Thanksgiving Neurosis

Have Empathy for the Cooks in Your Life this Thanksgiving!

As another Thanksgiving approaches for my friends in the US, I realize more and more that I’m becoming my mother. How do I know this? Because I had the opportunity to observe the woman who gave me life in action this year, cooking Thanksgiving dinner (Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October), and it dawned on me that many of the behaviors I saw on display in her kitchen are things I might also be capable of doing.

But let’s begin at the beginning. Before I continue, you should know that my mother and I average approximately four phone calls a day – eight during primetime TV season (there’s no need to judge). We’re both fully aware and accepting of the codependent nature of our relationship. After all, isn’t awareness half the battle? I think so, too, and because of that, I’m comfortable sharing our daily phone schedule:

One call in the morning to check in and discuss the upcoming day’s events. A mid-afternoon inquiry as to what’s going to be on TV that evening, along with a quick discussion about what we’re having for dinner. Often this involves the exchanging of recipes, with my mother describing her dishes as being “epicurean” and “to die for.”

Then there’s the 5:00 p.m. post-daytime debrief to discuss what they were wearing on The View, what happened on Dr. Phil, and an overall recap of life in Port Charles. After that, commercial break phone call check-ins are placed throughout the evening – especially on nights when any of The Real Housewives are on or during our newest guilty pleasure: True Tori.

So on Thanksgiving morning during our initial check-in call, my mother was positively beaming through the phone lines and waxing rhapsodic over how prepared she was for the dinner, claiming she had it all perfectly organized. Being that I, your favorite Kitchen Witch, have been the one to cook the turkey for probably the last ten years, I know from experience that it doesn’t matter how organized you are; when it comes down to the wire, to that last push to get it all out and on the table hot, it is the rare cook who can do so without getting frazzled.

Or without having a hot flash.

I tried to tell my mother, but she was having none of it. Because she was O to the ORGANIZED. And when we got to her place just a little after four, I have to say – I was impressed. The kitchen looked great, and everthing was in its place. The turkey had come out of the oven and was resting comfortably on a sideboard. There was a fire in the fireplace, candles lit, mood music in the background, and even my dad – who is not characteristically a person one would call “relaxed” – seemed pretty chill and offerred us a glass of wine.

So far, so good.

We sat, sipped our wine, and visited while my mother continued to do her thing in the kitchen. But after a period of calm, there was a deep sigh, a little fumbling, frantic running back and forth, a crash, and then my mother’s voice from the kitchen with a loud “DAMN IT!” – and that was when she did the unthinkable: my 72-year-old mother dropped the F Bomb (God bless us, every one). My husband looked at me in panic and my dad choked on his wine.

I had to go in.

So I headed into the kitchen, delicately at first, to see if I could assist with anything without interupting the flow. At this point, my mother’s face was red, and there were sweat beads dotting her upper lip.

“I ruined the gravy. It’s no good,” she said.

People, bear in mind, my grandmother, and her grandmother before her have been claiming to ruin the gravy since time immemorial. And, in fact, an hour prior to my last dinner party, the Man I Married had to talk me down from throwing out the pasta sauce, so I was in familiar territory.

According to my mother, the stuffing was too moist, the vegetables overcooked, and the turkey cold and dry. Pretty much what we had on our hands, and again – this was according to her and not based on anything resembling reality – we had nothing less than a Thanksgiving disaster.

I knew what I had to do.

I poured my mother a large glass of wine, walked over to the roaster, and tasted the gravy. We may be a group of stark raving loons, but I come from a long line of Kitchen Witches, and I’m here to tell you, the women in my family can cook. The elixir in that roasting pan was the best damn gravy you ever had in your life. Ditto for the dressing, and the vegetables were not overcooked in the slightest. I tasted everything and raved. Not once. Not twice. But three times.

In my family, that’s always the charm. This because we think you’re just telling us it’s good to make us feel better. But by the third compliment, we’ve drunk enough wine to be sufficiently chilled not to care anymore.

After we got home, my husband and I took the dog for a walk. While we were strolling along, I asked him “Can you believe my mother? What was up with all that?”

He remained silent.

“You don’t think I’m like that do you?”

More silence.

“I know I get a little wound up, but I’m really not that bad am I?”

Still more silence.

And then he gave me The Look. Yes, men have them too. And in that moment, I realized I had become my mother. Which, in all honesty, is all right with me. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, and I’m grateful we were all together this Thanksgiving for another year. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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