I’m not trying to sound like the Grinch here. But let’s face it. ‘Tis the season when we can’t help being reminded that the holiday traditions we adhere to in Southern California originated in cold climates.
For starters, Thanksgiving is an idea that sprang up in Plymouth Rock, where leaves turning vivid shades of gold and red fell propitiously to form centerpieces on dinner tables surrounded by ruddy cheeked Pilgrims and their invited guests, American Indians.
No sooner are the turkey and trimmings consumed than we drag out the Christmas ornaments , Northern European style, mind you , to decorate an evergreen that not only looks out of place here, but doesn’t have a prayer of remaining supple no matter how much water you pour in the stand.
Forget sawing a chunk off the base. The only way to keep the needles from falling off your tree is to flock it, which basically glues them in place. Simulated snow. And if there’s any left over in the can, you can rim the windowpanes. But do it from the inside, because it could rain and ruin the effect.
Personally, I like the Hanukkah tradition. Candles work in any d & #233;cor, and my Jewish friends seem far less stressed about gift buying. Who was it anyway that decided we get red and green and they get silver and blue?
No matter. I thought it might be fun to do something different this year. I planned to cook a turkey in a fire pit at the beach a la a backyard luau some college chums and I held many moons ago in Tucson, Ariz.
We stuffed our bird and wrapped it in moistened cheesecloth, then wrapped it again with reams of aluminum foil. Meanwhile, we dug a hole a few feet deep in the back yard and lined it with bricks. We’d collected mesquite branches from the banks of dry creek beds beforehand then burned them in the pit to make coals.
After shoveling about half the coals out , leaving enough to form a layer at the bottom , we lowered the bird into the pit, shoveled the remainder of the coals on top and along the sides, packed dirt above that and left it to cook. No basting to do. No thermometer to check.
As I recall, we buried our bird before dawn and unearthed it around noon. It had a wonderful mesquite flavor and didn’t overcook because the heat simply diffused as the coals died out. We stuck it under the broiler for a bit to brown it. But that last step is optional if you don’t mind a lily livered turkey.
“You’re crazy Mom,” my youngest son said. “Who’s going to sit at the beach all morning and tend this turkey? Not me. And where are you going to get mesquite branches?”
My oldest son then invited us to Lancaster to spend Thanksgiving with his new bride and her family. “Her dad’s cooking the bird. It’s potluck. We’re bringing a side dish. You can bring a dessert.”
So it was. There’s always Christmas, however.
Turkey and trimmings at Tourmaline, a San Diego tradition. Why not?
Send tourism and hospitality industry news to Connie Lewis via e-mail: email@example.com. She may also be reached by phone at (858) 277-6359.