THE BIG DINNER

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Most of us grew up taking holidays for granted. Good grief. We sprawled across our beds, reading books, playing with our toys, or daydreaming, while decorations went up, pies were baked, and gifts just suddenly appeared under the tree, wrapped and tagged: presto!

The dinners? That huge turkey at Thanksgiving with the delicious stuffing, mounds of creamy mashed potatoes, lumpless gravy, and all the trimmings? All we had to do was show up at the table. Oh, and at Christmas–all the cookies (my mom made at least six kinds), the Christmas candle she made every year–took those for granted.! A standing rib roast was the dinner, with roasted potatoes, pickled walnuts, green beans. I never gave her the credit she deserved for all of that effort.

And now,  that  big production rests on me. Well, to be honest, my older daughter does the standing rib (and a turkey for those of us who no longer eat red meat) at Christmas. But Thanksgiving is mine this year. I confess that I am worried about the turkey.

The last time I roasted a fowl for my family, it was virtually raw on the inside. It looked perfect on the outside, and so I went ahead and mashed, cooked the green beans, made the gravy, and when everything was ready, cut into the chicken, which bled. I got mad, yelled, and forced everybody to microwave their servings of poultry and just “Eat, damn it!” My son-in-law has never let me forget that. And he is coming over for Thanksgiving this year.

I am having culinary nightmares. Roasting bag, or no? Should I get a spare meat thermometer? How long should I let the thing sit on the counter before carving it? What if I drop it getting it out of the roasting pan? Flour or cornstarch to thicken the gravy? Hell, should I just get those Bob Evans mashed potatoes? What if I forget the cranberry sauce?

I am not a natural in the kitchen, the way my mom was. She didn’t give any of this stuff a second thought. At least, I don’t think she did. She seemed to just march into the kitchen and produce all sorts of delectables, no sweat.

This is my recollection, anyway.But of course, where was I when all this was going on? Did I really pay any attention to what my mom might have been thinking or her anxiety about the holidays?

Of course not. I was in my room. Listening to my Beatle records.

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