Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Turkeys In This House

My mother was a wonderful cook. She was one of those women that added a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, and "oh look this was left over from last nights dinner", and the result was so wonderful and tasty that you thought you had found a treasure on a dinner plate. The only problem was she never followed a recipe, she never scribbled on a piece of paper what she had dashed, sprinkled, dumped, or stirred into her wonderous concoctions for the dinner table. My father was fond of saying, between spoonsful headed for his mouth, "Enjoy it tonight because she'll never make it 'exactly' like this again". And she never did! But the next concoction was always as tasty as the last one. The only thing about my memories of her wonderful way with food that makes me sad is the fact that she left no recipes. All her wonderful food fare was in her head. When I would ask her how she made something she would answer, "Oh some of this and some of that." She wasn't being secretive; she really didn't know the amounts that she had put into anything. She just put what she thought was right. And it always was.

I'm not my mother's daughter in the kitchen. I need a recipe. I guess I can cook as well as the next person; as long as I have a recipe. But I wish I had that touch that just 'knows' that a pinch of something would make a good dish into a wonderful dish.

Thanksgiving is what started me musing about my mother's midas touch in the kitchen. This was the first Thanksgiving without my father. When he was alive and living with me I tried to fix Thanksgiving dinner from scratch just as my mother would have done. He missed her so much and in his confusion he couldn't remember that she had died. He spent the last three years of his life waiting for her to return. "You know Bonnie loves to visit people, but she generally doesn't stay away this long," he would say at least once a day. Even though he was constantly waiting for my mother to return he never lost his appreciation for a good meal. And that is what I tried to do for him the Thanksgivings that he lived with me.

This Thanksgiving the group that lives in this house decided that I shouldn't have to cook a full blown meal. I suspect that rather than being a sweet, caring group of loved ones their motivation was more self serving then Pennie serving. They were more worried about the salty tears that I would drip into their holiday fodder as I stirred and mixed and thought about my father. At any rate they pooled their resources and ordered a pre-cooked meal with the additional bonus of a prime rib roast thrown in to keep the turkey company (remember these were men ordering the meal and what man can pass up the bargain of a prime rib). I WAS consulted about what pies I thought they should order. I told them an apple pie for my grandson, a coconut cream for my son, a boysenbery for me and my granddaughter, and a chocolate cream for John. Now that sounds like enough pie to feed an army, but when they got home they had added a pumpkin ("because you have to have pumpkin on Thanksgiving"), and a blueberry ("just because it sounded good"). We were going to have enough pie to start our own bakery, but they were so pleased with themselves and the completion of their Thanksgiving dinner planning that I smiled and thanked them for a job well done.

Thanksgiving eve the men ventured out and gathered all the food that they had ordered. We had food all over the kitchen. I was diligently trying to find a place to store the next day's dinner when the phone rang. It was my younger brother. He never told me where the food came from or why he was giving it to me, but he did say that his wife had 2 20 lb turkeys, and all the trimmings, cooked and ready to re-heat and eat. He wanted to bring one of the turkeys and the accompanying food over early Thanksgiving morning. I forgot to tell you that there was a bonus to this meal too............4 pies! 2 pumpkin and 2 chocolate. He kept telling me how I wouldn't have to cook this year and I kept telling him that that would probably just give me more time to cry because I missed mom, pop, and our brother George. He kept saying "I miss them too, but I'm not gonna spend my Thanksgiving crying", and I kept trying to tell him that he never had to cook a complete Thanksgiving dinner for pop, and he kept trying to say that that was true, but he had eaten Thanksgiving dinner with pop. By that time we were both in tears. "Do you want this food?" he asked between his sniffles. I answered, "Sure, bring it over." Now I was on the verge of panic because I didn't know where I was going to put all this food that men were bringing into the house. I started laughing thinking about how my mom and dad would love this story of the men and the Thanksgiving meals. My brother thought that I had gone a little crazy, but he made the arrangements for the food to be delivered and started laughing himself.

Oh, did I tell you that my son won a 20 lb turkey in a raffle two days before turkey eating day. I thought that we had enough food to feed this house for a week, but guess again. As of today the only thing left is the turkey my son won and the turkey that they puchased pre-cooked. Everything else became part of what the men in the house have called the "food war". All the pies have been eaten, all the yams have disappeared, all the mashed potatoes and gravy, all the stuffing, and all the rolls are gone, gone, and gone. My father would have loved it. He would have been among these men stuffing himself with good food and telling me what a good cook I was even though I didn't actually cook one thing. I didn't cry Thanksgiving day. I laughed for three days watching the men in this house dickering with one another over who got what and when...........my father would have had such a beautiful smile on his face as he was putting another spoon full of Thanksgiving leftovers in his tummy.

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