Thursday, November 28 2019

coffee, brine math, hy-vee envy, and noisy dinosaurs

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving. This morning I'm coming to you from beautiful Rochester Minnesota, which is lightly dusted with snow. I emerged this morning from our bedroom about ten minutes ago moving a little more slowly than I normally due, feeling the extra couple of "Todd the Axeman" beers I enjoyed before going to bed. Marissa's family is already up, readying the kitchen for today, and coffee is brewing in the corner. As vivid descriptions for low end coffee makers has kind of become a journaling niche for me, I'll let you know that this morning their sporting a beautiful 12 cup Mr. Coffee drip, which from what I can tell was equipped with a splash guard, configurable brew strength, and a pretty solid carafe that looks like it could survive even a trip in our dishwasher.

As a side note, it always makes me laugh when these drip coffee makers have a setting to customize brew strength. If I'm the one putting water and ground beans in the machine, what other decisions need to be mad exactly? If I select strong coffee, does that mean you just keep some of the water to yourself? Or spew it out the side when I'm not looking? I just don't understand how else you can make coffee stronger.

Yesterday, Marissa, Rodney, and I loaded the dogs in the car and hit the road at 10:40. We seem to have the uncanny ability of leaving exactly on time. We were due to drop the dogs of by 11:00, and our Garmin GPS gave an estimated arrival of 11:01. As our CRV rambled onto the highway, Marissa and I spot checked our packing list. Ziggy curled on my lap, winking in and out of sleep to the swaying of the car.

Marissa ran in to drop the dogs off. Over Thanksgiving they are staying at the highly reviewed Aunt B's Dog and Cat spa. Looking at the website together, Marissa and I laughed at all the extra luxury packages - swimming, a jacuzzi, massage. Even though these things might be relaxing by themselves, we decided not to spring for the true Aunt B's experience in the interest of not freaking out Ollie and Ziggy.

We stopped for some gas and Culver's, and after wolfing down some chicken tenders in the parking lot, I took over driving for the longest leg of the journey and jumped back on the highway. I queued up some podcasts. Marissa closed her eyes, and Rodney quietly read books in his car seat.

We arrived in Minnesota sometime in the afternoon, and after bringing our stuff in the house and saying hello to everyone, Marissa and I went downstairs to water down the brine and get the turkeys in the fridge. We had warned Tom and Renee that we would need to fit two 5 gallon buckets in the fridge, which was a tall. If you caught it, there was a shot of the single 5 gallon bucket in my Instagram story and it practically took up our entire fridge. Tom was still convinced it wasn't going to work. We had brought the turkey packed in ice in our cheap & trusty blue Walgreen's cooler, and then it suddenly occured to us to keep one of the Turkeys in the cooler. Fitting a bucket and a small cooler was doable. We still needed the buckets to finish diluting the brine, as I made two batches of a concentrate meant for 4 total gallons of water, but I just fished out the garlic & shallots and filled the cooler with what would fit. I'm not going to lie to you, reader. This year, one of my favorite things about turkey preparation has been turkey brine math. The hurried back of the napkin math around concentrations & dilutions makes me feel like I'm back in the chemistry lab again.

Once the birds were in the fridge, we left Rodney with his auntie Megan and auntie Maya to pick up some groceries from Hy-Vee. Marissa warned me that the Rochester Hy-Vee was probably going to make me envious. "Hy-Vee was started in Minnesota - we have Hy-Vee pride. It's a really good Hy-Vee," she said as she absentmindedly navigated her hometown roads. Before we jumped on the main road, Marissa felt compelled to drive down her childhood street. She slowed the car as she passed by her old house. The garage was open, and somebody was getting groceries out of the car. Marissa and I craned our necks to catch a peek at the garage corner. A fall leaves mural she painted on the garage wall was still there.

We parked at Hy-Vee and walked inside. Marissa was right, my heart was bitter, welling with Hy-Vee envy. They had a real Starbucks at the front of their store. They had a food court. The had a whole cooler full of European style sausages. The seafood section alone was probably as big as a FedEx Kinkos. Hy-Vee envy, indeed.

Marissa ran through our list, and stopped in our tracks when we got to the herbs section. Expectedly, they were out of thyme, rosemary, and sage. I kicked myself, remembering the neatly labeled ziploc bags in our fridge at home that I decided not to bring. One of the Hy-Vee workers empathetically shrugged, "Yeah sorry, the truck couldn't make it here because of the weather." Luckily, we were able to pick up some dry versions of the herb from the spice wall.

After returning with the groceries, we all went out to eat at the country club. We scooted into a booth, Rodney holding his new dinosaur truck toy proudly under his arm. But we quickly realized that the little toy dinosaur made a wonderful, bombastic sound that echoed through the restaurant, and being good polite midwesterners, we explained to Rodney that it made too much noise to enjoy during dinner. I kept the noisy dinosaur at my side, and Rodney contentedly played with just the dump truck portion. Later, as the dining room cleared, I produced the dinosaur from under the table and let Rodney play with it - to reward his patience.

So that's what I got today. After this entry, I'm going to pour another cup of premium regular strength Mr. Coffee coffee and head downstairs to wake up my family. We've got a pair of birds to cook. My grill is proudly standing on the front step, and I'm about to offer a fragrant sacrifice to the gods of home cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Oh, and Bear Down!