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WalkerSpeak: The Thanksgiving Panic

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TurkeyGraphicHad humorist James Thurber experienced Thanksgiving at my house last year, he would have immortalized it in his classic book, “My Life and Hard Times.”

The reason was that almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Yet, it was a very good day. We’ll remember it for the good food, friends and fun that accompanied the slips, cuts and scrapes, explosions, burns, cat scratch, broken dishes, false smoke alarms, forgotten ingredients, dishes left at home, dishes not served (because of forgetfulness), and so forth.

How could such pandemonium turn out to be a success for the hosts? It was simply because of the good things involved:

  1. Our friends each possess a fine sense of humor.
  2. The food was delicious. The turkey was one of the best I’d made. Friends brought outrageously good side dishes and desserts, from steamed fresh clams for appetizers to the best sweet potato pie we’d ever eaten.
  3. The weather was crisp and cool, so guests could relax on the back patio before dinner.
  4. The wine was terrific, the conversation brilliant.
  5. No one got sick, and no fistfights broke out.

The least serious events might have been the cuts and scrapes. These are expected on big food holidays. Someone nicked fingers with a knife. One person scraped her hand on a door frame as she was leaving her house and was bleeding by the time she got to ours. This happened to our friend June, running late because she’d left the evaporated milk out of her sweet potato pies and had to make them over.

The cat scratch might be construed as an accident, as the cat in question, Otis, and my friend, John, are well acquainted and on quite good terms. I believe what happened was that John didn’t pick up on some subtle communication from the cat, warning him that a claw was imminent. We washed and bandaged the minor yet terribly bloody wound, admonished Otis (although to what avail this was I have no idea) and that was that.

I’d venture a guess that very few people have ever driven across town only to find that they’d forgotten to bring the Thanksgiving clams. But our friend Cecil got back into his truck to make the 35-minute trip home to retrieve them.

Meanwhile, I had turned the heat off under the pressure cooker, which I’d decided to use to cook potatoes. It is an ancient pressure cooker that had belonged to my husband’s late mother. But it was in good working order, especially after I put new rubber gaskets in it.

It really is too embarrassing to say much more – it might have been my fault when I asked my husband, David, to open the pot and mash the potatoes. He opened it before it had completely cooled and, ka-blam!, the thing exploded, burning his hand and sending blobs of hot, wet potato flying. The room turned into a skating rink as we slid around on slick potato water coating the ceramic tile, trying to clean it all up.

I’d like to report that David’s  scar from that burn, which disturbed me terribly for months afterward, is now nearly invisible. My husband had iced down the burn immediately but refused any other treatment and now seems proud of the scar. Which I think is weird.

The great crash of broken crockery didn’t come from the kitchen that night. David had gone digging around on a bedroom dresser in the dark looking for Band-Aids he thought he’d seen there. He somehow slipped and knocked a heavy pottery dish holding my jewelry onto the floor. By this time, the shrieks of alarm in the living room were followed almost immediately by disbelieving laughter.

That night, after everyone had gone home, I was cleaning up the kitchen when I discovered the cornbread dressing still in the now-cold oven. It had never been served.

The final event that I’ll report actually happened first thing in the morning. The smoke alarms in two rooms of the house went off.  As they shrieked and shrieked (a distressing quarter-tone apart from each other), we were clueless as to what had set them off. The stove wasn’t even on yet.

Later we decided they’d gone off for a good reason – to give us a raucous warning about what lay ahead on that chaotic Thanksgiving Day.

May yours this year be a little more peaceful, but no less joyous or tasty.

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8 Responses to “WalkerSpeak: The Thanksgiving Panic”

  1. Pingo says:

    Thanks Bonnie for a great Thanksgiving story. I am sure many of your readers can relate. Ours went peacefully this year (as peaceful as can be, when you have 3 guests under the age of 3). But in past years, we have had forgotten dishes, cut and nicked fingers etc. As far as an exploding pressure cooker, you came off easy, even though I am sure it must have been quite a mess. My mother’s once exploded while cooking red cabbage. The entire kitchen turned purple. Not the right way to have to redo a kitchen. I swore then, I would never own a pressure cooker (and I don’t).
    Hope your Thanksgiving went well this year w/o any disasters. I have truly been enjoying your Thanksgiving features. Great articles.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    • Thanks for the note, Pingo. I’m laughing about red cabbage all over the kitchen – the color, the odor (love red cabbage but not as paint!) Glad your holiday went well – three kids under 3 actually sounds fun, but only if their parents are around to keep up with them. Enjoy the holiday season!

  2. mlw says:

    hey, stop with the pressure cooker dissing! I love them, it’s the only way to get beans(dried type) cooked as well as I like them cooked. You do have to be careful about opening them when the little pokey-uppy-thingy (sorry for the technical jargon) goes down, and either not cook or cook for a very short time, lentils and things like lentils, that tend to foam and clog.

    thanks for the TG story – even with all the mishaps, it sounds like it was a great day, and that’s what counts. I hope this year was just as good, but sans the mishaps!

    • No mishaps this year — two of last year’s guests decided to intervene and do the cooking this year. It was a beautiful meal, and such a good thing Thanksgiving was at their house. Good thing, because the gas had to be turned off to part of our house a few days ago and won’t be fixed till next week. Sure would have been funnier if it had happened last year…thanks for the note! BW

  3. Jessica says:

    Second best meal story ever. The first was that horribly depressing one of John’s that involved, I believe, a rabbit death and his mother weeping.

    • Yes, that is a famous Griffin story. The pet rabbit let out a shriek and died in the kitchen as the family was seated at Christmas dinner. Had to put a damper on the mood, I’d think. BW

      • John Griffin says:

        Yes, it was a winner of a story, if not the least perfect Christmas dinner on record. And I found myself repeating the story at dinner tonight. I may have to share it with readers this Christmas. Stay tuned.

  4. June says:

    Missed you guys this holiday though I had a great time with the family. We ended up with 10 sweet potato pies this year I thought that each of us could tave a fork and dig into a pie but my mother prevailed and five were sent to the freezer for later). I thought of you as I savored my third (or fourth) piece.