Holidays aren’t always perfect

Recently one of our offspring texted to ask if we were hosting Thanksgiving this year. I texted back, “I’m not sure because I’m cooking for a public event that day. I think it’s a hanging.”

Thanksgiving is usually thought of as a time for families to get together, but we’ve had many turkey days when friends and acquaintances have also graced our table. This is puzzling when you consider it’s me at the stove, but thus far nobody has died, though I do make them sign a release. Doing time in the slammer for poisoning neighbors makes an HOA a bit jittery.

We also have friends who’ve had Thanksgiving dinner guests who weren’t relatives. Kathy and Jim had moved to a new city and Jim, being the superintendent, knew men who couldn’t go home. He invited them over and asked that they each bring a side dish. These guys obviously weren’t seasoned cooks so brought whatever was in the fridge. One toted in a loaf of bread and hotdogs. It all worked out and maybe for the best because amazingly enough, 30 percent of Americans dislike turkey. It’s not the most despised dish though; that award would go to cranberry sauce. Gar would disagree and tell you he loves that jellied concoction in a can. I’d always thought it to be the most revolting item to cross my lips, until our eldest son married Stephanie, who makes the best cranberry sauce on the planet. So delicious I eat it off a spoon, and in fact, I love it so much I’m giving you the recipe free of charge.

1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries, 1½ cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of water, 1 orange-zested & juiced, ¼ tsp. cinnamon. Put all ingredients except orange zest into a saucepan and simmer 7 minutes. Add zest, stir & cool. Bliss!

Americans spend just over a billion dollars on Thanksgiving food. A billion dollars would buy a roundtrip ticket to the moon, but would that include a turkey dinner? You could buy an NFL team for that kind of money and make them cook. You could also buy a private island, but who’d kill the turkey?

We have a friend, Mardi, who years ago met a man from the Ivory Coast who, along with his sisters and brothers-in-law had recently moved to the United States for work, just before Thanksgiving. Mardi invited them over for the big feast and though the translation was sketchy, she thought she’d done a good job of communicating. Starting Wednesday, she made several pies, casseroles, salads and rolls. On Thursday, she stuffed the turkey, fixed mashed potatoes and gravy and buttered the squash. Fine china was set over a lace tablecloth and candles were placed on each end of table. Pouring sparkling cider into goblets, she glanced at the clock and taking off her apron, sat down to await her company’s arrival. She waited and waited and waited. They never showed. The next day she tracked him down and deciphering his broken English, was surprised to learn he was unaware they were supposed to be dining with her the day before. Upon understanding what had transpired, he was so apologetic, she forgave him, realizing the language barrier and ignorance of America’s tradition was the culprit. After dating for a year, they were married and still are. Every Thanksgiving I remind Gar of this and in a crusty, no-nonsense tone, explain that being a lousy cook does not create in me a tender heart and I wholly expect that he’ll show up and he does, God bless his gallant and also gutsy soul.

Last year, Gar was in Atlanta helping with “Operation Christmas Child” running a switch-truck for Samaritan’s Purse, so I flew solo on Thanksgiving Day to our daughter’s in Reno. During a layover, my phone dinged with a text from her. We’d had multiple conversations about what culinary delights we’d prepare, deciding that since I was coming on Thursday and she was working, we’d knock ourselves out fixing a fabulous dinner on Friday. Imagine my surprise when she asked how long it took to thaw a turkey. I stared into space with a funny feeling in my belly, then asked if the bird was still in the freezer. Sure was. Two imaginary circles appeared above my head, one with a bread loaf and one with hotdogs. Praise be to God, one of her friends received a thawed turkey from work he wasn’t using. We are to be grateful, but hotdogs? Really?