With tomorrow not a given, always be thankful for today
About a week ago, I sat down and wrote out our Thanksgiving menu. I then broke that list down into a list of recipes, and then further into a list of ingredients. After taking inventory of what I already had, I created my Thanksgiving shopping list. But that wasn’t the end of my list making. I then created a timeline that breaks down when everything happens — when to make the pies, mix up the gravy and, of course, when to put the turkey in the oven. That list is my favorite — I start with the time that Thanksgiving dinner will be served and work backward until I get to the first thing on the list: making the pie crusts on Sunday.
Everything about this process makes me happy. The preparation, the stacking of ingredients in the corner of my kitchen, the prepping, measuring, rolling and dicing. The delegation of tasks when someone asks what they can do to help. I am in command of my kitchen and my family has been well-trained to follow orders. To some of you, this sounds familiar. The rest of you probably think I’m crazy. But it’s in my DNA to plan and prep and execute the operation and even as I write this column, my 7-year-old daughter makes her own lists, plans out place cards, and crafts centerpieces for the table. She comes by it honestly.
We have a number of family recipes that we do every year — Mrs. Hammond’s cornbread souffle and my grandmother’s candied yams served on pineapple rings. Stuffing is my favorite side and I go at it with a kind of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach by adding pork sausage, nuts, dates, chestnuts and whatever else I come across while preparing the rest of the meal. I’m feeling particularly clever this year since, on a whim, I grabbed raisin nut bread instead of the usual country white. As our family has grown, we’ve added new recipes to the mix and this year my brother’s new bride, Anna, will be bringing a favorite dish from her family’s repertoire.
Over the years, we’ve changed up how we do the turkey depending on where we’ve lived. Although we’ll be roasting it in the oven this year, my favorite has always been the fried turkey that we adopted when we lived in the South. It only takes an hour and frees up the oven so that everything is ready at the same time. Sure, you might burn your house down, but that turkey meat sure comes out moist. Of course, all of this hard work requires a good cocktail and Thanksgiving calls for bourbon.
As much as I’ve tried to avoid the news over the past few weeks, I can’t help but run across articles and stories about how to get through Thanksgiving with family members of a different political persuasion. “How to do Thanksgiving with your Trump voting relatives” keeps popping up in my Facebook feed. And then there’s my personal favorite, “A hostage negotiator explains how to survive Thanksgiving with your pro-Trump family members,” which tells readers to “avoid becoming overly excited” and “acceptance does not mean agreement.” A woman interviewed on the radio explains how she’s not going to her in-laws this year because she’s so angry and I think about the heated discussions we’ve had in my own family. What happens to a country when we start opting out of the one holiday — a holiday unique to the United States of America — that was created to bring people from different walks of life together to peacefully break bread? I heave a heavy sigh and get back to my mixing.
It only takes a phone call to a friend whose husband is in the hospital to put everything back into perspective. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, so instead I’ll be thankful for what I have today. I don’t know what’s going to happen to our country and my family will probably never agree on politics. I’m sure we’ll argue and someone will probably get overly excited and after a week’s worth of preparation, we’ll devour our dinner in less than an hour. But at least for today, we are healthy, happy, and lucky to be together.
It’s why we live here.