We NEVER get to sit and have a family dinner with just us. Just myself, my wife and our two daughters. Everyone is always so busy. My wife never stops moving. Going from work at one job to the next or meeting with my daughters cheer gym as she is one of the “team moms” that has to organize lots of things for that team. My kids are the same way. Going from school, to dancing and cheer and then, when they do get a few minutes free, they want to spend time with their friends and not their Mom and Dad. So, a sit down dinner with the 4 of us just isn’t something we do.
I saw an opening for Sunday where it was just going to be us together. On Friday night when we all finally were home around 10 pm I told them I was cooking a turkey dinner on Sunday. Now, my kids aren’t really a fan of my cooking, but they could tell this was important to me so they agreed.
I just really started cooking within the last year or so. I decided to, when I could, stop ordering out and learn how to cook. And, I fell in love with it. I still stink at cooking most things, but I can make breaded chicken, my own pasta sauce, a beef stew and a mean fettuccini alfredo. I’m not starting my own cooking show, or submitting my recipes to any cookbooks, but I’m learning a little at a time.
Now, I’m 39 years old and I have never cooked a turkey before. I take the family to my parents to pick up a pan and a meat thermometer and my Dad gives me 875 different things I need to do while cooking this turkey. He has cooked about 300 turkey dinners so, he knows exactly what he is doing, but he just gives me way too much information. It’s like a professional hockey player trying to teach a little kid how to skate backwards when the kid can’t even tie his skates yet.
I bring the kids and wife to shop for the ingredients I will need and let’s just say they are not too pleased with me making them shop with me. I’m a little corny when I get one of my dumb ideas, but I wanted us to sort of all have a little part in this dinner. I thought letting them pick out the stuffing, or the specific cranberry sauce might have been fun, but they didn’t see it that way I guess. I like to pretend they are 4 years old and going to the supermarket is a big adventure, not that they are teenagers and being seen at Stop and Shop with BOTH their parents would be catastrophic to their image. But, they suffer though it and that is all I required for this turkey dinner from them.
So, I woke up Sunday with a game plan. I knew when I had to start to prep the turkey and when I needed to cook all the other items on the menu, stuffing, peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy. So, I did the Mashed Potatoes first. I was told by both girls that they want them with ZERO lumps. So, I made sure of it. I overcooked the potatoes to soften them and then I whipped them with sour cream, butter and milk. I tested out every inch and I was satisfied there was ZERO lumps.
I watched a few youtube videos and tried to remember 10% of what my Dad had told me and I prepped the turkey and picked the perfect time cook it. I cooked the stuffing, put some in the bird and the rest I left out, knowing I would cook it closer to when the turkey was done.
I timed everything perfectly. Well, that is if the turkey cooked in the time is said it would. But, the turkey took an hour longer than expected. Which means everything other than the gravy was cold by the time the turkey was cut and ready to go.
But, we sat down as a family and ate like civilized humans. We had silverware and napkins and no one had their phones out. My oldest, the pickiest eater of the bunch didn’t say “eeeewwwww that looks gross” so I thought we were okay. And then my youngest, a girl who speaks her mind said “this stuffing tastes like what a Christmas tree smells like”. And we laughed, because she was right. The stuffing was gross. Everything else was good though, each of us even reached for more of something. And then, just like that, dinner was over.
A meal that took shopping trips, hours of prep and cooking was over in 10 minutes. All that work for 10 minutes of people stuffing their faces with food. I immediately thought of my parents, who cook a meal for all of us, including my brothers and sisters and their families almost every Sunday. We sit and wait for the food to be done, stuff our faces and we are done in 10 minutes. Then my Dad retreats to the kitchen to start on the dishes and pull out whatever dessert they had prepared. I gained a whole new respect for my parents after seeing all my hard work be done and over with in 10 minutes.
After dinner and dessert were done I sat in the kitchen finishing the bottle of wine my wife and I had started. She started in on the dishes and I just got to sit and smile, and be thankful for just that 10 minutes of togetherness and peace we got to have. All the prep was worth it just to be together, even for such a short period of time. The kids fell asleep next to each other watching a movie later with the wife and I. They weren’t mad at each other for whatever reason. They were enemies like they are lots of the time. It ended up being a great night.
The stuffing was gross, the mashed potatoes and peas needed to be reheated, but all in all it was a great 10 minutes at the kitchen table. It was easily the worst turkey dinner I ever ate taste wise, but it was my favorite meal in a very long time. I love seeing my tribe all together. All under one roof, our favorite roof, cause it is ours.
Meals aren’t really about the food. It’s about the people you share them with. So, this Thanksgiving when you are sitting across from Uncle Steve and he is passing in and out of consciousness from the turkey he ate and you are betting on what quarter of the football game he falls asleep in, take a second to just be thankful of all the people under that same roof. Don’t take these times for granted. They might seem like they are ever lasting when you are younger, but as I grow and I see my kids less and less I appreciate whatever time they have to give to me.
Life is a bunch of boring shit mixed in with little pockets of time that remind you why you love the people you do. Those little pockets of time are sometimes all you need, or all you can get or give, but to your tribe it’s those times that mean the most.
I love my tribe…