Friday, November 18, 2011

*In Search of Excellence*

I stood and faced the ten people gathered around our dining room table. Held up my pointer finger.
            “Will you excuse me a minute please?”
            I bolted upstairs and buried my head in a laundry basket.  And screamed.  When I lifted my head, there was my husband’s pant leg.
            “Something wrong?”
            I glanced up from my crumple.
            “It’s not perfect.”
            He shrugged.  “It doesn’t have to be.  It’s excellent.  That’s enough.”

Last year my Thanksgiving hoohah was a bit of a fiasco.  I decided to be cool and brine my bird.  Nowhere in the directions did Martha Stewart say it would take the turkey three times longer to roast due to its forty-eight hour soak in salt water.
            Thankfully, all the guests were polite about the extremely delayed entrance of the main course.  We actually started out fine.  The wassail was perfect, all simmery and cinnamony in the Crockpot I’d wrapped with fall foliage paper.  It made the house smell like it had one foot in November, the other in December.
            The appetizer buffet was stunning.  I had to smack the kids’ hands with a wooden spoon to keep them from spoiling their appetite with shrimp butter on toasted baguette slices.  My ma-in-law and I vied for the biggest glutton title with the Bon Appetit spiced pecans.  The roasted bell pepper and havarti slices on fancy crackers disappeared in five minutes, thanks to dear husband.

When the oven timer buzzed, I clapped to get everyone’s attention.
            “And now for the main event,” I said.  “Give me a few minutes to get the turkey out of the oven, and we’ll get this feast started for real.”
            My husband hoisted the steaming Tom Turkey out of the oven and onto my Granny’s cream ironstone platter while I got the side dishes squared away.  Nutty green beans go in this bowl.  Garlic mashed potatoes will live in there.  These two trivets will hold my sister-in-law’s best-ever-she-won’t-give-me-the-dang-recipe sweet potatoes.  And I’ll fill our wedding anniversary bowl with my modified Gourmet magazine stuffing recipe. 
            I balanced on tiptoe to peek over my husband’s shoulder as he sliced into the bird’s breast.  I squealed. He jumped.  The carving knife clattered on the stove top. 
            I waved my arms frantically.  “Stop!” I said.  “The juices aren’t running clear!  The turkey package said the juices can’t be pink or cloudy.”
            My husband looked from me to the bird.  I pressed potholders into his hands.
            “Quick!  Put him back in the oven.”
            I increased the heat twenty five degrees and used my Nan’s giant wooden spoon to shove the roasting pan all the way back and left.  I crammed the side dishes onto the racks, hoping to keep them warm too.  I stood, smoothed the front of my cute aqua and lime Anthropologie apron, and headed into the dining room.  With a basket of cheddar pecan biscuits in one hand and a crystal bowl of salted Amish butter in the other.
            “Everyone get a biscuit and butter.  It’ll tide you over ‘til turkey time.”

My husband checked the bird thirty minutes later.  He stood in the dining room doorway and shook his head ever so slightly.  I choked on my biscuit bite.  Wadded my pilgrim and Indian print napkin and threw it at my empty plate. 
            “Here.  Let me take a look.”
            My mother-in-law followed me into the kitchen.  She touched me lightly on my shoulder.
            “Why don’t we start with the side dishes?” she said.  “While the turkey finishes up.  It’ll be fine.”
            I sighed. And sniffed.  “Okay.”
            She removed everything from the oven but the turkey. Arranged the bowls on the kitchen table.  I placed a little calligraphied placard in front of each serving dish.  The guests filed in, loaded their plates, and returned to the dining room. 
            Before we dug in, my oldest brother prayed.  "Lord, we thank you for this bountiful array of food.  Bless it to our bodies, and please, comfort my sister in her time of distress."  

A half hour later my husband inspected the turkey again.  Then once more after twenty minutes. 
            “Think I’ll wait an hour before I look again,” he whispered to me before he sat down.
            I took a swig of white wine.  “You know what?  Just leave it in there ‘til it’s black for all I care.”
            My mother pointed her fork at me.  “Actually, this is good for my hiatal hernia,” she said.  “Small amounts of food throughout the day are much easier to digest than large meals.”
            I tried to smile.  “Thanks, Mom.”
When we were done with our stuffing and veggies, I stacked my plate on my husband’s and stood.       
            “Forget about the turkey,” I said.  “I’ll give everybody some to take home.  Who’s ready for dessert?  There’s Praline Pumpkin Pie or Frozen Caramel Pumpkin Torte.  Both with homemade hazelnut whipped cream.”
            I flipped the toggle on the coffee maker and cut five pieces of each dessert.  Dolloped them with whipped cream.
            My husband set a  cup of coffee on the kitchen table in front of me.  I started to take a drink, but stopped.  I inhaled.  Wrinkled my nose.
            “What’s in it?  It smells different.”
            He grinned.  “A shot of Bailey’s,” he said.  “I thought you might need it.”
            I felt my nostrils flare and my eyes start to burn.  He patted my back.
            “There, there. Think excellence, not perfection.”
            I turned to face him, my hands on my hips.       
            “This won’t happen next year.”
            He cringed.  “We eating out?
            I snorted.  “Heck no,” I said.  “I’m gonna cook the dang turkey the day before.”

1 comment:

writingdianet said...

Testing to see if I can leave a message.


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