In honor of today’s celebrations of friends, family, and food, a Thanksgiving WordBowl Story:
While Christmas preparations commenced in earnest while we were still polishing off leftover Turkey sandwiches oozing with cranberry-slathered stuffing, Thanksgiving itself seemed to sneak up upon us. My mother frantic, me at her elbow, eventually side-by-side, kitchen maelstrom fraught with urgency of emergency, as though in the midst of creation rather than recreation of our time-honored meal, my father a stickler for tradition.
Day of, mother up at dawn, tussling with turkey that would be carved before hitting table, our Thanksgivings lacked for show-stopping Kodak moments. Sideboard groaning with French bread dressing, cornbread stuffing courtesy of Pepperidge Farms, sweet potatoes topped with pecans, brown sugar, miniature marshmallows — more Thanksgiving s’mores than vegetable dish — yams mashed tart with orange juice, Uncle Ben’s wild rice, creamed spinach with crisp parmesan crust, green beans swimming in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom topped with fried onions sprung from a can, cranberry sauce from scratch, giblet gravy congealing in porcelain boat.
My first turn hostessing Thanksgiving thrust upon me senior year by my college buddy SVF — already graduated, nominally employed — who invited himself for the weekend, arrived Thanksgiving Eve, horrified to discover I had yet to shop. After a couple of drinks we hit Dominick’s, out of luck when it came to fresh cranberries — I refused to entertain the canned suggestion of the solitary stock boy sweeping the aisle — but otherwise we were well-stocked to recreate my mother’s annual feast, with the addition of brie slathered in apricot jam and baked in puffed pastry, an unctuous melding of savory and sweet served at a sorority sister’s family holiday party, which I considered the height of sophistication.
We swung by the all-night video store — this the era of film buff video clerks judging VCR rental choices— to stock up on movies, too. Up at crack of dawn to get the turkey trussed, racked. SVF stumbling down for the Inaugural Bloody Mary, cooking interspersed with Hitchcock double-header. Joined by my collegiate BFF and stragglers who called in hopes of something happening, the perpetually-tapped keg on my porch the stuff of campus legend. We ate ourselves beyond silly, settled in for Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, toasted to our adulthood.
Sunrise turkey trussing and Bloodies, good friends, movie marathons, surprise guests. Thanksgiving Template established.
Post-college San Francisco, refurbished Victorian, three roommates playing grown-ups, guests marveling at our butler’s pantry. Blood Simple, Hitchcock. Another year, another apartment, sweeping views of the Golden Gate, a vegetarian, a vegan, several avid carnivores and a last-minute guest from Piemonte who argued with me over proper risotto preparation. Someone ended up with a salad plopped atop their head.
What would be the final San Francisco feast, 20 guests, my producing partner and I trading drafts of a grant proposal between kitchen shifts. Familiar mix of artists, engineers, animators. Last minute guest from NASA. Movies, probably something artsy before the now-obligatory Hitchcock.
New York, New York, Thanksgiving in restaurants, late night movies solo, Netflix queue manipulated in anticipation. Upstate, once San Francisco compatriots migrated east in search of an affordable artful life, my culinary responsibilities reduced to a single dish.
Coupledom, our own traditions. Bloody Mary breakfast, theatre movie matinee, Peking Duck snacks.
Post coupledom, family tradition, albeit that of my best friend from college, the family who long ago introduced me to French dining and — after a Pretty Woman moment — how to properly eat escargot. All of us now tending toward grey. High-rise with a view, exquisitely prepared dishes, discreetly decanted wines. Post-meal, collegiate BFF slumber party, scanning OnDemand for a movie, reminiscing about the original Willie Wonka, debating favorite Hitchcock.
I am thankful for all the bartenders, proprietors and hospitality folks who support WordBowl by providing me spaces to write, and scrumptious inspirational treats to accompany the scribbling. This holiday posting was written at two of my go-to spots: Dear Irving for cocktail inspiration from the Dream Team, and Elsewhere Espresso for fuel to finish.