Posts made in November, 2005

Thanksgiving 05

Posted by on Nov 20, 2005 in Just for laughs, Mother in Laws | 0 comments

As Thanksgiving approaches, and I count my many blessings, I am embarrassed to admit that not having to spend the day with my in-laws is right up there at the top. It’s very hard for me to talk about my husband’s stepmother in a way that doesn’t make me sound, well, bitchy, so I find myself skirting the topic again and again. I always try to empathize with others and give them the benefit of the doubt, but in Margaret’s case I am stymied immediately when I try to enumerate her good qualities. Perhaps we should take a Dickens trip to Thanksgivings past to better understand the Margaret phenomenon.

The first year my husband and I dated I assumed that he would invite me to his parents for Turkey day, so I made no arrangements to go home to Kentucky. I ended up wallowing in self pity, and having cold baked beans for dinner when no invite was issued. Little did I know that my boyfriend did not feel confident enough in our relationship to believe it could endure a holiday with the “folks”. The next year I was invited to their house, so naturally, I asked what I could bring. Margaret gave me detailed instructions on how to get to a bakery in Richmond that made great rolls and told me to buy half a dozen. I though, how sweet, she doesn’t know I can cook and she’s trying to give me an easy task. I ignored her, made two pans of homemade rolls and a coconut cake with lemon filling. Judging from her reaction when I arrived, the home baked goods were not a welcome addition to the meal. She had made one pumpkin pie and was in a dither as to how we would resolve the issue of how to serve dessert. When our plates were put in front of us, they each had half a slice of pie and a microscopically thin slice of cake, arranged neatly side by side. I could not help thinking about the table in Kentucky that was, at that moment, groaning with the weight of no less than 20 pies, assorted cakes, and maybe cookies for the children who preferred chocolate chip. I wished sincerely that I could be with my parents, or in a restaurant, or even in my little apartment with just Ben and I, eating cold beans out of the can.

I certainly tried everything over the years to avoid spending the day devoted to joyful overindulgence with a person who has dedicated her life to parsimonious temperance. We drove to my parent’s house several years, where we ate until our eyeballs bulged out of our heads. It was a very long trip, even for a meal so grand, and we pretty much stopped it when the babies came along. The last year we lived in the city, we stayed at home for Thanksgiving and had my husbands grandmother and sister come for the day. The fallout from that year was dreadful and we decided we would just have to grit our teeth, bite our tongues, and go to Norfolk to eat the next year. The year my oldest graduated from high school we tried something new, Disney World! We spent a week there in the glorious sunshine and a Margaret-free Thanksgiving. As you may have figured out, we were once again deemed ungrateful, self-indulgent children. Margaret even tempted fate by announcing that we could have Thanksgiving on our own when they were dead and gone.

Since she never enjoyed the cooking or entertaining part of the day, I switched venues and asked them to come to our house for the big day. Margaret announced that she would bring the sweet potatoes and arrived with small glass dish, covered in marshmallows. As I was trying to get everything on the table, Margaret was in the kitchen giving me instructions in the guise of “helping”, which had made me nervous and clumsy. I was taking her steaming potato dish out of the oven when it just seemed to jump out of my hands, flip over, and land, marshmallow side down, on the hot oven door. Per her instructions, we scooped it up, put it back in the dish and served it anyway. From then on she always brought food requiring no heating, like her famous Jell-O salad.

I saw a commercial for a Napoleon series on the history channel which stated “Conquer the world, have a desert named after you”. My mind drifted to other foods that had been named after other people like Peach Melba and Baby Ruth. Naturally, the next thing I thought of was my mother in law and her Jell-O “salads”. I believe if anyone deserved having a food named after them it would be Margaret for her presentation of gelatin containing fruit and/or vegetables, cut into equal sized squares and served on a ruffle of iceberg lettuce, topped by a greasy dollop of mayonnaise. She varied the flavor seasonally and I actually didn’t mind the one with cranberries she served for Thanksgiving. I do, however, hate artificial fruit flavored lettuce and always left it on my plate, along with the mayo. I recall one awful Thanksgiving meal at her house where she yammered from the kitchen about the waste of “perfectly good lettuce” and declared angrily that she would just rinse it off and reuse it at another meal.

At our last Thanksgiving together she looked over the elegant, but mildly exotic offerings that my daughter and I had concocted and asked if we had any peanut butter. Considering the source, I was flabbergasted at her request. This is the same woman who demanded that my children eat liver and onions she had made, and refused them an alternative. The woman who has lived her life with the firm belief that giving people a choice of what they want to eat will only lead to chaos. They will be having dinner with cousin Keith at the Holiday Inn this year, where the menu will be simple and to her liking. My daughter will be making her own amazing Thanksgiving dinner for a grateful, but decidedly non-pilgrim group of London comics. She emailed me for pie recipes, so I know she’s going all out. My oldest will be working through the day in Seattle, and his wife will be on her own, hopefully not taking a cue from me and having cold beans. My sister will be holding up the family tradition for those remaining in the home of my childhood, and my middle son will be overwhelmed by his unexpected only child status for the day. I bought a small free range turkey, the cranberry sauce and potatoes are already made, and I conjured up pie crust this morning. I imagine we’ll have more than a few leftovers, but I am grateful that Margaret will not be here to tell me I’ve made too much food. Our usual open refrigerator door policy still applies, so come on by if you’re in the neighborhood.

MENU 2005

SPICEY CARROT SOUP

HAZELNUT CRUSTED TURKEY

PEAR PECAN STUFFING

HOT HERB GRAVY

GINGER ORANGE CRANBERRY SAUCE

GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

TARRAGON GREEN BEANS

CORNMEAL YEAST ROLLS

CHOCOLATE GINGER CAKE WITH BOURBON SAUCE

PUMPKIN PIE PECAN PIE

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