By popular demand...
Thanksgiving is a holiday with many associations. People think of family and friends. Some people think of the gratitude they feel for all they have. But most people also think about food. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie are all favorites I look forward to at Thanksgiving, and I am pretty sure I am not alone.
The first Thanksgiving at my mother in law’s house was memorable. My wife was only a girlfriend, back then, and Thanksgiving was a way for me to try to make a favorable impression upon her family. My wife is from the north suburbs of Chicago, so it was quite a drive. We arrived at her parent’s place, a brick house on about three quarter of an acre of land. Her parents seemed pleasant enough.
An appetizer selection was laid out, including a fondue. I don’t think I had ever seen fondue actually being served. I was intrigued. I tried a bite, and it seemed to have quite a strange taste. Now, never having had fondue, I couldn’t tell if this flavor was good, desirable, bad, or anything in between. It was like being on a train while looking at a train and not being sure which is moving. My wife tasted it and said “Mom, you burned the fondue!” Ah! Now I knew what the flavor was: scorched cheese. So, I suppose I still haven’t had a fondue. I wonder if I ate a good fondue, if I would think it was bad because I missed the hint of scorched cheese. I should have known then that I was in for a …special… Thanksgiving feast.
Well, having put the fondue behind me, I was enjoying the other appetizers. Well, at the very least, they weren’t burned. The doorbell rings, and it is her Aunt Linda and Uncle John. Linda was responsible for bringing part of the dinner, so we were all glad to see her. Linda put a covered bowl next to me, and it rattled. It kind of sounded like it was full of dry cereal. I asked what was in the bowl, and Linda told me it was dressing. When I asked her how she was going to finish it, she replied that it was already finished. I found this confusing, having never eaten dressing that rattled before. But, I thought, there’s always the turkey.
Linda brought the pumpkin pie. Well, it is hard to mess up pumpkin pie. Linda brings out the pie with the words: “I just don’t know what happened to it.” I went from the dining room to the living room to see Linda holding a pumpkin pie that appeared to have about a quarter inch of liquid on top of it. Fortunately, my future mother in law said “Linda! What did you do?” before I could. Linda explained that she wanted to have a fancy topping to the pie, so she sprinkled some brown sugar on top of it while it was baking. When she went to check on it, the sugar had disappeared, so she sprinkled a little more, then a little more a little while later, and so on. The liquid was syrup formed by the baking down of about half a cup of brown sugar. Well, I thought, there’s always the turkey.
A little while later, and dinner is almost served. I am sitting at the table, waiting patiently. Liz, my future mother in law, brings out a clear, thirteen by nine, Pyrex baking dish. From the side, I can see that half the dish is orange and half the dish is white, on the bottom, but the top is all white. I asked her what was in the dish, and she informed me that she had found a recipe. Apparently, she had swirled mashed sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes in the dish, then covered the whole thing in cream cheese. She also served gravy with this. Oh. I told her it sounded interesting. But, I thought, there’s always the turkey.
So, finally, we get down to dinner. Linda passes me the dressing. It is croutons. Literally. I took a few and passed it on. The turkey is served. I get a drumstick, which I my favorite part of the turkey. I bite down into it. I pull back and look down. The turkey is medium rare.
We ate at Culver’s on the way home that Thanksgiving. We ate at Culver’s going up the next time. The next time we went, my future brother in law, Mike, was there. As Liz pulls out the turkey, Mike looks at her and says, “Mom, what are you doing? That isn’t done yet.” Mike bumps his own mother out of the way and takes over the kitchen.
I made sure to tell him how thankful we were to see him. At least, there was turkey.