1. I am extremely grateful to the turkey. It’s the one time of year I eat meat. After Thanksgiving is over, I always take the carcass and make the soup. I eat that with gusto, too. As well as a sandwich or two in between. Then the rest of the year I go back to being a pain-in-the-ass crypto vegetarian.
I learned how to cook turkey when one year Aline, my mother’s housekeeper, went AWOL on Thanksgiving. And my mother was running around screaming that company was coming and she didn’t know how to deal with the dead white bird.
I’m grateful I rose to the occasion, stuffed the turkey, cooked it according to what it said in the cookbook, and that it came out well. I made the gravy too because Aline taught me how. She had a little jar, like a leftover peanut butter jar, she put flour and water in. She’d dump a little in the pan drippings, and with her spoon (I use a whisk) she transformed the juices into gravy. Too greasy? She’d throw in a little lemon, a toss of Tabasco, some bottled sauce, and voila! gravy. I do a variation on this theme to this day.
2. I am grateful to the New York Times for putting out the word that washing the turkey just spreads the germs. I hated washing the turkey.
3. I am grateful to Joe Lubart, a very good cook who taught me the Madeira trick with stuffing. Most people moisten stuffing with water, maybe canned broth; I moisten with a good bottle of Madeira or Sherry a la Joe Lubart.
4. I am also grateful to my friend Valerie Prager who told me you don’t have to squeeze every fucking piece of the dried bread as I was brought up to do. Just dump a judicious amount of the liquid on the dry bread and vegetables.
This saves hours. And many scratches on the hand.
5. I am grateful to the French for their bottled chestnuts—extremely expensive—but truly marvelous and also saves me from scoring the fresh chestnuts, roasting them and peeling them. Vive la France!
6. Finally, I am grateful for a very fond memory from my family of origin. It was Shreveport, Louisiana. We were having Thanksgiving. The table was really pretty. My mother had invited new friends—Christians—whom she wanted to impress—and she had on some hostess gown. I can see her to this second in her hostess gown. My sister is there, my grandma is there and so is my brother. We’ve all just sat down.
My mother’s new friends are smiling. Everybody is still, and the afternoon light is filtering through the sheer curtains in the dining room.
“Ruth,” says one of our guests, “will you lead us in prayer.”
My mother’s mouth drops. I can hear her going, ah, shit… Any second I expect her to swoon and have to be carried off to the emergency room.
Clever Ma though passes the buck. She turns to me. “Mary always says the prayer in our family.”
Everyone looks at me. I have never prayed aloud in my life. But I say something. Whatever comes to mind. I’m quite young. I don’t have much poise; I certainly have no religious poise. But I come up with something.
And like my first turkey, I hit the ball out of the park.
My family is so excited that I’ve pulled this off, they start clapping. The Christians are looking astonished. Is this something the Jews do, clap after praying?
They clap and they clap. It is the one pristine memory I have of my family’s absolute approbation.
One of the Christians said, “Amen!”
Then we ate and that was that.
7. My son isn’t coming home for thanksgiving as he usually does. He hasn’t said where he’s going and I haven’t asked. He’s on jury duty in Riverhead, New York and they don’t give the jurors the Wednesday or Friday off. It makes me immeasurably sad and ungrateful that he won’t be here to eat my stuffing that he loves, and admonish me as he always does, that I should have gotten the heritage turkey the one with more dark meat.
Nor, am I grateful that we live in a world where there are so many people who are hungry, Homeless, country less. Etc. etc. etc.
Let’s all try to do something to remedy the above by next Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, Happy 2015 Thanksgiving!