Friday, November 28, 2008

Never again. Or at least, not for a long time.

Husband and I hosted 19 people for Thanksgiving dinner.

... ... ... [Still waiting for my award.]

On paper it sounded great and easy -- my dad and an aunt and uncle were handling turkeys, mom was doing mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy, plus pies, my brother and sister-in-law were handling a veggie tray with a local prized buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, and my other aunt and uncle were bringing a special family recipe of cauliflower in a delicious bechamel sauce. So I really only had to get the house ready and make a salad, plus appetizers.

Why do I have to make things complicated?

Here was the appetizer list: 1) Brie with crackers. Easy, right? Open the package of Brie and arrange crackers artfully around the cheese. 2) Mini-quiches. Once again, easy, because I decided to cut a few corners and buy frozen apps. AWESOME idea. 3) Deviled eggs, one of my personal specialties. 4) Goat cheese spread on bruschetta with olive tapenade, another one of my go-tos. For the salad, I decided to make a refreshing cucumber-edamame salad, with toasted almonds and asparagus and parsley in a zesty lime dressing. 

The problem with the above menu is that it requires some prep work that I should have done the day before. Boiling, peeling and preparing three dozen deviled eggs, chopping cucumbers, blanching asparagus and edamame, and mincing olives takes time. And on the day of a big dinner, time is what you don't have a lot of, if you have a ten-month-old. 

What was I doing the day before, you ask? I was stringing lights. When we celebrated our marriage in January of 2007, our reception had a snowflake/winter theme, and the kind souls at the reception hall agreed to hang strands of white icicle lights from the ceiling for us in loops and lines to create a starlit night effect. It was magical, and we had oodles of lights left over, so I decided to put them to use. I lined our second-floor banisters (visible from the first-floor family room) with icicle lights, and then suspended and crisscrossed the rest of the lights above the open family room itself, so that in the evening, the lights put off a gentle, sparkling glow. It was gorgeous. But that was only after I'd spent the afternoon first untangling nine strands of 300-count white icicle lights, testing them to ensure they were in good order, then devising a way to fasten them to the banisters and hang them above an open-ceilinged room, WITHOUT getting them tangled in the ceiling fan. 
By the time I got the lights hung, it was way too late in the day to get all the food prepped. So I went to bed at 1 a.m. after having done only about a fourth of it, thinking, "No prob. I got this covered in the morning." Trouble is, I forgot that in order for boy to nap, I'd have to be out of commission while I lay down with him. Stupid, stupid me. Foregoing his nap was out of the question, since we knew he'd be up later than usual, so there went almost two hours of precious prep time. 

Somehow, though, (read: with husband's generous and superhuman assistance) we got just about everything done before everyone arrived at 6 p.m. Sure, I didn't have any makeup on or my hair completely brushed (it was still semi-wet from a hasty shower and pulled up into a makeshift bun), but by God, the food was hot and tasty and artfully arranged on all-white platters and plates. 

Eggs were gobbled, quiches devoured, Brie attacked, veggies crunched, tapenade spooned. Drinks were served. Lights were admired. The baby was fussed over and passed around. And by the time we all sat down at the two tables set for nine and ten people, we were ... probably too full to do the food justice. But we gave it our best. 

And sitting at the kids' table, sweaty from running around and feeding mashed potatoes to an overtired baby while husband made sure everyone's drinks were refreshed, I realized that THAT was what Thanksgiving was all about. It's always been my favorite holiday, and I half-joke that it's because it's all about food, but that's not true. It's about family. It's about the people who will come over to your house and give you a hug with extra squeeze just because they're so happy for you that you're married and enjoying life as a new parent. It's about the fact that your dad will laugh heartily and sincerely over dinner at your house because he really likes your husband, after all, and maybe even loves him a little. It's about having your grandparents over to your home for the first time, and seeing that they share in your joy, and watching them hold their great-grandson with pride. It's about realizing in the moment before dinner that you have so much to be thankful for, that NOT being thankful would be truly shameful, and unfair to most of the world who don't have the chance to enjoy the things you probably take for granted. 

I am a lucky, lucky girl. Even though I still can't feel the tips of my fingers after peeling three dozen eggs.

1 comment:

Devon said...

So this is my lesson learned over the years. The host ALWAYS does the main course (turkey, ham, or whatever) and everyone else brings the rest. Saves some headaches, trust me. This year my hubby was my hero because I was too sick to even be near food. So he did 90% of the cleaning and ALL of the cooking. While me and the boy watched show after show after show and blew our noses again and again on the couch. We were just thankful that most people decided to do their own thing this year and we had a small group of 11. Typical fam gatherings are 30+.