Fortunately, it’s only once or twice a year that we lament the coziness of our kitchen. By ‘cozy,’ of course, I mean small. When my grandmother expanded the living areas of this house, she specifically asked my grandfather to make the dining room as large as possible, even if he had to sacrifice space in the kitchen.
In those pre-appliance days – no refrigerator, no dishwasher, no microwaves or toasters clotting up the counter – a one-butt kitchen was probably adequate. Plus, the dinner guests didn’t gravitate to the kitchen to visit and “help.” I imagine the menu differed slightly, too. It probably didn’t matter that the turkey took up all the oven space; most of the side dishes were of the overcooked-vegetable variety. The top of the big wood cook stove was adequate for the task.
I don’t know when our cooking/eating styles changed. Was it in the sixties when barbecuing outside became the way to entertain? Or was it a little later during the fondue craze when everyone lined up at the kitchen counter to dip and eat? Certainly, by 1962 when I bought my first new house, the kitchen was of the ‘open plan’ variety and it became de rigeuer for guests to participate in the last-minute preparations.
Nyel, as the head chef in our household, prefers the kitchen to himself. When we have guests, it falls to me to entertain them and keep them as far from the culinary action as possible. But, Thanksgiving is a different story. It’s usually the one dinner of the year that seems to require both of us in the kitchen for that last crucial half hour.
The biggest part of the problem, of course, is that the bird totally fills our oven and anything else that needs baking or warming has to go in at the last minute. So, it’s while the bird ‘rests’ and Nyel deals with stuffing and gravy that the biscuits and spinach casserole get their turn in the oven. And it’s at the same time that the ice water goes into the goblets, the salads and relish plate are transferred from frig to table, the Brussels sprouts are sautéed with lemon and everything magically (not!) gets to the table at the same time.
Somehow it always works, but never quite like we orchestrate it in our minds ahead of time. Early this morning we mentally walked through our plan, step-by-step. As usual, I am full of admiration for my grandmother (and all the other women of her generation) on this Thanksgiving morning. Her meals were always delicious – even those boiled vegetables! I hope we can do her justice today!