The Hungover Gourmet


MY BLACKEST FRIDAY: Or, How I Spent the Day After Thanksgiving Locked in a Tiny Bathroom

[Editor's Note: The story you are about to read is 100% totally true. Every last word of it.]

Celebrating my escape"Thanksgiving."

The very mention of this food fanatic's holiday can bring a shiver of fear to any member of a dysfunctional family – then again, isn’t that really all of us?

Turkey Day is the first major holiday of the Major Holiday Season and sets the tone for the brouhahas, arguments, misunderstandings, slights and downright lies that are sure to bubble to the surface through the days, weeks and months to follow.

For The Hungover Gourmet, Thanksgiving is spent not unlike the Turkey Days of my youth...sauteing the onions, celery, garlic and sweet sausage for the secret Savory Stuffing...counting the minutes till I can sit down with the scrumptious turkey liver cooked in fresh herbs and red wine...and living for that moment when the jellied cranberry sauce s-l-o-w-l-y slides from its tin can tomb with a delightful "hwuck."

But, there've been some changes in the years since I was released from Mama Nitrate's apron strings. Sure, I still get up at ungodly hours to get the whole meal started. But you're more likely to hear the tunes of Rick Springfield wafting from the speakers than those of Mitch Miller. Yes, we still thrill to the unpredictable "pop" of a can of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. However, the familiar site of 2-liter Triple Cola bottles has been replaced by row upon row of chewy Kendall Jackson Zinfandel and fruity (without being offensive) David Bruce Pinot Noir.

Upon reflection, the most important step in making my own mark on this Nitrate Family Tradition has been the various menu broadening inroads. It goes without saying that turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes still rule the day. But I've done my best to inject soups and hors d'ouvres into an evening that once was all about gorging till your eyes turned brown from the homemade gravy welling up in every available cavity.

Which is exactly why I dig The Day After Thanksgiving. Or, why I used to.

While the rest of the urban proletariat are out cow-towing to mass merchants and getting sucked in by the kick-off of the Xmas Shopping Season, this guy usually spends Black Friday eating his way through a veritable cornucopia of tender leftovers, gifted brewskis and appetizers that MUST be devoured before they become a health risk.

Except for those years I get locked in the bathroom...through no fault of my own, I add.

The Day After TDay: 1997 started innocently enough. Mrs. Nitrate woke early for her job saving lives while visions of cold turkey and leftover Butternut Squash Soup (recipe to follow) danced in my head. Ostensibly planning to tackle a few freelance projects in the morning, I bade my better half farewell and told her I'd "be working" and couldn't play hooky...or hockey. Only god may save more than Bernie Parent, but Mrs. Nitrate’s no slouch as a netminder herself.

With The King of All Media taking the week off to berate his wife and make his children miserable I decided to actually close the bathroom door and enjoy a warm, steam-producing shower. Open the pores, unclog the follicles...the whole bit.

Unknown to me, one of the tiny guests from the previous night's festivities had staked out our tiny bathroom as her tiny play area. No, I'm not talking about Don Lapre, but as I would soon discover, this elfen houseguest was hanging on and jiggling the bathroom doorknob till it was a-l-m-o-s-t to the breaking point. Shit, I wish she HAD been placing tiny classified ads and cashing $90,000 checks for 900 numbers!

What you have to understand is that our bathroom was right off our kitchen...literally. Put one friggin' foot in front of the other friggin' foot and you’re on top of your next beer for chrissakes! (My apologies to both Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney) Which means, that at 9:30 on the morning after Thanksgiving, I was about six feet from two-thirds of a turkey, 3 lbs. of stuffing, two bowls of mashed tates, an entire vat of leftover Butternut Squash Soup...and a variety case of Pete's Wicked Ales! AIGHHHHHHHHH!

'Scuse me, I'm sorta getting cold sweats just revisiting that morning...

