The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sacred Acts of Culinary Variety

Today, it begins.  Well, truthfully, we have been prepping, gathering, cleaning, sorting and making lists for over a week but today, the Thanksgiving holiday preparations begin with diligent focus. I find I approach them with such anticipation. Teri likes to say that Thanksgiving is "my day" but it doesn't feel that way at all to me.  I actually feel like a tiny piece in something bigger and it has absolutely nothing to do with mythological pilgrims or imagined Jamestown multicultural picnics.  It feels intensely emotional and sweetly sacred.  It is about storytelling, multigenerational connection, community and this flawed human stumbling we call life...
Teri and I share stories of childhood Thanksgivings--they are wrapped more in the emotions of how we felt--hers were pleasant affairs of predictability and order; she remembers them as easy, stress-free celebrations of good food, football and good behavior.  My memories are steeped in a bit more anxiety.  I imagine my childhood Thanksgivings fall more on the post-modern therapy couch scale of things and because of this, my adult Thanksgivings have become a ritual of healing.  Every year is a little different and the older I get, the more holidays become participatory benchmarks of aging, connection and forgiveness.
Our kitchen is sacred space.  It is the blood-pumping organ of our home and life together, and it is where Teri and I have both best combined our two separate selves and where we continue to tussle over differences and preferences.  We have our own individual favorites--favorite pots and pans, measuring cups and bowls.  We each have our own separate rolling pins. But, Thanksgiving is more than just the two of us.
My cooking influences are complicated. I am largely self-taught, although I do pay homage to Mrs. Bonebrake's 7th and 8th grade Home Economics classes (I only took the cooking half of the year and not the sewing!) The other day, when Teri and I were doing our last big grocery shop for Turkey day, I was patiently waiting in front of the spice shelves for a hunched older woman to move herself and her cart aside and when she turned around, it was none other than Mrs. Bonebrake--30 years older and with the same terse look on her face--and it seemed a sacred nod to my historical culinary continuum.  Before you ask, no, I didn't introduce myself--I can't imagine she remembers me; she's surely 80 now and I wasn't particularly a stand-out student at omelet making and I hated the way she made us do all that math at the end of a project.  Honestly, I never figure the cost per-serving in my middle-age life!
I learned from cookbooks, cooking shows and by being a guest in other people's kitchens.  I learned how warmly beyond tepid to heat the liquid for bread dough and fail-proof pie crust from my former mother-in-law; I learned how to boldly cook copious quantities and complicated recipes fearlessly from my friend (and Best Gal at our wedding), Wendy; and I have gathered recipes, tips and tools from a wide variety of sources and like a chameleon, they have become my own.  Once I got out into the big, wide world as a young adult, I realized that there were a zillion people who wanted to share and who saw the kitchen as a playground of possibility. This had not been my childhood understanding of what a kitchen was. Now, I experiment.  I make stuff up. I make substitutions.  And, I've learned over the years to be unapologetic--so what if the sausages get a little crisp or I don't know the perfect way to carve a turkey? There is no one right way to make a salad, or a pie, or to glaze a ham--there are endless possibilities!
Cooking is alchemy, love, an offering; it is a prayer of hope and sustenance--it is meant to be shared.  As we spend the next couple days in our kitchen, we'll be joined by our kids, our friends, and family and we'll be committing sacred acts of gratitude and merry mess-making.  These are the new, evolving memories and what a gift they truly are.

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