A few weeks ago, I was approached outside the grocery store by people from a local food bank, asking me to do a little extra shopping for the other guy.
I started to tell them that I was in a hurry, but lying to food bank workers makes baby Jesus cry. I also was tempted to just hand over all the cash in my wallet instead, which I believe was 7 dollars, and spare them my shopping skills; I don’t have a lot of food bank experience but I have some, enough to know the cash is usually best, given the tendency of well-intentioned people to suppose that what hungry people really need is cherry pie filling and maybe Stovetop Stuffing mix.
I did my best, anyway, although that’s an interesting battle, at least for me, shopping for the needy. Pride, shame, ego — they all want to make an appearance, so usually I settle for soup. Soup works well.
This came to mind only because we have an abundance of brown sugar in this house now. Way too much brown sugar for one family, particularly a family that doesn’t bake much anymore. And while it’s not hard to imagine an unemployed, hungry family of cookie lovers, I can’t imagine hauling the surplus sugar down to the food bank. Also, both bags appear to have been opened, one of them in a hurry.
We had a perfect Thanksgiving in this household, which is an interesting concept I don’t really feel like exploring. It was a family affair, I’ll just say, with lots of interaction (except for John, who slept most of the day; having company completely throws off his schedule and he finally sacked out on the sofa while the rest of us played in the kitchen).
The division of labor was smooth: The ones who enjoy cooking cooked, and at appropriate intervals. My daughter was queen of the side dishes, everything spectacular. Cameron held the party together, wandering around the house with a cutting board under his arm, looking for a spare flat surface so he could chop in peace. Julie sipped a mimosa and kept the fire going.
I did the turkey, which I take credit for the way I take credit for doing laundry: Pretty much I put it in and close the door, and the appliance does the work. I’ve read a fair amount of griping in the blog world this season about what a sorry entree the turkey is, how it never turns out well and we should be eating goose or duck, but I sneer at this. You can brag about brining all you want, or get all 2004 and do the deep fry thing (I sincerely think people are crazy who do this. Really. I think they are at least temporarily mentally ill. I always will, too), but the truth is simple and easy. Stuff the cavity with fruit and aromatics, smear the bird with honey and then drape it with about a pound of bacon (more is better), cook it at 325 and it comes out fine, always does. Shut up.
I can’t take credit for the pie crust, even though it was my recipe, tweaked and derived from various sources, and I did mix it, refrigerate it, and roll it out. Still, a pie crust this delicious, light and flaky is obviously the result of supernatural intervention, a temporary transcendence in which my hands were controlled by angels or maybe the spirit of Julia Child. Really, at that moment I should have run out and bought a lottery ticket, jaywalked and maybe attempted a chin-up, things were going so well.
The week went too fast, of course, and suddenly it was Friday morning and the young people were heading for the airport. It seems quiet now, maybe a little darker and definitely more subdued, but it was fun for a few days. Texas whomped A&M, we had a fire going all day, nobody got mad, and as I said John slept through most of the chaos that was our kitchen for a couple of hours. It was all good. Cameron even learned how to poach salmon in foil packets, quick and dirty like (those of you here in the Northwest are rolling your eyes at the most basic way to get salmon on the table, the technique we learn as toddlers in this part of the country, but remember: The man is from San Antonio).
So we are left with good memories, some pictures and lots of mashed potatoes, a week well done, and with luck and grace we’ll be able to repeat it some day, maybe next year, who knows? These guys will be married by then, I suppose, and everyone will be older and wiser, but we learned how to throw a good Thanksgiving and I’m thinking the brown sugar can stay where it is, just in case.