As I stepped from the shower and envisioned a healthy breakfast of turkey and cranberry sauce, "and perhaps some soup" I thought, the last thing I expected was the doorknob to spin in my hand like tv's oh-so-aptly-named Wheel of Fortune. Unfortunately, yours truly had hit the big FOOD BANKRUPT and had left his "Spin Again" in the green room.

So, just how does one cope with being trapped in a tiny bathroom wearing nothing but an Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque bathrobe and a smile? Oh, and when I say "tiny" I mean "tiny." Like, six feet long by four feet wide "tiny"!

With Mrs. Nitrate returning, well, who the hell knew when, the morning started to take an ugly turn. After about 20 minutes of berating myself for actually CLOSING the bathroom door (when was the last time you heard a rational person argue against THAT concept?) I realized that I could survive for days – perhaps weeks – on end thanks to a diet of Tums, Colgate Toothpaste, and birth control pills.

"Alright," I rationalized, "I'll only eat the birth control pills if I'm TRULY desperate. I'd be crazy to just pop them like appetizers."

Oh yeah, appetizers...just six feet...maybe six feet and change away. Perhaps I can...just...BREAK THE DOOR DOWN! It was then that I realized a true sign of desperation involves trying to "surprise" a plywood bathroom door.

The next six, yeah you read that correctly, six hours passed in odd increments. Futile attempts at prying the door off its hinges with a pair of nail clippers (don't laugh!) led to the most introspective moments one can have while sitting on a toilet lid. An unsuccessful bid at knocking the doorknob off with a $9 bathroom scale resulted in my being weightless in your planet's gravity – until Mrs. Nitrate broke down and bought a scale I wasn't allowed to destroy. My final, most pathetic attempt at McGyver-ing my way out of the bathroom involved a pair of scissors best suited to trimming my nose hair. That led to hopping back in the shower and shaving off all my chest hair. Face it man, isolation does strange things to the human psyche.

I was eventually rescued when Mrs. Nitrate returned from rounds and played "Mrs. Nitrate The Bathroom Door Slayer" all over its plywood ass...oh yeah, and my head which happened to be in the way at the time.

Take my advice: keep the bathroom open, steer clear when the Missus is trying to kick the door down, and double up the following’ll be steamed if your Turkeyday crowd doesn't leave leftovers.

Here's a couple soups sure to garner rave reviews anytime during the Fall and Winter months...

Butternut Squash Soup with Apples

  • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tart green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 cups stale bread cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat a medium kettle...if you don’t have one add it to your shopping list. Nothing is more useful, more versatile than just such a cooking implement. They’re great for chili and...ah man, I’m getting ahead of myself. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the onions, rosemary and marjoram. Simmer about 10 minutes. Add squash, apples, bread, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 40 minutes, covered. Puree with one of those Braun boat motors or by batches in a blender...if you don’t have a boat motor, add that to your list, too. Return the puree to the kettle, stir in the cream, ladle into bowls and garnish with nuts. Serves 6-8.

Swiss Beer Soup

The Hungover Gourmet loves cheese...almost as much as he loves beer! So, what better mix of wintertime faves than a semi-authentic German soup with massive stick-to-your-ribs flavor?

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup toasted French bread cubes
  • 2 bottles good dark beer (we always enjoy a Yuengling Porter)
  • 3 cups low salt chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Swiss cheese
  • 1 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika

Open one of the bottles of beer and take a drink. In your medium soup kettle (see above) heat the butter until hot but not burning. Add onion and cook over medium high heat until soft. Drink some more beer. Add garlic, bread cubes, beer and chicken stock. Bring to a boil while you preheat the broiler and finish off that first beer. Stir in the parsley and cook for an additional five minutes (if using fresh parsley use 2 tbsp. and only cook for 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in black pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese...dust with hot paprika. Place under broiler until cheese is hot, bubbly and brown — sorta like Halle Berry Justice Berry! Serves 4-6.

[This article originally appeared in Crimewave USA]

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