Being the epicenter for my extended family’s Thanksgiving celebrations over three decades has brought about a few challenges that I’ll always remember and definitely keep in the history books. Surprisingly, there’s really just three such fabled tales to tell –thus far.
At number three, it was the year I bought a super-sized turkey and forgot about defrosting it until T-minus six hours. With so many other cooking details and preparations to orchestrate, this certainly could have been a full-on disaster. But some quick online research and an audibly thanked new and unused trash can later, and that Thanksgiving went off seemingly without a hitch to all who gathered at our table that year.
Coming in at number two was the year my daughter was exposed to chicken pox weeks prior to Thanksgiving. No symptoms, but the very fact that she might be a carrier was sufficient enough for the rest of my family to put us under quarantine. For Thanksgiving.
Once again though, I prevailed. In fact, that year was deemed my very first Thanksgiving Triumph by my daughter, mother and of course, me. Never having been responsible for a full Turkey Day menu before, I was not very confident in my resulting efforts, while my daughter was highly doubtful at best. But the food was delectable.
My little girl couldn’t stop eating or praising the dishes I prepared for our intimate feast. Later on, she related by phone to my mother how delicious everything was and sealed my fate by remarking, “It’s even better than your food, Nana!”
The following October, my mother announced that she was handing over Thanksgiving to me.
The years rolled in and out, and like the changing tides, brought many flavorful feasts upon which my family could rely. I had become a well-oiled Thanksgiving machine, and could make most mainstay dishes from memory.
Everything ran like clockwork until the year my daughter became a vegetarian. While she would consume dairy products, the site and smell of meat rendered her nauseous. This was serious. The little girl who’d always loved my meat-based cuisine was now threatening to boycott Thanksgiving and come only for dessert.
I promised to master two main vegetarian dishes for her by the big day… and I did. Yet again, all doubters were pleasantly surprised to witness my daughter scrape the plate and demand seconds of the rich mushroom sauté and three-bean salad I had prepared in her honor.
And that’s when it hit me. “The art of cooking” is like most other endeavors in life: it’s all about the love you have to put in to it. Call it seasonal corn, if you will, but my experience lends the following advice to all cooks in the Thanksgiving Day kitchen: Keep all the love you have in your heart and your mind, and it will come out through your hands and onto the table.