A Thanksgiving Fail

My folks moved from South Dakota to Arizona in 1949 when I was four. Because we were the “outlanders”, as it were, every other year from then on we had to make a trek back to SD to see the relatives. Very few of said relatives made the same trip to see us, which only goes to show that all roads don’t necessarily run both ways.

We traveled in second hand, radio-free vehicles that were stuffed to the gills with kids. And since we couldn’t listen to the radio we sang. My mother’s head was not stuffed full of “cotton, hay, and rags,” as Professor Henry Higgins would say. It was stuffed full of lyrics instead. Our mother taught us the words and she also taught us to sing in harmony.

One of the traveling kid show favorites was Vive la Cookery Maid. If you need to hear the tune, there are apparently several versions available on YouTube, but I’m reproducing the lyrics here from memory rather than using a cheat sheet.

There once was a maiden to cooking school went Vive la cookery maid.
On dishes delicious her heart was intent Vive la cookery maid.
Her apron was spotless, her cap it was neat.
The figure she made was distractingly sweet, But the stuff she concocted a goat couldn’t eat Vive la cookery maid.

She started with doughnuts that didn’t cook through, Vive la cookery maid.
She toyed with the soup and they used it for glue Vive la cookery maid.
They used her plum pudding to poison the rats, Her griddle cakes might have been used for doormats.
With her biscuits her brother disabled three cats.
Vive la cookery maid

At last she made something, a pie, so she said.
Vivel la cookery maid.
T’was hard as sole leather and heave as lead.
Vive la cookery maid.
She put it away and retired to bed
A burglar broke in and upon it he fed.
When they came in to morning the burglar was dead.
Vive la cookery maid.

So let’s just say Thanksgiving dinner was a bit like something that cookery maid might have served. There was a failure to communicate between the guy doing the turkey and the gal making the gravy. As a result, the turkey was fine but the gravy was … well … so salty as to be inedible. And my first mother-in-law’s stuffing, which had, heretofore, been a fail-proof concoction, managed to fail spectacularly. It turns out that the mashed potatoes could be eaten without gravy, and there was enough other food that no one starved to death, but it did cast a bit of a pall over our Thanksgiving Day celebration.

On Saturday, kids and grand-kids made a return visit and, in a matter of a couple of hours, managed to deck the halls for Christmas in a perfectly acceptable fashion. Having benefited from growing up with Jim Hunt Christmas decorations, they knew just what to do and where to put things, and they did so in a fashion that Mary Poppins would call “spit spot!”

Saturday evening, we went to Tres Hermanos, a neighborhood family Mexican restaurant, where Colt has celebrated every birthday so far, including this one, number 14. The people there have known Colt from birth on. I’m not sure why, but they call him Cauliflower Ears, and I’m not J.A. Jance there. I’m “Grandma,” and that’s fine with me. For dinner that night I had shredded beef flautas. I loved then, and even better, none of it was up to me. I went, sat, ate and enjoyed.

And now, here we are a hop and a holler from Christmas. I should have an editorial letter on Credible Threat back from my new editor sometime next week. In the meantime, I’ve been to two movies—Ford Versus Ferrari and The Good Liar—and loved them both. In my opinion, Ford Versus Ferrari is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen about real friendship. Bill and Colt liked the cars. I liked the characters.

I’ve also read two books. The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden and The Girl who Lived Twice. Well, make that one and a half books. I’m halfway through the second one, but last night, when I got into bed, Joanna Brady’s daughter, Jenny, gave her mother a call at work. It was a very interesting conversation, and I should probably get to work writing it down because, as of right now, the deadline for Missing and Endangered is actively ticking.

17 thoughts on “A Thanksgiving Fail

  1. My Thanksgiving Pecan Pie (a recipe I have used many times before) somehow was not the same this year. Don’t know if my oven was running hot or what, but it definitely was not MY pie that I love. Made it much easier to toss the leftovers and not eat them…. All the leftovers that didn’t go home with family got tossed. I felt guilty about “people are starving in China” but it was much better for MY waistline to have the stuffing leave the house. Back to being abstemious (I LOVE that word) in my eating habits on Friday and I lost a pound Thanksgiving week. That is something for which to be thankful!

