It’s almost Thanksgiving Day – a favorite holiday of many, including mine. So I was excited as I cycled on the gym elliptical and watched a cooking show called The Chew on the overhead TV. That day’s program focused on Thanksgiving dishes – which somehow made my cycling worth all the effort for the extra calories that lay ahead.
That day’s guest was the lovely Diane Lane, currently starring in Justice League. The hosts’ job was to suggest a holiday drink for Diane’s crowd, starting with a recipe which included gin, simple syrup and champagne. But sweet Diane admitted she was looking for a non-alcoholic beverage to sip while she was preparing the meal.
To heck with that. I’ve learned how to handle Thanksgiving dinners over many decades. Start early and drink up is my motto. The family is coming over. Nuff said.
Next they asked the actress to relay memories while cooking her first Thanksgiving dinner. Diane admitted that at 23 years of age, she spent hours on the phone with her mom as a cooking coach, only to wind up serving burnt turkey on a tablecloth spread onto her living room floor. As she recalled, at least the turkey was “legally cooked.”
I remember my first time hosting Turkey Day, believing it was my turn to impress everyone. For inspiration, I donned a festive apron to look the part. I wanted to appear just as lovely as my mom did when she cooked the holiday dinners. I rummaged around for the dark blue roasting pan to prepare the feast. I picked up a huge Tom Turkey and eagerly read the roasting instructions from the Betty Crocker cookbook my mom had passed down to me when I was first married.
Two and one-half hours later…
Luckily my mom and mother-in-law showed up a bit early. They peeked at the turkey through the front oven door and both gasped when they discovered it was upside down in the roasting pan.
“That’s what the cookbook said!” I argued.
I read that thing twice… start with the breast down in the pan and later flip the bird [no pun intended] over once it’s nearly roasted.
Here’s a snapshot of the recipe book, if you don’t believe me.
Both moms shook their heads. “Poor dear, she’s a first-timer. We’ll have to take matters into our own hands.” I was feeling downhearted.
They set out to remove the roaster to correct my mistake. And, wouldn’t you know, I had fit the oven racks in backwards, so the piping-hot 20-lb. bird nearly fell out onto their feet.
But all went well from there, including when my cousin Sandra helped me to unwrap a new box of cutlery to use at dinner. Sandra reassured me that I didn’t need to first wash the silverware, reminding me that they’d probably never be any cleaner than they were at that moment – straight from the factory-sealed box. It was definitely time for me to stop worrying about making everything perfect.
Looking back, all those goof-ups didn’t matter. What matters are the memories from my time as Thanksgiving hostess in 1987, including some family who ate at our table that day but who are no longer with us: Howard, Grace, Sara, and Debbie. There were other out-of-state relatives that same year, gone now as well, including Martha, Wilma, Annette, Theresa and Glenn. We always miss them.
It’s still my favorite holiday and I always look forward to it
Each holiday dinner is different. We never know quite where we’ll be or who will show up, but the food is always wonderful. The Chew hosts suggested a starting appetizer of asparagus in puff pastry, with a white wine butter sauce. Sounds so easy and delicious. In a perfect world, I’d serve everything they highlighted on the cooking show.
But in reality, I’ll open bottles of wine for everyone and pour. We’ll have the traditional turkey and sides – not a time for me to try out new dishes. And our guests will eat whatever is served. Because they, like us, were trained years ago to eat what their mothers put before them. And that’s what they continue to do at our home.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE.
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