If you are reading this before Thanksgiving and not after, I know something about you.
- You are lucky enough to still have a mother who loves and feeds you;
- You have your Thanksgiving “to do” list pretty much “to-done,” because you were that overachieving kid who finished your weekend homework on Friday night, your term paper at the beginning of Christmas break, and never missed an opportunity to earn extra credit;
- You are relieved that it’s not your turn to be in charge of Thanksgiving this year. You rotate the holidays and it’s your sibling’s turn, or you’re going to a friend’s and all you need to do is show up with a bottle of wine or a pumpkin pie;
- You’re going out. Someone else will get paid to cook and do your dishes. The only sad thing is that you might not get a turkey sandwich with cranberry on Friday; or…
- You are procrastinating! (Aha!) You are so far behind that you are lock-kneed on the starting block. You are surfing the Internet instead of braving the crowded grocery store, knowing the only turkeys left are the ones that won’t thaw until Saturday.
I am Alice, and I am a #5.
I must crave the rush of adrenalin, because I put many things off until it’s (almost) too late. Normally it’s my weekly writing deadline. This week my deadline is my excuse to postpone getting organized for Thanksgiving.
It’s no secret that cooking for others makes me nervous. My friends scold me for my insecurity, arguing that I am a good cook and have no reason to deny it. It’s true I have a few “go to” dishes, but it’s a potluck resume – one dish at a time.
When I have to prepare several dishes at once and calculate timing with only one oven, it’s not pretty. I morph into such an unrecognizable creature that my husband invents an emergency errand clear across town and disappears for hours. (Si has learned from years of experience that even weaponless, I can be armed and dangerous. With no water barrels to duck behind, he’s the first on the trail out of Dodge.)
My brothers and their wives love to cook and they’re good at it. It puts tremendous pressure on me - the baby of the family. So to help calm my frazzled nerves, I made a list of what I have going for me:
- I remembered to order a “Willie Bird” from Scalise Meats before they ran out. (A “Willie” may not have the pedigree of the increasingly popular heritage turkey, but my ancestors arrived on the Mayflower so I figure that’s good enough. The turkey can come from Santa Rosa.)
- I know from experience that turkey isn’t nearly as finicky as a soufflé, or the “Floating Island” I once managed to turn to scrambled eggs when the book club hostess asked me to stir gently while she stepped away for a minute. (I will never stop apologizing, Karen.) If I overcook the turkey, I’ll push the fresh cranberry relish and gravy to conceal the crime. My sister-in-law makes delicious cranberry sauce, and I hear Scalise sells gravy. (Note to self – Stop writing and call Scalise!)
- “Floating Island” Karen gave me a recipe for mashed potatoes that I can prepare up to three days ahead, so that’s a reheat thing. (Slam dunk!)
- Last week I ordered a pecan crusted pumpkin cheesecake from Donna at the Little House Café. Anything Donna bakes comes with a delicious guarantee and is bound to be worth every calorie.
Tomorrow morning I will close my eyes and take deep, calming, meditative breaths, knowing that it’s not about the turkey’s moisture content, or whether or not I made the gravy or the pie. We lost our parents within eighteen months of each other when we were young adults with small children. For more than two decades we have shared not only major holidays, but random picnics, beach walks and birthdays in between.
We will miss those missing from our table – the ones for whom we grieve and the few at other tables this year, toasting us. (I know it’s bound to happen more and more frequently as we grow old and our children marry.) So to our sister, Beth, and her family in Washington, nephew Graham in Colorado, and niece Louise and her husband, Mike at the Gibbons family table, here are virtual plates heaped with love, sent via the magical information super highway.
Love is better than turkey, anyway. No matter how many you need to feed, there’s always enough for leftovers.