It also had to do with anticipation. And in my world, anticipation in more than half the battle. Then and now, I consider looking forward to something to be almost as enjoyable as doing it. (You should see me when I’m planning a vacation.) It’s the secret to life, really – always having something to look forward to. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and what motivates a thinking person’s every step. And on those cool, Thanksgiving eves of so many decades ago, what I could look forward to was being with the six of us, sitting around the table, thinking about nothing more than how good everything tasted.
(Not my mom)
Some people think Christmas Eve is the most exciting day of the year. Others prefer the Fourth of July, their birthday, or a day with religious significance. But for me, the most exciting day of the year has always been Thanksgiving Eve – the one day of the year when everyone in America is pretty much looking forward to the same thing: a day-long feast of food, friends and family.
And cooking. If you love to cook, or love people who love to cook, Thanksgiving is pretty much Christmas, Easter and your birthday all rolled into one.Even as a child I remember getting excited on the day before Thanksgiving. My mother (more of a 50s-60s convenient home cook than anything else) did her motherly duty every Thanksgiving week without complaint, and even though I’m not sure she ever enjoyed the fruits of her labors, she did a damn fine job of roasting a big-ass turkey (with Pepperidge Farm stuffing!), mushing potatoes into a silky, milky mash, and slicing that canned, jellied cranberry sauce with the best of them. And by the time she started baking those Mrs. Smith’s frozen pumpkin pies, everyone in the house was giddy with anticipation.
I think it was always seeing those extra groceries piled up in the kitchen (and that big-ass turkey) that first got my gastric juices flowing, and by the time it filled our house with roasting smells, and was finally taken out of the oven, everyone was fighting for a piece of crispy skin or the drumstick. But it was the day before the feast that always fascinated me: the shopping, the provisions strewn about the kitchen, my mom arranging everything to be made in the world’s most modest mise en place. Raw potatoes piled high, big bowls everywhere, a pressure cooker on the stove, that scary Sunbeam mixer, poised to whip those potatoes with its whirring, slightly scary, interlocking steel blades — all of it told me something special was about to happen in our house and it all had to do with FOOD!