Monday, April 16, 2012

The Thrill is Gone (but so is the panic)

While our wonderful Kate Collins finishes the last part of writing her manuscript--rewrites, copy edits and even more edits--we are fortunate to have Julie Hyzy, who writes two cozy series, join us for a few weeks. Many of you are probably familiar with her White House Chef series as well as her Manor House Mysteries. We welcome Julie while we await Kate's return. (We do miss our Kate!) 

Our first house in Chicago
 When my husband and I were first married we went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, his sister's house for Christmas, and Easter kind of flip-flopped. Fortunately, our families were small enough and they got along well enough that everyone was usually invited, no matter where the party was being held. Worked out great.

Although we didn't have an assigned holiday at first we did attempt a few dinner parties of our own. One of the most memorable was our second anniversary. We decided to roast a turkey on the grill (how hard could that be?) and serve it with stuffing (a family favorite), and a couple of other side dishes. For dessert, I made a pound cake (Mom's recipe). To make it extra special, I decided we'd load each serving up with fresh bananas. You know... like you get on top of waffles at a restaurant. I made the side dishes and the pound cake ahead of time and decided to cut up the bananas early too. I wasn't stupid - I knew that they'd turn brown without lemon juice - so I put them in a bowl and covered it with the contents of a large bottle of RealLemon. We set up the grill outside and put our defrosted turkey atop it, making sure the coals were nice and hot.

Family wasn't due for several hours and for once the house was clean. We decided not to waste all this downtime - we'd been talking about buying a new car because our current one (we only had one at that point) was dying a slow death. How about we go buy one now?

Yeah. Seriously. What were we thinking? All I can say is that we were young and inexperienced.

We took off for the car dealership and found a great demo model that was in our price range and fit our lifestyle. Having never bought a car before - except as a tagalong when my parents bought theirs - I didn't remember how long it took.

Three hours later (at least) we were driving home in the new vehicle. But we weren't worried. Family wasn't due for another hour or so.

Except... we hadn't counted on the coals dying out. The turkey had browned a little, but it was still raw inside. No way was it going to be ready on time. My husband and I panicked, of course. We wound removing the bottom tray of our microwave (thank goodness it was a giant microwave, as most were back then) and we shoved the turkey in, fighting the legs that kept trying to escape. We heated it, turned it (as much as that was possible), heated it and turned it again, and again. Finally, the bird was cooked. I can't say that it tasted all that great but at that point we didn't care. We just needed it to be done.

After dinner (I wonder why everyone ate more of the side dishes and less of the turkey?) I pulled out the pound cake and cut everyone a slice. I heaped on a huge spoonful of bananas onto the first dish and handed it to my father in law. He took a big mouthful and then his face contorted in a way I've never seen on a human before. Yeah... I guess soaking the bananas in lemon wasn't such a great idea after all....

That was one of our first family dinners. We had more, and lots more mishaps. The picture to the left is of a subsequent turkey-on-the-grill attempt, but this one turned out better, probably because we stayed home to tend to the coals. 

The kids love hearing our silly stories. Over the years, however, I've hosted Thanksgiving (my brother has that one now), Christmas, and Easter, among countless birthday parties, and graduations. I just hosted Easter last week. A small crowd this time - only 13 people - and everything went so smoothly it was almost boring. I had daughters helping me in the kitchen and with cleanup. Our food was tasty and plentiful. Nothing went wrong. Not even a little bit. I'd have to say it was an unqualified success.

But you know what? I kind of miss the excitement. Those moments before guests arrive where I'm puff-puffing and worried about every last detail. Where the layer cake falls apart because I frosted it when it was still hot. Or when the dog jumps up and eats half the dessert (that was years ago and she was fine). We have everything under control nowadays... but that makes for fewer stories to tell.

How about you? Any fun moments to share about dinner with your family?
I'd love to hear them!