CHANGING UP THANKSGIVING

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I’ll admit that it was a bit of a guy thing in its inception. If there is one Canadian holiday that demands adherence to tradition, it is our Thanksgiving with its turkey-and-all-the-trimmings menu. How many times have I waddled away from an October table in a tryptophan-induced daze looking for a soft chair in a quiet corner? Tryptophan is an amino acid in turkey that your brain converts to neurotransmitter serotonin which makes you sleepy. I looked it up and liked the idea of blaming the after effects of over-eating on science. But this year, suffering from the buttoned-down boredom of the pandemic, I craved a change. A seventeen pound beef brisket purchased on a whim at a local grocery store was just what my cabin-fevered imagination called for.

I started dropping hints about smoking this bad boy for Thanksgiving in August and by October my wife, Jenine, and daughter, Alison, had graciously decided to humor me and allow me to have at it. My son in law, Colin, was the key. He had a smoker and some useful culinary experience.

I’d never smoked a brisket before, so I first had to watch several dozen YouTube videos on how to trim and prepare this gargantuan hunk of meat for smoking. After listening to a lot of very large, southern-drawling, bearded men in camouflage baseball hats hold forth on the bidness of briskets, I was ready. The research paid off as I cut boldly into our Thanksgiving entrée to remove the unnecessary fat and separate the point from the flat (BBQ lingo for the smaller, fattier portion and the larger, leaner portion of this cut – which comes from the lower front of the chest of a beef animal, by the way – you know, the dangly, flappy part above and between the critter’s front legs).

I was up early for the trim and the rub (a seasoning of mixed spices prepared according to a secret recipe Colin uses for many grilled meats) and the brisket went into the smoker before 10AM.

We live fifteen minutes from Colin and Alison so I was unable to watch the smoking in progress, though I snuck back twice to peek through the glass door of the smoker. I soon realized that I’d left this seventy-five dollar hunk of classically cut meat in good hands. By suppertime it looked to be ready. But how would it taste? What if it was undercooked or overcooked or tough or, God forbid, the grandkids, Paityn and Samson, didn’t like it?

My worries were all for naught. The brisket was done to a turn, tender, juicy, and thoroughly delicious.

It was a case of “mission accomplished” as we sat down to enjoy our meal and give thanks, not just for the usual things we feel thankful for on this occasion, but for not having screwed up the meal. The grandkids liked it and the girls graciously applauded our efforts and added a wonderful everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-salad, grilled asparagus, stuffed mushrooms and a dessert Jenine calls “Sex In A Pan” which tastes as good as it sounds.

I was still waddling and yawning when it was all over, so maybe it wasn’t the tryptophan after all.