  2. I was always glad that both my and Leslie’s parents lived less than 15 miles from us and we didn’t need to make a trek to visit for holidays !

    I hope you have seen the movie Harriet. Really excellent

  3. Judy, as always a beautiful blend of old and new memories. Colt and my youngest granddaughter both turned 14 this year. We are blessed to have them in our lives. Music and traveling sounds like fun. One way to handle the, they are in my space fights. On good trips my parents sang. On stressful trips the rule was sit and be quiet. I always tried to bring a book to read. I look forward to reading Joanna and Jenny’s conversation.

  4. I could relate to childhood memories. Mine were of road trips from California to North Dakota/Minnesota in the summer to visit relatives. Different from yours in that us six kids couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but we could sing loud and strong even without a radio. My Dad asked us to shut up or he would dump us on the side of the road. We sang anyhow!

  5. Love how those characters show up at serendipitous times. When they start speaking, it’s time to start writing.

    Looking up the tune so I can learn the lyrics and sing along. Understand those unfulfilled expectations around traditions and traditional food. And the relief of not having to be the one in charge of how a meal turns out or not. Always enjoy your thoughts. Wishing you a blessed and trouble free Advent season.

  6. Just a comment on some failed recipes. I have always used measures. Not my mother of course. I recently took a plastic measuring cup and poured the measurement into my glass forever measuring cup. Fell short. Cans, like pumpkin, and other things, have less oz than they used to have. As for too much salt, I have had that happen if I leave the shakers out!! Everyone gets into the act. My granddaughter’s Thanksgiving is always wonderful. This year, better than ever. Difference, a new, calibrated oven. My new stove of 5 years was 10 or more degrees off. So, maybe not all human error. Glad Thanksgiving went well. The Christmas decor too. My daughter, 3 of her 4, and her grands are coming to decorate my house tonight. GG must have a tree! Looking forward to Your next book. . Oh, on road trips to NDak from SoCal, we played I spy, something beginning with. Not a tune carrier in the bunch.

  7. Enjoyed your story, we always sang when taking a road trip until Dad had enough and then it was ” quiet time kids” for a while anyway. My turkey gravy was a flop this year for some reason. Oh well. Can’t wait for the next book.

  8. It’s interesting that so many of us had something fail at Thanksgiving dinner.
    I don’t make gravy and always have a baked potato for Thanksgiving. There are mashed potatoes for others, but they put butter on them. My favorite cornbread dressing was a flop. I didn’t keep an eye on it and it got too dry. First time that has happened. There’s always next year.

  9. My Thankgiving was pretty good but there was one problem. My niece had everyone over at her house and did the turkey and the gravy. Everything else was brought brought by others.

    I am a big gravy hound. I love gravy! The best gravy is always cooked at Thanksgiving. I boil the giblets for several hours. They are then stripped to the bone, cut up as necessary and added to the broth. When the turkey is finished all the juices are added to the broth with things like cut up onions and mushrooms, then it is thickened with flour.

    This year the niece had a brilliant idea. I got there just as she poured the drippings down the sink. She works at KFC, so she cooked some of their “delicious” gravy using some of the powdered stuff she got at work. It was almost enough to make a grown man cry.

    • Martin, tell you niece to never pour grease down a kitchen sink. Grease and water don’t mix and sooner or later she will have a huge plumbing problem.

      When I fixed a whole turkey, I boiled up the giblets and gave to the cats. They especially liked the liver.

  10. Thanks for sharing your family Thanksgiving. All missteps in our family turn into continuous jokes every year. I wish you the best and most festive Christmas season!

  11. I don’t know how you do it! My mind is cluttered with characters and plots but alas I procrastinate with my writing. I had to share that I too moved to in Tucson from Michigan in 1949 at age four to live with my grandparents after my uncle Stewart Simon (22) died in a terrible car crash there with other young men while chasing the thieves of five-cent root beer mugs from a drive-up restaurant. I was shipped there to keep my grandma busy in her grief. Oddly the photographer of the grim accident photo was none other than Hugh Downs.

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