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Saturday, November 24, 2012

What a Turkey

The time of year is upon us when one's ability to cook comes clearly into focus. It isn't a pretty sight here, friends. I am not a good cook. It is a part of my mothering that falls way short.

It is only because of the Mister that I know how to boil water for pasta and one of my dear girlfriends walked me through making bacon over a long distance call once. She gave a nice tutorial, but I've since discovered that you can buy microwave bacon. Problem solved.

"What's for dinner?" takes on a special gravity around the holidays. Dinner picnics, baked goods and sampler platters -- my specialties -- are de rigueur for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

How I wish I could feed my whole crew pastries, iced cookies and cakes and call that sustenance. "Merry Christmas! Here's your plate of brownies!" "So thankful for you! Pass the pie. Again."

But I also see this failing on my part as a bit of a gift. I have set such a low standard in the culinary arts that it is surely a great generosity to my children's future partners. Thanks to me, something they whip up will never, ever pale in comparison to one of my dinners. "Yer welcome!" I tell those future loved ones!

And because I am exceedingly kind to these yet unmet (we assume) people, I will also give them a beloved recipe from my kitchen: toast brioche and top with melted butter. Watch it very closely or you risk burning the whole loaf, one slice at a time. Or so I've heard.

Sometimes I try to cook. On those special days the neighbors are greeted by the symphony of our smoke detector. You should hear my children rave about their great "school dinners."  What kids like school lunch? Mine! They wax poetic about favorite dishes served up in the school hall, which you know is a reflection on my cooking.

I did make a really good chicken tortilla soup this fall and oh, the effort! Only to see it slurped up and gone within minutes. Days of planning, shopping, preparing. Everyone liked it but it was over all too soon. And I'd not thought to make enough for leftovers. I'd no sooner do that again than make Thanksgiving dinner.  Eegads. Speaking of which...

Right this moment, we're just hours from hosting 2 other families for that very thing. Here's hoping they don't read the blog or if they do, that they eat a hearty lunch. The table (kraft paper cloth with crayons at every place) is set, but I am procrastinating every bit of the cooking. I've made darling bags for leftovers, sorted all kinds of fun headwear (pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses), decorated the table and sideboards, made a Thanksgiving tree, and am about to scrub the baseboards with a toothbrush in an effort not to cook. And now I'm writing to you (while wearing an apron -- it's all about appearances! Maybe I'll toss a little flour on my cheeks), knowing the Mister will soon take charge of a hulking, pink carcass.

Meanwhile, I have baked a plate of brownies (topped with sails a la the Mayflower no less!), two pumpkin bread loaves, and there is an apple pie in my oven. Baby Sister and I worked on that last one together. Without cooking, I pull my weight in the kitchen. I set a pretty table, prepare gimmicky desserts, and no one can load a dishwasher as well as yours truly! Those old PR skills about packaging and messaging are still being put to use in my kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. I'm thankful for all we have. Especially that which I don't have to cook.

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