As evidenced by my attention deficit to the written word, holidays are ON. As yet, no tree has made an appearance, but that is because I detoured to do a thorough pre-cleaning of my sunroom in anticipation of my holographic tree. Sure, it’s sacrilegious- not only NOT real, NOT green. I used the nice weather to jump the gun on the front porch- and I am sure my neighbors thought I was nuts. I do not care a bit. Now when I pull into the driveway, I am greeted by a little Pottery Barnish magic.
I decided to let the rest of the house wait until after Thanksgiving. Of course, we did not have Thanksgiving this year- it was the year for in-laws for Mike and Patrick, and Justine worked, so Matt stayed home to spend the day with her before she headed to the hospital. Our family celebration was a five bone prime rib Wednesday night, provided as a gift from Mike’s groomsmen as a “thank you” to Steve. It is a lot of pressure for a mediocre cook like me to be ringmaster of such a feast. I decided simplicity was the best plan of action, so home made mashed potatoes, green beans and a simple salad with beets and goat cheese was the way to go. I only have one oven, so it is a bad idea to get grandiose. Steve and I had our typical fight over gravy- me, au jus, him gravy. He went ahead and made gravy, which only he ate.
I have successfully stifled the kids’ love of gravy. My mom made the best gravy in America- and she made it almost every night, to disguise bad meat. Sometimes she made it to save for the nights there was no meat, where she might serve gravy bread. The 6 Joliat kids knew gravy on white bread meant the grocery budget was kaput. Mom always followed up with pudding or cake, though, so we bore no grudges. Other budget extenders were scrambled eggs with hot dogs (this meant there were only 3-4 weiners to spread among the 8 mouths) pancakes, or corn bread with maple syrup. The last two entrees were referred to as “lumberjack suppers”. My dad knew these meals meant he needed to get a new job, and as I entered high school, he did. He founded Joliat and Barnaby, manufacturers’ reps for a variety of commercial air handling systems. It morphed into Michigan Air, a company now held by my brother. The younger kids in our clan did not enjoy as many “lumberjack dinners”, as he was pretty successful during the growth years in Detroit.
Mom served a great Thanksgiving, but I could not fathom the work to time spent eating/ preparing/ cleaning ratio. I tried to dodge the domestic angle by tagging along with Dad to watch the Lions. My uncle was a restauranteur, so he loved to be home on Thanksgiving, when his empire was shut down. Dad would get his tickets, and I would feign a love of the game. Generally it was polar. The seats were covered, but at the top row of Briggs/Tiger Stadium, where the wind would slip in and flash freeze me. That park was cold and damp until July in the summers, and in November it might as well have been Siberia. But the “near frostbite” I came home with meant that I could thaw as the other girls hustled to carry dishes to the table. I escaped a lot of domestic responsibility that way, and I never really picked up my Mom’s art of cooking. Poor Steve, doing Mom’s gravy job. I know I could do it from watching- I absorbed her style via osmosis. And I think I could serve a mean gravy bread.
All was well for us- no one was poisoned by anything served, and we even hit the jackpot as Justine was called off from work, and could dine with us in her scrubs. I had set a place for her, and refused to take it off, despite her schedule. Some might call me a witch. No, mostly Steve might call me that. At any rate, it was perfect.
I dragged my Noritake ‘good china” out of the china keepers on Monday, and set the table. These have been unloved and untouched for so long that the foam dividers had turned to gum, adhering the plates to one another. I scraped and washed them until all adhesive was gone. I used the good Waterford crystal, bought one stem at a time after my wedding yielded a spotty and insufficient number smattering of stems. I stopped at 8- so we will never have company if we need to use it. That’s okay. It was a treat to have the table sparkle. I polished the caps on the crystal salt and peppers, decorated the mantle, dragged my Autumn decor from the attic and stood back to admire the view. Perfection.
Even if I wrecked the meal, in such a dining room, the party manners would require polite compliments. And I did not wreck anything- because I shuffled the meat responsibility to Steve, who obsessively recalibrated my oven, sharpened the carving knife, located the proper cutting board (how can any home have 3 wooden carving boards with varying wells?) and tested various meat thermometers. Since the meat was the star of the show, all pressure was on him. I paid for it, of course, as my gratitude required that I do the dishes, and the next day dismantling and relocating of table leaves and decor. Still, it was worth it.
I knew that Thursday at the inlaws would involve pie, and so I went retro: peppermint ice cream with Magic Shell. Steve mocked, and then he was a convert. With low fat, double churned Edy’s, he can manage to have a treat without guilt.
Saturday of the holiday united us all again, at the happiest of occasions: a wedding. We went to the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii to witness the marriage of Victoria Colisimo to David Hampton. He is the son of one of my most dear friends, and that makes him almost my son! The reception was a magical affair at the Drake hotel, and the room was full of beauty and love. All of my kids has a counterpoint in the Hampton family; our lives are woven together like a Maypole. What a reminder of what is most essential to nurture us: family and love. There was not a better coda to the Thanksgiving blessings than to watch the love of one generation move forward to the next….. except maybe….watching the Bears pluck the Eagles from their high perch. Which I did, in warmth, inside, while dining on a sumptuous meal that someone else made. Some things do not change. I can still avoid cooking if I put my mind to it.