I went to Training School to learn my Thanksgiving skills.
I was schooled and sharpened; re-tooled, tried and tested by my own mother. She was a Thanksgiving Meal Master. She has been taught in the school of amazing Thanksgiving deliciousness by her mother – my grandmother, a Jedi Thanksgiving cook in her own right.
You could set the Thanksgiving Day raw ingredients in front of the average male, and they would croak under pressure, moan under total cluelessness. They could haul the giant bird up from the freezer and take the plastic wrap off. After that, they would just back away and watch football on the TV. The men in our extended family could lift and haul and peal, but they could not turn the frozen and uncooked elements into the fabulous food finale’ that my grandmother and mother could.
The first few years, I was content to merely enjoy the deliciousness and experience the dining ecstasy. But the day came when I was now old enough to be trained. My mother had no daughters. I was first in line. My number was called, my draft card was issued. It was time to step into the Thanksgiving master cook arena. It was time to sink or swim! Cook or be cooked!
At the crack of Thanksgiving Day dawn, my mother arose. Since I was now in basic training, she burst into my room and woke me up. “Time to get the turkey ready.” Oh, she said it nice enough. But I knew what the stakes were. Anytime I had to get up before dawn, I knew it was serious. I was still half-asleep. But I looked into my mother’s eyes. Her countenance said it all. “Game on!”
I was amazed how easily my mother put together the stuffing – a mix of soft bread pudding with perfectly cooked celery and the most pleasantly aromatic sage and onion smell I had ever experienced. I watched her stuff the bird in holes I never knew existed. Turns out God designed this bird to be so perfect for this magical stuffing-manna from heaven. She had figured out a way to make the stuffing the night before so that it seemed to appear out of nowhere. And they say mom’s aren’t magicians!
Then we went to the potatoes. Two million potatoes (it seemed to me) were pealed and polished. The scraps filled up three full garbage bags, I think. Then the peeled potatoes were put into a gigantic pot and boiled for a long, long time. Our family tradition included making scalloped corn and candied sweet potatoes. I have no idea how she made those dishes. The corn was succulent and salty, and the sweet potatoes were rich and luscious. No mortal could create such divine offerings.
When I thought I could not take one more culinary wonder, my mother pulled out a light saber looking knife and went into the cooked turkey – cutting slices of meat so tasty, I could not tell if the juices that seeped forth from each bite were from the fantastic fowl or from my own salivating mouth. To add more insult to outlandish injury, she created a supernatural sauce so succulent, so pungent, I felt my heart skipping beats and racing faster and faster! Yes, she called it gravy, I called it “glorious.”
It was amazing to watch this feast come together on a great table – one that had to be specially built by commercial contractors just to fit all of the food on one place. We sat down for the meal. Dad would pray that we wouldn’t die from delight. And yes, of course we were thankful. Thankful to live in a country that could come up with a holiday so wonderful.
We ate and ate and ate. When the meal was over, paramedics would come and check our pulse, to see if we were still alive. If we were, as was usually the case, mom would then bring in the crème de la crème – The Pumpkin Pie!
No way! I was sure this was a secret plot to assassinate all of us. What a clever way to kill someone, and yet be totally innocent of any wrongdoing! The truth is, we loved it of course. The men looked at their huge stomachs, and for a moment had the sense to say “No way” to dessert just after total engorgement. But at the end of the day, resistance is futile. We all knew we would not only eat one piece, but two!
And just to make it irresistible, Mom would take her last trick up her sleeve – whipping cream! She would put that on top of the pie! A bright light would shine forth from her hand and it would totally wipe out all other sights or senses. We had no will left. Men, with five pounds of food undigested still in their bellies, would then eat even more pieces of pumpkin pie!
Mom had not eaten yet. She was the orchestrator of this great production. When it was over, everyone was slumped in their chairs, totally unconscious. If my memory is correct, at least once I saw her leap into the air, spinning sideways twice around (Yes, a 720!) and landed with the light saber knife extended – exhaling a victorious wheeze that would make Bruce Lee envious!
Perhaps I have exaggerated some of this in my distant memory, but that is how my ten-year old brain remembered it.
Because you see, I was trained in the fine art of Thanksgiving Day Feasts. This Thanksgiving, I will prepare the bird for the 35th time, I will perform the same miracles my mother and grandmother did. I am no chef, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, you better watch out. I got my game face on, and my light saber knife is all charged up and ready for some mean meat trimming!