Up until six years ago, I had never prepared a Thanksgiving dinner. My mom and dad together prepared Thanksgiving dinner, and I happily ate it! Six years ago, I took over the responsibility of making the Thanksgiving feast! That first year, I was so excited. I made the cutest little dinner invitations and mailed them out the end of October. I even went so far as to begin a new tradition—asking all guests to bring a change of clothes in order to participate in the first annual Swanson-Patterson Turkey Bowl.
I had it all planned out in my head. We’d play tag football outside then come inside for some football on TV and a home cooked feast. In my head, the day would go off without a hitch, hiccup, or hang up.
In my head …
The week prior to Thanksgiving, I made a list of everything I would need and I sent my darling husband to the grocery store. When he got back home, I arranged everything on the counter according to order of use. I dug up recipes that put a new spin on old favorites. I bought fall decorations and hung them on the front door. I bought new table linens and got out my wedding china and set a beautiful table. I put the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator 5 days prior to Thanksgiving.
I was set.
I was organized.
I was prepared.
I was convinced I could pull off the perfect holiday.
I was somewhat wrong …
The morning of Thanksgiving, I was awake at dawn. I had the turkey in the sink and I was rinsing it out and brushing extra virgin olive oil over the top, rubbing in a variety of seasonings, and preparing it for stuffing. I set the bird aside and got out my recipe for stuffing. The recipe called for 8 cups of bread cubes. I pulled out the bag of the brand of bread cubes my mom always used and looked at the weight: 14 ounces. I panicked.
“Steve!” I called.
Steve wakes up, stumbles out to the kitchen. “What?”
“You woke me up for that?”
“No. I woke you up because I need you to find an open store and buy me 3 more bags of bread cubes.”
“The recipe calls for 8 cups of cubes. This one bag only has less than 2 cups. I need at least 3 more bags.”
“That doesn’t sound right, Valerie.”
“Please, just go get the bread cubes. If I don’t get the turkey stuffed and in the oven it will be 7 o’clock this evening before we eat.”
Steve shakes his head, takes a look at his frantic wife, and changes his clothes. “Is that all you need?”
“You better get me another half dozen eggs while you’re out.”
When he comes back, I hastily snatch the shopping bags from him without even asking where he found an open store. I get out my largest mixing bowl and pour in two of the bags of bread cubes. The bowl barely contains them. So I get out the top of my large Tupperware “Cake-Taker” and use it as a mixing bowl. When I poured in three opened bags of bread cubes, I looked at the amount of stuffing I was about to make and then looked at the turkey, and then back at the stuffing.
A light bulb goes on inside my tired brain. The recipe called for 8 CUPS of bread cubes, meaning 8 actual measuring cupfuls of bread cubes. How could I have not been thinking clearly enough to know this?
Since I’d sent the hubby out to the store, I felt like I needed to make all that stuffing … or at least 3 bags of it. I stuffed the fourth bag into a cupboard and hoped he wouldn’t find it any time soon. I mixed up my stuffing, stuffed the bird, filled a muffin tin full of stuffing-muffins, and scooped the remaining stuffing onto a sheet of aluminum foil, added some turkey broth, folded it tightly, and put it in the oven with the turkey.
You understand, I now had enough stuffing to feed a couple blocks of homes in the neighborhood where we live.
Everything else seemed a piece of cake after the stuffing panic until it came time to make the mashed potatoes. Oddly, my husband prefers instant potatoes over hand-mashed because he dislikes lumps in his potatoes. So I set a large stock pot on the stove, filled it with milk and butter and a little water and watched it carefully. I couldn’t take a chance on the milk scorching and ruining the potatoes. Now, I was using a new electric stove after many years of using a gas stove. After I added the potatoes and the seasonings, I whipped the potatoes into stiff, fluffy peaks, which immediately commenced exploding and popping out of the pot, all over the stove, and reaching clear to the ceiling.
Steve reached around me and grabbed the pot off the stove and set it on a trivet. Instantly, the potatoes simmered down and remained inside the pot. That’s when it hit me. Even though you turn off an electric burner, it doesn’t cool down immediately. Not even a ceramic top like ours. Hence the exploding potatoes.
My family—and Steve’s—took all of this in stride. No one said anything to me about the potatoes stuck to the ceiling. No one mentioned the copious amounts of stuffing. Everyone just seemed to fill their plates, eat their feast, and talk about the moistness of the turkey, the flavor of the stuffing, and the delicious desserts.
As I looked around the dining room at my 11 guests, and across at the children’s table where my nieces sat, I was thankful for my family, for my loving and helpful husband, and for surviving my first holiday dinner.
I could clean the potatoes off the kitchen ceiling after my guests went home.
Thanks for reading. I hope this story brought a smile or two to your face, but also that it brought back some memories of your first–or last–holiday dinner.
Until next time … Happy Thanksgiving, Valerie