded in half, which is supposed to work folded out on a book on your lap with any cell phone via Blue-tooth. I’m eager to hear from him whether it works.

I was happy for my new album to receive a nice review from a music magazine in Barcelona (sorry, it’s in Spanish) but the gist of it is that the writer admired the fact that I genuinely believe in the timeless viability of a traditional classical music style and do it with full conviction. It concludes with this lovely sentence (crudely translated): “His work is still alive and does not stop believing.” See it HERE. And –  more on this next month –  I did an interview yesterday for a year-end feature story about my new album for The Nashville Scene.

The scriptures say “In everything give thanks,” not “For everything give thanks.” So this week we’ve had a couple of those “in” rather than “for” moments. The first was identity theft and fraudulent use of both my debit and credit card, so both had to be canceled and re-issued, but at least the bank is refunding the money stolen, and I have a temporary debit card. The second was the death of our clothes dryer, but we have an appliance protection plan and an appointment to have it resurrected today. Meanwhile, I rigged up a good old-fashioned indoor clothesline! Doesn’t it all make life interesting?

Yesterday, I once again made my mother’s recipe for “Kentucky Colonels,” or Bourbon Balls – something like truffles that pack a punch of real bourbon: Soak one cup of pulverized pecan pieces in a cup of good bourbon overnight. Cream about three cups of powdered sugar and about 1½  sticks of butter and mix in just enough pulverized Vanilla Wafer cookie powder (about one box), a little at a time, to firm up and hold their shape when rolled into balls about 1 to 1½ inch in diameter. If desired, add in some more bourbon to moisten more and to add more oomph. I put everything into a stand mixer on low speed to mix it well.

bourbon balls

If it’s too wet, add in a little more powdered sugar. The amounts are really not exact! You just have to go by the feel and taste to get the right firmness and bourbon flavor. Mold them into small balls in the refrigerator, or even uneven blobs till they firm back up enough to roll between your palms, then either dust them in powdered sugar or dip them into dark melting chocolate (I do some both ways and cannot say which I like better. Without chocolate they have more bourbon punch.) Then put them on a wax-paper-covered cookie sheet and cool them in the refrigerator some more. The bourbon is not cooked, mind you, so the alcohol does not cook out — so eating several of them could add up to a pretty big dose of bourbon. For adults only!

Wishing you a happy, peaceful, and grateful Thanksgiving till next time!

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