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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving with my family: The Epilogue

We asked my grandma to tell the story of how she and my grandpa met.

It was a blind date. She and her girlfriend had been set up with two guys to go to a new years party. Grandma said she nearly stepped over her friend so that she could have my grandpa because the other guy was really short and grandpa looked like Jimmy Stewart.
The party was at my grandpa's apartment on the 10th floor. Grandma got rip roaring drunk and threw up over the balcony. She then stumpled into my grandpas room and passed out on his bed. When she woke up, a girl said to her "Nice to meet you Nancy, I hope to see you again when you grow up."
They were married 4 months later. They've been married 58 years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving with my family pt. 3- Balls Out!

While I went to tea, Pat went bowling with my uncles, dad and brother. Then, they came home and apparently my dad developed a craving for Jager. So as I'm coming home from tea my dad is making a liquor store run.
He comes back and my dad, brother, and boyfriend drink a bottle of jager one shot at a time at our kitchen table.
None of them are seeming as drunk as they should so my dad lets us know that he has some tequila in the garage. My mom says, and I quote, "aha! Tequila! Balls Out!"
Tequila does not happen, instead Pat and I watch our stories (American Horror Story and Walking Dead) On Demand, sober up, and then drive home at midnight so that Pat can watch his English soccer game in bed in the morning.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving with my family pt.2- The Great Tea Debaucle

