There is a magic that filtered into our abode in Alsace, France on November 26, 2010…..the day that I prepared the finals for Thanksgiving dinner, including the roasting of the turkey. Okay, let’s see. The pecan pie was finished and graciously waited on the veranda table. Because I had forgotten to purchase cornmeal(maismehl in Germany), I phoned my next door French neighbor who contributed a box of Tipika polenta. I mixed the polenta with flour, two slightly beaten eggs, salt, sugar, two tablespoons of melted Crisco(pre-ordered from an internet ordering service), and at the last minute, dosed in a can of corn. I looked at the clock. Oh my gosh! Already 15:45! The sweet potato casserole had to bake twenty more minutes, the cornbread had to be popped into the oven, and the turkey needed to get in. The guests, three Germans, one Swiss(the first Thanksgiving dinner for them), our daughter and her French boyfriend, would be arriving at 19:30.
Magic is the only word that filters into my brain in order to explain what transpired afterwards. As soon as the timer buzzed for the finalization time of the sweet potato casserole, I popped in the cornbread. Delicately taking the pre-prepared Jamaica Me Crazy Jerk Spiced Turkey out of the fridge, I placed it into the roasting pan. Diced onions, celery sticks, an apple and an orange saluted the turkey’s cavity, while sliced potatoes and carrot sticks squeezed in on both sides of the pan. At 16:30, the turkey made its entrance into the oven.
Okay….now what? The veggies must wait thirty minutes before the meal to enter into the steamer. Yikes! The cloth napkins are still in the dryer! I fetched the napkins and ironed them one by one. 17:00….baste the turkey again with the turkey drippings. 17:30…Husband and first guest will arrive at 18:00….hurry and shower. 18:00…out of the shower, dressed, and putting on light make-up. Uh oh! Smells like burning! Dash down the steps….open the oven, poof …..poof…..smoke….. “`Oh noooooooooo!Ahhhhhhhhhh!Eieieieieieieieieieeeieieiei!’” The turkey was punishing me. Why had I removed the tented aluminum foil? I squirted the turkey with water, replaced the aluminum foil and prayed for the best. The turkey had yet two more hours to roast. My husband arrives with our Swiss guest at 18:15. They both console and reassure me about the turkey. The other guests slide in around 19:25. Chat , chat , chat, aperitifs…..Uh oh! The thermometer was not registering that the turkey was done. DON’T PANIC! My husband checked again. “`Okay, let’s take it out!’” he said. Daughter and boyfriend arrive at 20:10. All guests seated at 20:30.
All is on the table. Jamaica Me Crazy Jerk Turkey, Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows, Cornbread, Steamed Broccoli and Carrots, Cranberry Sauce and Preieselberry Sauce, Italian wine from Piemont, Italy and anticipatory guests. One guest, Andreas, asked me, “`Anna, where are the collard greens?’” (My husband had sent out the menu/invitation confirmation via email). Apologetically, I explained how collards were few and far between in Europe. Running in second comes bok choy, available in Asian food stores, or rappe, an Italian vegetable, but due to time constraints, I failed to purchase either of these items. This same guest, our daughter’s godfather asked,
“`Hey, Anna, tell us how Americans do this? How should we eat this food? Should we eat it in a chronological order?’”
“Anyway you desire,” was my reply.
I then blessed the food with a prayer in English.
“`Gracious Lord, make us truly thankful for the blessings we are about to receive and for the nourishment of our bodies, for Christ’s sake, Amen.’” I offered.
Rosie, the mother of our daughter’s godfather, offered her German translation.
“ `Segne uns, O Herr, und diese deine Gaben, die wir von deiner Güte nun empfangen werden. Durch Christus, unseren Herrn. Amen.`“
The magic of “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, the appreciation of “Wow” and the soothing lull of munching silence………..worth every second of work.
Magic occurs when cultures merge, share, intertwine, commune, exchange, communicate, share and connect over a meal of good food. Magic also occurs when one adapts, remains flexible, and offers gifts in one’s own unique way in whatever section of the world that may be.
The turkey made us all wait and was definitely the star of the evening…yet….the true stars were joviality, comradery, enjoyment, communion, appreciation, tranquility, love, and the magic of thanks.
Anna Greene Dell’Era
November 27, 2010