there are nearly two sticks of butter in the sweet potato casserole recipe, and every year I say, as I am softening the two sticks of butter, Oh My God, I can't believe there are two sticks of butter in this recipe! And then I make the casserole and it is out-of-this-world delicious and I forget about the butter, because who cares, we only eat this casserole once a year.
It is the same when I am digging the heart and liver and neck and whatever else out of the cavity of the turkey, adding the cup of sugar to the fresh cranberries before they simmer and pop on the stovetop, melting the block of cream cheese I use for the green bean casserole. I make the same meal every year, most of it, if not all of it, by myself, and after thirty years I've gotten the timing down, the order of casserole assemblage, the basting of the turkey, whether we are having 20 people over to our house
which is what we are this year. My husband and I discussed it. Maybe just... order out? But then decided against it. Only two of us, but we like the tradition. The butter, the sugar, the heart in the cavity. Some years it might depress me, the small table, the quiet.
Last year, for example, it was only four of us, our daughter and her boyfriend--now fiancé--and it was nice, of course, but also scary, what with the pandemic and all of that twisted up with fear for the future, the unknown, and where would we all be next year, would we make it through unscathed? Something horrifying last year, the turkey,
this over-priced, farmer's market-ordered, precious, organic thing--when I unwrapped it the night before to prep--was missing both legs and a wing. I had a moment of anger at the farmer's market person, a quick back and forth to let her know, her immediate effusive apology and offer to drive to our house with another turkey, but by then, the anger was gone and now it seemed a silly thing to be angry about. That turkey was gruesome
and yet... funny, the perfect symbol of how I felt last year about the holiday, about the world. I cooked the legless, one-winged horror show and it was surprisingly tasty. Maybe the best-tasting turkey I've ever made. There are no guarantees about anything. The future, turkeys, what two sticks of butter might do to your arteries, the number of people around your table, where you are now
where you will be next year.
When my husband and I got married we put a ludicrously expensive formal set of china on our gift registry and somehow managed to get four place settings out of the deal. These are hand-wash-only and gold flecked and ridiculous, and we never use them, but this Thanksgiving, we pulled them down from the high cabinet and dusted them off. The gold flecks will blow up the microwave,
but the sweet potato casserole looks lovely plopped into the center of our two plates.