Chez Songbird, Children, Food and Drink, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Thanksgiving

Secret Ingredients

"Is it weird for you," I asked Snowman, "to have your day turned into a sermon on the same day you're having the day?"

He looked at me, puzzled, as we began the drive home from the community Thanksgiving service. "Huh?"

"Well, that sermon, or part of it, was all about our day today. That was about you, the two strong men wrestling with the food processor stuff."

"If you can get something for a sermon out of a broken food processor, I guess that's why this is your job."

My job, indeed, includes a large measure of reflecting on the practical and seeking the message in it, trying to parse the secret ingredients. I'm thankful that a lot of what I do goes on inside my head. And although I enjoyed the two days of preparation for Thanksgiving, I'm particularly thankful I don't have to cook all day every day, especially given the overwhelming fatigue that hits me after being on my feet for an extended period of time, a reminder of how changed I am by rheumatoid arthritis.

Although perhaps "changed" is not the right word. I don't accept it readily enough for it to be change. I'm adjusting, unwillingly, but the moment of giving over still comes later than it probably should, when I simply cannot stand up anymore or worry that my wrists will not support the dish or pan. Still, I want the dishwasher loaded "my" way. God bless Dos for asking me which way I liked the silverware to go in–handles up, the way my mother taught me, naturally–for I was then able to let her load in my place.

The day unfolded with the background sounds and images of the parade, the dog show ("Look, there's a Berner!!), and "Miracle on 34th Street," with what seemed to be a floor full of dogs in every room, though there were only two.

When we sprawled around the living room after dinner last night, my children, Dos and I, we could truly say everyone had a hand in the meal. Together we trussed the turkey with kitchen twine, together we schemed and peeled and processed and pressed and rolled and stirred the apple pan dowdy (even Pure Luck, who cored, quarted and chopped), together we mashed and set the table. Light Princess and Anime Fangirl contributed place cards. The Father of My Children arrived with roasted vegetables and took the major responsibility for carving the turkey, even finishing the job after dinner before taking his leave.

We even dared to use the food processor one last time, well worth the effort at getting it open again when it yielded turkey liver paté.

When the gravy seemed doomed to fail, we began again after consulting over the stove. The old bottles of Gravy Master produced nothing, so we turned to molasses. Snowman took over stirring the second batch, and told me it didn't taste quite right. "Too floury?" I tasted, too. It really tasted good, I might have been happy just adding a smidgen of pepper and a pinch of salt. But then I remembered their Papa's secret ingredient: he always adds jam to sweeten the gravy.

I reached into the refrigerator for blueberry preserves, but the young people denied that jam could ever be in gravy. I knew I had the secret ingredient right, but decided I could make a substitution in the face of their objections. For on the shelf above the counter sat a jug of beautiful maple syrup. Soon we deemed the gravy "perfect."

I haven't written much about Dos over the years, because the relationships of young people can be ephemeral, and I don't want to leave anything behind to hurt or embarrass anyone, but as #1 Son's girlfriend of almost three years, she feels special enough that I must say how dearly I've loved having her with us this Thanksgiving. When others flagged, she chopped more rutabagas for the Rotmos. When we needed to truss the turkey, she cleverly followed the directions we found on the Internet.

And when people began to look around for second Thanksgiving, I found her sitting beside #1 Son on the couch with a big Ziploc, smiling. "It's turkey, and everything that goes on it!"

"It's Thanksgiving in a bag," I replied with a grin, realizing it must be the turkey and stuffing once on the platter, the rest tucked away in Tupperware.

"It felt like the right thing," she said.

I nodded in complete agreement. The whole day felt that way, though it contained fewer people than usual, and I had worried I would miss cooking with my sister-in-law, the one who knows how to cook everything just the right way. Instead of assisting her, I found myself coordinating the efforts of the younger generation.

And maybe that's the real secret ingredient, sweeter than maple syrup, the flexibility to try doing things a different way, surrounded by the people you love.

7 thoughts on “Secret Ingredients”

  1. You are so very good at taking ingredients to make a story.
    I love this one. I’m right there with you in teaching the new generation and finding a new role for myself.

  2. This post fills me and satisfies me more completely than this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner. I am so thankful for the nourishment of your words… and I share your delight in the work of seeking/identifying/using those “secret ingredients.” (I’ve never heard of jam in gravy, but I do almost always add a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of ginger to anything made with chocolate. Nobody can tell, but they think it tastes great!)

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