Just a few moments ago the last of the guests left from our annual holiday party, ‘Black Turkey’, and I feel both exhausted and satisfied with the event. I often do not get a chance to hang out with everyone on Black Turkey (so named for the recipe used to cook one of the two traditional birds, the other being a brined and weber’d bird we affectionately called ‘The Drunken Squab’) because I’m slaving over the birds, and usually I’m frantic to get everything carved and out on the table to feed the guests, but this year, everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. I have to give a HUGE shout-out to Julie for everything she did today — though I did most of the cooking and a good deal of the prep-work, she not only did an amazing amount of the decorating, but also was juggling both boys which had to be exhausting. She allowed me the freedom to fully engage in the cooking, which pretty much took all day long. Both birds pretty much went in on time, and came out perfectly and early enough that I could get them carved and out on the table for the guests well before freak-out level hit. I didn’t get to hang out with a lot of folk at the party, but I did engage with a few friends and some stayed after the first wave exodus and hung out well into the evening, which was pretty rad. What was also incredibly awesome is that Julie spent a good deal of the post-party time cleaning up most of the crazy mess which was the house. I owe her big-time.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been throwing this silly party for nine years now, and though some faces come and go, and others are constants through the history of the event, it’s become something that we know how to do. We’ve worked out most of the kinks, and things pretty much just happen according to plan. Tomorrow we’ll do a debrief and see if we can refine it a bit more, take notes and be that much more ready for next year. I fully expect we’ll be throwing this party for the next thirty years, and that’s just a trip to think about. It’s not often that you get to create a ritual that a large portion of your friends share with you, year after year after year. It’s also a trip to think my boys will grow up with this event in their life, and maybe even taking it forward into their own lives after my cooking days are over. And to think, this all was born from my surfing the alt.recipe usenet board and discovering this wacky recipe that I just had to try, and had no excuse to try without creating a spectacle party out of it. What started out as somewhat of a joke has now become firm tradition. To me, it’s a pulse in the year’s heartbeat, a touchstone of the season — a winter without Black Turkey would feel incomplete. Every year, we stuff the house with more and more people, and yet we always seem to make it work. This year the invite list was over a hundred people, which freaked us out a bit, but as it turned out, due to obligations of the season by many usual attendees, we had the right amount (about 30-35 people) and were saved the embarrassment of having overbooked our event. We joke that someday we might have to rent the community center just to accommodate the crowd — which we certainly could and would do if necessary, but there is something about having everyone in our house which is special and comforting. The only other party every year that has this same sort of import to me is my birthday party in August, which for the first time in years I did not have here at the house but had out at a club (put together by my good friend Jason) which was fantastic, but it definitely reminded me how much I like to have a large crowd in my house, sharing my space, talking and living and loving where I do my own talking and living and loving.
I think a part of me really like to think of myself as some sort of tribal leader, bringing together the disparate members of my circles of friends, but at base I’m just happy they’re all willing to share the time with me and enjoy what they give me the opportunity to create. There’s a moment at every one of my parties where I look around the house, and see so many different conversations happening, so many people enjoying themselves, chatting with others, and though I’m not a central part of their evening, I helped make it all happen in some small way. They’ll go home and think “I had a really great time tonight hanging out with so-and-so” or “I really enjoyed that conversation with such-and-such”, and I have a small participation in that. My house is warmed by their presence both figuratively and literally, and I am left to enjoy the glow after they all pack up and head their way home… as I am doing just even now. Thank you, everyone, for attending. I really mean that. Without you, I wouldn’t get to enjoy this group ritual. As much as I help create it for you, you help create it for me. It is indeed a group effort. I’m glad you all like it as much as I do.
Happy Black Turkey!
PS: the title of this blog message comes, of course, from my son Eli who was discussing ‘Turkey Lasers’ with us today, out of confusion around how to pronounce ‘turkey lacers’, much the same way he used to call lightsabers ‘light savers’. My boys are so wonderful, I love them with the complete depth of my heart. They entertain me every single day of my life.
Currently playing in iTunes: Goodnight Lovers by Depeche Mode