In years past, with family members living anyplace but here, we were grateful to be invited to join friends and their families for all the fixings of Thanksgiving.
By Robin Jovanovich
In years past, with family members living anyplace but here, we were grateful to be invited to join friends and their families for all the fixings of Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful holiday in that it doesn’t require gift giving or house trimming, just every incarnation of side dishes. Adults throw dietary caution to the wind and pile their plates with mountains of butter-, cream-, and cheese-laden dishes. At the Children’s Table, there’s the occasional food fight, but very little chance of not getting your food wish.
With the arrival of our first grandchild, we had good reason to move the feast to our house this year, and we invited friends and their families to join us. While there were only nine and nine months of us in the end, I cooked for a crowd.
Not well known for my advance planning skills, I decided to turn a new page and marched into Crisfield’s, where all the best turkeys in town come from, a week before the big day.
“So, John, do you think it would be a sin to serve only a turkey breast at Thanksgiving, as I haven’t cooked a whole bird in years?” I asked owner John Johnston. He looked down before rising up and in a very serious manner, like the parish priest after you’ve confessed to considering egging the neighbor’s house, replied: “It would indeed be a sin!”
I imagined two days of food preparation hell, but honestly, with today’s high-powered ovens, an unstuffed bird, no matter how enormous, cooks in no time at all. I whipped up a few sides lickety-split and was finally catching up on a week of newspapers when the first guests, the grandson and his parents, arrived. Even great chefs must have trouble concentrating when in the presence of beautiful blue eyes, soft skin, and a toothy grin. I know those were the reasons I forgot to take something out of the oven and add that last ingredient to the gravy.
PW, as I call our grandson Peter, is a big presence in our lives, figuratively and actually. He babbles and we coo, he pulls himself up and we exult; and he’s off the charts in height. At nine months, he weighed far more than the turkey.
When we finally got around to sitting down for dinner, after wisely handing over the carving assignment to our friend — who demonstrated how Martha Stewart does it, unlike the Sweeney Todd approach my husband was using — my biggest concern wasn’t that the food was cold but what was PW going to eat. The poor kid is still on a puree diet. (Not sure what’s in that stuff the pediatrician insists my daughter-in-law and son feed him, but as a grandparent you learn not to ask, just savor the time.)
While I brought out the childhood silverware handed down to me by my maternal grandmother, PW was just fine using his fingers to pick up and devour the tiniest of piles of mashed potatoes, which he didn’t throw!
In fact, he sat happily in his high chair for over an hour and a half, listening to our conversation, eying the Christmas stocking hanging next to the fireplace, and loving the chance to pull off his grandfather’s eyeglasses.
I think it’s finally okay for me to report that neither of our sons ever sat contentedly in a high chair or missed an opportunity to throw food or a tantrum. Time-outs were the order of many holidays, but not this one.
When it was time to put PW to bed, I carried him up the stairs and showed him all the photographs of his father and uncle when they were boys and many of his forefathers. I hope his dreams were as sweet as mine.