Thursday, December 1, 2011

Living through turkey time

I'm always up for an adventure.
In my head, at least.
Like, I've always thought it would be cool to hike the length of the Grand Canyon with nothing but a sleeping bag and a handful of dried prunes. Or raft down the intracoastal waterway with a fish line, a lawn chair and a few good books. In other words, I like to think about interesting ways to rough it that I'll most likely never experience.
Until now.
Because we've just battled our way through a happenstance so challenging that I'm surprised we actually lived through it.
Thanksgiving in a beach house.
It's not like our North Carolina beachfront duplex isn't a lovely place to share a meal or, for that matter, any get-together. It's not gigantic, but we were only expecting son Patrick, his wife, Susan and our two youngest grandsons. The kitchen is small, but well laid-out, with enough counter space to allow us both to chop, stir, mix and measure without any excessive kitchen collisions. In other circumstances, Paddy and Susan might have hosted the meal in their "real" house in the countryside, near the town where he teaches, but her restaurant work schedule made it more sensible for them to come our way this time.
Besides, everything is more fun at the beach.
In the almost 40 years we've been married, we've only missed a couple of chances to prepare and host the annual November eat-fest, so we pretty much know the drill. She does stuffing, I do potatoes. She does dessert, I do bread. And anybody willing to get up early enough can do a turkey.
No big deal, as long as you've got all the stuff you need.
The first sign that it might be otherwise started ominously, like the distant rumbling of a far-off thunderstorm.
"Do we actually own a real potato peeler?" I muttered.
Not to be a snob, but as one of the leading purveyors of hand-mashed spuds in the whole wide world, I require something more than the dull, flimsy, faux-peeler I had just plucked from a drawer.
"No," she said. "But that one might kind of work."
Kind of?
Suddenly, my mind's eye was transported to Yankee Stadium in 1927. A stocky ballplayer wearing the number three walks to the plate, where a batboy hands him a skinny, rickety piece of balsam.
"Here, Babe. This might kind of work."
I think you get the picture.
With a big bag of tubers to peel and process, I resumed my digging through the mishmash that lined the drawer, while realizing that most of the contents were from our "camp box," a mixed and fancy collection of stuff we use when we're sleeping and cooking under the stars. It suddenly dawned on us both that we were attempting to put on a full-scale Thanksgiving dinner with the tools normally used to prepare a hearty meal of weenies and beans.
This, of course, was our own fault, as we've intentionally avoided overstocking this place with an excess of anything, whether it be furniture, decorative items, clothing or cooking accoutrements. It's in direct contrast to our long-time home in Galva, which absolutely abounds with all of the above. Normally, it works pretty well, as the meals we prepare here are generally simple and always casual.
But we suddenly realized we had no platters, no heirloom silver or china, no serving dishes other than a couple of plastic bowls, no water goblets and no holiday decor beyond a front-door fall wreath we cobbled together out of some sweet annie and bittersweet we brought from Illinois, plus a few local weeds. Our cooking vessels were limited to a single large pot, one saucepan, some muffin tins and a cookie sheet, and the cast iron skillet that we've used over campfires for years, plus an electric roaster we broke down and bought on sale for the turkey, so we'd have a little available space in our teeny-tiny beach house oven.
Martha Stewart would have died.
Not us, though.
Despite the fact that my spouse truly is an artful, hard-working hostess, who enjoys setting a lovely table in a tastefully decorated home, we managed with those aforementioned tools, plus a couple of disposable foil roasting pans and a largish plastic platter shaped and decorated like a freshly barbecued hamburger. While we intentionally kept it all pretty basic, menu-wise, son Patrick perked things up a bit with a historically accurate dish he created himself that featured both fresh venison and oysters harvested in the inlet behind our house the afternoon before.
So really, it was a good meal. It was a good day.
And while we missed having all of our family around our table, we're happy in the fact that everyone is healthy and happy. And we're happier still that we will gather them all together at Christmastime in Galva.
Because the meal most certainly is not the message.
We've got a lot to be thankful for.
And we know it.
 Many thanks for the prayers, thoughts and notes of encouragement that came my way before and after my eye surgery last week. They say it all went well. Recovery is underway.

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