Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving:First One Up

One of the perqs of being the primary cook on Turkey Day is the sweet, secret pleasure of being the first one up in the morning. It's your moment to savor, and you're the alchemist who will make it all happen. You've prepared well, everything you need is piled on counters, spilling out of fridge and cupboard, waiting for your hands to scrub, peel, pare, stuff, slice, chop, saute, sweeten, mash, season, salt and garnish. It's a show, and at this moment the stage is silent, empty, and you have it all to yourself. Have some tea. This morning is a beaut, outside is a picture perfect holiday scene right outta Currier and Ives;  the wailing wind had its way with the trees again, is now howling around our teeny house where thankfully the power is on and the temperature inside cozy. The skylight upstairs is covered with snow, looks to be about 8 inches on the deck outside, at 6 a.m. the world is a lavender blue, and this moment belongs to me alone.

The ineffable delight of being First One Up on holidays I inherited from my dad – by some insidious osmotic process. I've no idea how many Christmases and Thanksgivings I awoke to stumble to the kitchen find Dad concocting. He'd turn that wonderful smile on me, the one that said he was happy, his face a dead ringer for The Cat in the Hat ( that look was one of his many charms); devilishly happy, a guy utterly in his element, he'd be schmoozing the kitchen as he whipped up stuffing, or prepped the bird, or removed it from the oven as reverently as if it was King Tut's sarcophagus, peaking under the buttered cheesecloth as he basted and cooed, mmmmm-ing with self-satisfaction.

There are most certainly moments, well, every year probably, when sometime during the holiday week I find myself mentally (lately verbally, to my shame) bitching and moaning, wishing someone else would do it all, or we could just take a break this year, you know, burgers on the grill maybe? Because it is a production, after all. But then I remember that big productions are my specialty, and the folks I love love that I do it. And it always ends up not just being me anyway that does the work. We have our table decorating specialist, our fire building king, and whatever visiting peelers, parers, bean snappers, spud mashers, and candlestick cleaners may be available on a given year. So, really, it's just a couple days' work in return for which we have the pleasure of quarts of rich turkey stock you can't buy anywhere for love or money and a week's worth of leftovers requiring only a quick stovetop or oven reheat.

As they say in Joisy: NOICE.

The other day I awoke to fourteen wild turkeys wandering the field near the house. As I grabbed the binos to study them more carefully, I realized they look like the Skekzies in The Dark Crystal. Now if only I'd had a gun, and I felt confident about using it, I'd have bagged today's supper on the spot.

Time's marchin on. I better get to it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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