(Reading this after Thanksgiving? You may want to skip to here.)
This is an odd Thanksgiving for us, with no bird destined for the oven, no casseroles or side dishes in the making. Daughter A is rotating off with Hubby’s family (at her chagrin, I’m sure), but a tradeoff for Christmas. My mother-in-law, at 97, has decided the holiday trip from New Jersey has become too much, at her chagrin as well, I’m sure. Daughter B offered to cook and host this year, so my wife and I looked at each other and thought, why not? Let’s forego the bird in the oven this year (at my chagrin, somewhat, for the aroma of the turkey in the oven is a high point of my year) and drive the hour north, so that’s what we’re doing.
Since I decided to write today about carving, a word or two of guidance about carving the turkey may be in order. My grandfather taught me many years ago, back when I was six or seven, how to wield the knife properly. It starts with a high quality carving knife, properly sharpened. If your family is one that traditionally breaks out the electric knife to slice the turkey breast, throw it out. The knife, not the meat. We’re talking Quality of Cut here, something all turf guys should understand, and it can’t happen with an electric knife. Might as well go out to the garage and get your chain saw. Same effect. Thick, rough-hewn hunks and chunks just don’t taste as good as precision-carved, wafer-thin slices. In my opinion.
Beyond a good sharp knife, the trick is to time your roasting so the bird is done (165 degrees in the thigh) an hour before mealtime. Not only does this free up the oven for casseroles, but it gives the meat time to rest. Tent it loosely with aluminum foil (not tightly, as you’ll steam it and there goes the crisp skin) and let it sit. It’s almost impossible to properly carve a hot bird right out of the oven.
There are those who advocate removing the breast and slicing on a board, across the grain. This is OK, but you can’t get those large, thin slices that result from carving the breast intact. I remove the leg and thigh so I have plenty of room to work. I also like to slice the meat off the leg, holding the drumstick at the tip and slicing down and around so all pieces have a hunk of skin attached. Arrange white and dark meat artfully on a nice platter, with a sprig or two of parsley or rosemary for garnish. Like a golf course, good presentation is part of the experience.
OK, enough with that carving, and on to carving for ourselves. I’m talking about putting responsibilities and commitments aside and carving out some time for you. For your own enjoyment, pleasure, personal development or relaxation… and in turn your physical and mental well-being.
We all have things we’d like to do, things we know we should be doing but yet excuse ourselves because we simply don’t have time. Or so we tell ourselves. Not true! Those who do and those who do not all have the same amount of time. It’s a matter of priority as to how we use it.
I like to think in terms of 15-minute segments of time. A 24-hour day has (96) 15-minute segments in it. The same for all of us. To stake out and claim even one for ourselves can be tough, but the returns can be huge.
I decided to start learning the play the guitar five years ago. I added keyboards earlier this year. For me. My enjoyment. My personal growth. My satisfaction. Both life-changers, as it turns out. And the key has been 15 minutes of practice or simply playing (there’s a difference) every day. Sometimes it’s only ten, or might be 30 or even 60 minutes. Whatever the day permits, but it’s my time.
I’ve been fortunate to work at home for 25 years now, and in recent years I’ve allowed myself the luxury of taking a nap every afternoon. With the dogs, as many as three, on the bed with me. Our pack nap. They love it as much as I do. I usually read for 15 minutes, then snooze for another 15 or 30. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating. Good thing my wife prefers to read in the living room, by the fireplace, as there’s no room for her here!
Pack nap with three dogs (count ’em). One of life’s simple pleasures.
As I get old and the joints get ornery and creaky, I also allow myself the occasional luxury of a hot bath. In the morning after the first dog walk, for 15 minutes or so, with Sore Old Ass bath salts. Sets me up well for the day. My time.
This might sound selfish, and impractical for many. It would have been for me in years past when it’s by necessity all about family and job and running here and running there. Doing for others. I did it too. But part of me laments not carving out that chunk of time for me, not starting the guitar or piano 30 years ago. But better late than never.
What’s different today is that we are all under siege, constantly, all day, every waking hour. Never in the history of mankind have we been subjected to the constant bombardment of always-on, can’t-escape-it technology. The lines between work and off-work are blurred. Real down-time is rare, unless we selfishly carve for ourselves. To read, take a walk, go to the gym, run, ride a bike, go forest-bathing, play the guitar, take a nap. Carve it out of your day, stake your claim, be fiercely protective of it.
It’s your 15 minute slice of the day. There are still 95 slices left for others.