Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Plans - Remember the Titanic!

by Rose A. Valenta

Seize the moment, remember all those women on the ‘Titanic,’ who waved off the dessert cart.” ~ Erma Bombeck.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and everyone is frantically making plans. Although, it has been my experience that the best made plans often end up like the Titanic, seat a few icebergs at the dinner table and you're sunk.

Those who are hosting are worried about seating arrangements and folks, who get along; as opposed to those you need to take sharp instruments away from when they sit next to each other like my Uncles Harry and Dick.

Others are planning to bring side dishes, which reminds me of the famous Forrest Gump quote “Life is like a box of chocolates...”

“Hey Rose, are you keeping an eye on the weather forecast?” my husband asked. “You can’t make Harry sleep out in the barn in a sleeping bag unless you let him have the kerosene heater. Then, if you do that, you have to get one of the kids to go out there and clear out the debris. I think paint balls, hay, and boardwalk souvenirs are flammable.”

“Why don’t you do that,” I answered. “They will listen to you. If I ask them, they will pile it all in one of the spots that leak when it rains. Empty bucket and pot locations are not clues to them. Besides, I’m busy trying to figure out my Grandma Chappell’s pumpkin pie recipe. She left out an ingredient on the list, gave it to me, and then she died.”

“OK, men, hit the deck and put on some old clothes, we are going out to the barn for some exercise.” He said to our 14 and 11-year-old grandsons, who were spending the week with us, while their parents went to Atlantic City trying to hit the tuition to send them to Harvard.

My husband has been a gung-ho Marine his whole life and has a few choice expressions that he learned in boot camp. He yells some of them to keep the kids in line. He cussed and they all went out to the barn.

I found myself alone in the kitchen looking at an 8x10 photo of Grandma Chappell over the spice rack, in a white apron, holding a large blue medal cake, appearing to laugh at my predicament.

I remembered those summers that I spent in Olean, NY, with her when I was very young and she was the head baker at the Olean House. Her high-rise cakes were known and enjoyed in practically every county in the State of New York and Pennsylvania. People traveled for miles to get her desserts. I haven’t seen anything like that again, since they closed Olga’s diner on Route 73 in NJ. At Olga’s, it was the lemon meringue pies that caused the pilgrimage; at the Olean House, it was her orange bundt cakes with orange glaze icing.

The first time I ever experienced an excruciating blow to my ego, was when she stood me on a chair in her kitchen, with an electric mixer, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and some other ingredients and watched me like a hawk while she dictated the recipe and method of creating one of her famous orange cakes. She had the scientific process down to the number of times each ingredient was even touched by human hands, let alone the number of turns in the mixer.

After all that, when the cake came out of the oven, it would have made a great paper weight advertisement for Steve’s Oversized Crullers over on Route 17.

She never forgave me for that one. She was on the telephone all morning bragging to her friends about how I was making the orange cake, under her supervision, for their afternoon tea.

Me and my bruised ego helped her serve store-bought cookies.

I think that’s why she left out an ingredient in the pumpkin pie recipe, just to get even.

So, now with Thanksgiving bearing down on me like Hurricane Sandy, I Googled all the pumpkin pie recipes and compared them to the one she gave me.

I still couldn’t figure it out, so I seized the moment, dialed our local bakery and ordered two pumpkin pies and a mincemeat. I can hide the empty bakery boxes alongside Uncle Harry out in the barn, before guests arrive.

I’m sure everyone will be smiling, except for the turkey!



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