By Mary O’KEEFE
Thanksgiving dinner is in a way a rite of passage for future cooks. It is the time when we all want everything to be Norman Rockwell perfect and we secretly wish for those dinner guests to sing our praises as they bite into the creamiest mashed potatoes and the juicy and tender turkey. But the dinner sometimes comes out a little differently than we dreamed…
I was married in October and we lived in Arizona where a lot of my mother’s family lived. My husband worked in the film industry and we knew we would have to move to California soon so I thought this would be the perfect time to host Thanksgiving dinner for my family. I had the entire thing planned and in my head it was going to be unforgettable. I had, of course, glazed over a few details like my husband was working in California and would not be home until just before the holiday and that I had a very large family but table and chairs that would only hold four. I had also planned on not going with the traditional turkey but instead I was going to wow my family with a duck dinner. It is important to note that up to this point my culinary skills consisted of grilling a hamburger.
Needless to say my husband arrived and pointed out the fact that perhaps I had not thought the holiday through. I am not a crier but I do have a bit of an Irish temper so as I was in the kitchen throwing and slamming things around, he grabbed and borrowed every table he could get his hands on.
So Thanksgiving dinner had my family sitting up and down the uneven tables covered with a variety of table cloths. The tables had about a three inch difference in height. We never thought to have them as separate tables because families are to sit together at Thanksgiving, right? The lucky ones got to sit on chairs, the not so lucky on stools and stacked up milk crates. Also I discovered that duck can be greasy when prepared for the first time by a person who does not know how to cook. I sat back and watched my guests balance on stools as they chased around the duck on their plate. (Seriously – if you had a piece of duck on a fork you had to secure it with a potato or it would slip right off.)
My uncle, a very stern cop, looked over at me and smiled, then began to laugh. That broke the awkward spell of politeness and everyone, even my sweet and kind grandmother, began to make fun of the disastrous dinner. They then shared their worse Thanksgiving dinners which I am certain were elaborated on to make me feel better. Years later, after I had kids and my grandmother taught me to cook, my uncle told me that my duck disaster was his favorite Thanksgiving.
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