The day after Thanksgiving, my aunt and grandmother invited all us girls to tea. Legit tea. With crumpets and whatnot. I was actually excited about this adventure because if we're being honest I've wanted to attend a real tea party since I was cognizant.  Apparently the tea houses that my family usually goes to were closed that day, so we made reservations at a tea house in Albany. At 12:30, Samantha picked me up and I left Pat at the mercy of my parents while I went to tea. My mother chose not to go. Tea is "not her thing."
We arrived at the tea house-we being myself, Samantha, and her sisters/my cousins Jessica and Randi- at roughly 1pm. My grandmother, aunt Wendy, and cousin Ivy were waiting for us. This place looks like your grandmother's house. But with even more fake flowers.
There are about 6 tables and two of them are deuces. So at capacity, there are 25-30 people in there. They have 3 people working. Pretty good ratio, I thought. Our server comes over to take our tea order. Without being an asshole, I'd like to explain that she had a lisp and was clearly not learning at grade level. So she had to point at teas on the list instead of explaining them to us because she couldn't pronounce the names. In the grand scheme of things this is clearly not something to be upset about and I'm sure its much more inconvenient for her daily life than it was for our tea time. How to run a tea house tip #1: a serving position which regularly involves explaining the process of high tea and the varieties of tea may not be the best career path for someone with a speech impediment.
She takes our tea order. I picked "almond bar tea" which is supposed to taste like an almond bar. We are investigating the table and find two little signs printed on bright cardstock. The first is a strip of paper which reads something close to "due to our making everything from scratch, food may take longer than expected. We thank you for your patience." I may have fancied up the grammar a bit but that's the idea. We are not a group of people that appreciates being thanked for our patience before we have granted it. The second sign says "This is a no cell phone zone. Thank you for silencing or turning off cell phones." At least four of us are in the process of checking into foursquare/facebook. But our cell phones were probably on silent, so that's good.
The tea arrives, two pots at a time. One of which is nestled in her armpit as she tries to maneuver the other onto the table without dropping the cozies. She manages to spill tea on my grandmother and in her purse. Luckily grandma's jacket was pretty solid and not taking any shit from this girl and grandma didn't notice till she walked away and Ivy so kindly wiped all the tea off of grandma's arm. This continued two tea pots at a time until all 7 of us were served our tea. How to run a tea house tip #2: buy a freaking tray. The tea was by all accounts delicious. Mine was wonderful. The tea pots were pretty cute, although covered by hand made and reversible cozies that took up half the space on the table.
Our server came back to take our food order. There was an a la carte menu but also you could order a traditional tea service at different levels. Wendy, Grandma, Ivy and I all ordered the "fancy tea" which included sorbet, finger sandwiches, savory pastries, sweet pastries, scones, etc. The server kept asking us what kind of soup we wanted. Ivy eventually pointed out to her that it didn't come with soup. We added it on anyway. Randi and Jessica ordered the "petite tea" which was the same thing minus sorbet and sandwiches. Samantha ordered a salad with no cheese. At this point it is probably 1:45pm.
We didn't get any milk with our tea, which is apparently not acceptable. This was my first time at tea but I was informed by those more wise than I that there is supposed to be milk. We only had to ask all three of the women working at least once. It has become clear at this point that the three women running this place are sisters and that our unfortunate server has been given this position because her sister is the manager.
At this point we're all chatting and enjoying each others company and have decided as a group that this place is a little off but that our tea is delicious so that's okay. As we start condensing our tea pots to the middle of the table to make room for our sorbet, somewhere in the mass of cozies a tea pot spills. It is my grandmother's tea pot. We start collecting our tiny napkins to soak up the mess. The smaller version of our waitress shows up after watching us for about 3 minutes with a towel and hands it to us, taking our mass of soppy napkins away. She doesn't come back with more napkins.
We end up going to the front of the room to ask for more napkins. She brings us five. Grandma notes that all three of these girls "fell off the same turnip truck."
A three-tiered tray arrives with our "fancy tea" goodies on it. Tasty sandwiches and little pastries. There was four of each treat so we divvied them up and started nibbling slowly until the other food arrived. They were quite good. However, if you're going to make a point of your food being made from scratch, try to keep the stickers from your pre-made baked goods off your serving plates.
Then the lady who I assume is managing this establishment (when she's not carrying an infant around on her hip) brings over our check. We let her know that we still have soup coming and three more meals. She says something about how they're just bringing the check out early because they were so busy earlier. Right.
So all of a sudden we have soup and Samantha has her salad-covered in cheese. She doesn't send it back because it is about 2:30pm and who knows when salad number two will arrive.She spends the rest of the time picking the cheese out of her salad and becomes really frustrated. I totally understand this. When you're trying to make a dietary choice without making it everyone else's problem and you do what you think is the easiest possible thing for everyone and order simple- and they screw it up anyway, it's incredibly frustrating.
The "petite tea" goodies have not arrived. 2:45pm, nothing. 3:00pm, nothing. They've completely squandered the patience they pre-thanked us for. We're nearly done with our food and Wendy goes up to the front to ask about the other two meals. Randi and Jessica have resigned themselves to a fast food stop on the way home at this point but we at least want it taken off the check. Our wonderful waitress argues with Wendy and tells her that the petite treats were on our tray as well. This is clearly not true since there was four of each item, not six. How to run a tea house tip #3: If you're going to lump 6 people's meals onto one tray in order to save yourself a trip, let them know so that they can double check your counting skills.
Samantha has a minor break about her salad but for the most part we are all in good spirits- just a little flabbergasted. My grandmother is scandalized. Not because they spilled tea on her or because it took them nearly five minutes to help her clean up her tea or the hour wait for our food- she can't beleive that they haven't cleared any of our dishes. And they haven't. We all still have sorbet dishes and soup bowls and little plates. Not one thing has been cleared. This is another symptom of really poor server training.
The lady with the baby on her hip tells my aunt that they took over this business a year ago and are still getting the hang of it. Clearly. I ended up being glad that my mother didn't come because after serving for most of her life she has limited tolerance for poor service. Very limited.
This brings me to the fact that if anyone wants to open a tea house with me, I'm pretty confident I could run circles around these people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving with my family pt.1- Strength in Numbers

This Thanksgiving, Pat and I went to my grandma's house to celebrate with the Ridderbi.
We camped out at the snack table until dinner started and then made our way to the kids table. Yes, we still sit at the kids table and I personally prefer it. I suppose we could call it the cousin table but that just doesn't have the same ring to it.
My cousin Samantha has recently become vegan. This makes three cousins that are at least vegetarian, plus my aunt Wendy who is a part time vegetarian. Because our numbers have grown, the family has started creating things for us to eat- we had meatless stuffing, for instance. And the potatoes didn't have bacon in them. I have to tell you, I'm pretty pleased with this. The first year I stopped eating meat I think my only choices were green bean casserole and fruit salad. Delicious, but not exactly the full thanksgiving experience.
The real gem though, was the Tofurky that Samantha prepared. It looks awful. Grayish brown color, little cat butt where the packaging was twisted at the end. But it was actually delicious. For serious! So I had a bonafied vegetarian feast on thanksgiving and was thankful for soy, science, and for strength in numbers.