By A.C. Cargill
The holiday season is fast approaching, starting with Thanksgiving, a time of year that fills people with memories both good and bad. For me, Thanksgiving is always a bit harrowing, since cooking and entertaining has never been my forté. As I sip my tea, a particular memory comes to mind.
Early in our marriage, hubby and I, in a moment of madness that still haunts our nightmares, decided to host a — gasp! — family Thanksgiving feast. After all, I had hosted a tea party or two. What could be so hard about Thanksgiving? (I know, spoken like a true family holiday neophyte.)
Making tea is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require the prowess in the kitchen of Julia Child or Graham Kerr. I’m usually able to handle the tasks of heating water to the right temperature, pre-warming the teapot, adding the tea leaves, and allowing the tea to infuse to just the right taste. Even serving up finger sandwiches, trifles, and other treats was pretty much within my realm of capability.
Cooking, however, has always been a bit of a challenge for me.
First, there are the measurements: teaspoons versus tablespoons, how many ounces are in a half-gallon, liters versus quarts, etc. Then, there are recipe instructions that might as well be written in Greek, such as “separate two eggs” (what, set one on one side and the other on the other side?) and “cut in shortening,” or downright cruel (“whip the cream” and “beat the eggs” — sorry, old jokes!). Recipes also seem to call frequently for a teaspoon or two of some ingredient I don’t have (lemon zest, Worcestershire sauce, cream of tartar, etc.). Worst of all, the neatnik in me gets agitated when, during the process of sifting flour, more of it ends up as a cloud in the air, on the countertop, or in my hair. I also tend to try to clean as I go — or, if hubby is cooking (which he often does), I clean as he goes, grabbing mixing bowls out of his hands as soon as he has dumped the contents into the skillet, baking pan, etc.
All of this makes for less than ideal conditions for cooking a Thanksgiving feast.
Throw into the mix the fact that we were living at an elevation of 5,000+ feet (meaning that we needed to turn up the oven temperature, which we didn’t), that my new in-laws were watching with great amusement everything hubby and I did, and that we were trying to follow instructions on Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving show about how to cook the perfect turkey (which was still a bit frozen inside) — all in what we laughingly called our kitchen (one that would make a galley-style kitchen look huge by comparison).
There was one good thing. We had decided to keep the menu simple. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes (made fresh from Yukon Golds), gravy, tomato aspic, crescent rolls, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. (The last two items are mandated by the Thanksgiving Menu Bureau of the USFDA — honest!) Oh, yeah, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a large pot of Ceylon tea.
Thank goodness YouTube wasn’t around then. If there ever was a video that would have had people laughing, covering their eyes, or cringing as they watched, it would have been a video of hubby and me that day. All in all, I must say that my in-laws were quite kind. A few half-concealed chuckles, an amused twinkle in the eye, and only a couple of outright guffaws — not bad considering that the meal was served two hours late because of our error in adjusting the oven temperature to account for the slower cooking times at high elevations. Of course, we had to reheat the potatoes, and zap the green bean casserole in the microwave to uncongeal the cream of mushroom soup in it.
The tea, however, was perfect!
This year, I think we’ll let someone else host. I’ll be glad to bring the pumpkin pie and brew the pot of tea. Enjoy!
Check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, for more entertainment!