In fact, I was actually imagining my writing the post from that angle as I was starting my prep work for Thanksgiving. I had stressed myself out just thinking about it for two days.
Jimmy had even said to me, “I don’t know why you volunteered to cook; now you’re going to be foul the whole weekend.”
(I know some of you will find it shocking that I actually can be crabby. But true story!) 😀
But since we cancelled what would have been our third annual trip to St. Charles on the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, I felt like I should cook. After all, I was really enjoying cooking again. And thanks to my addiction to the Pioneer Woman, I had several dishes I was excited to make.
I had my schedule all planned out. (I’m a list-maker, remember?) On Monday, I bought the turkey, and had planned to finalize my menu, my shopping list, and space out my activities so I wouldn’t have to do a lot at the last minute and it wouldn’t be stressful.
And, I wasn’t going to make a bunch of stuff just because we’d always eaten them before. I was going to prioritize, make our favorites, and call it good. And that would still be more than enough food.
And then, something happened.
I came home from work Monday evening only to find no less than 6 rugs and 2 dog beds needed washing, the coffee table I’d arranged to sell a friend had been chewed on all around the bottom, with splinters lying on the rug, and there were at least 15 additional throw-up spots that needed cleaning up in various places around the house.
And Charra followed me around the house. “Momma, I don’t feel good, I NEED you.”
I felt like I’d just stepped on a fast-moving train and passed overwhelm, going straight to zombie. I was too tired to read. Too depressed to talk. I sat on the couch playing one game of solitaire after another on my laptop, with Charra (who, by the way, was feeling better after throwing up about another 6 times) snuggled next to me. I needed a mindless activity.
I really don’t know why Charra being sick derailed me so much. And I don’t know why I was stressing so much over cooking.
Nothing I was making was that difficult. It was some new recipes, sure. But not difficult. It was me, doing it to myself. In my head.
My friend Sophia and I had gone shopping on Wednesday, and after we got home, I dove in and started my prep work. I’d thought about it all day, of course. And the day before that. So it was almost a relief to dive in and get started when I got home.
I wondered how my mom had done this every Thanksgiving and Christmas for all the years she did. How did she not dread it? It was so much work! Did she dread the holidays? Did she even enjoy the food? How on earth did she do it with so little counter space?
And then, something else happened.
The first dish I prepared was my Mom’s noodles. As I methodically rolled out the dough, I suddenly felt all the stress evaporate. Like, poof!
I started to relax.
I began to feel at peace, and to really enjoy the actual process of making them.
My mom had done this hundreds of times over decades. She made the best noodles, and I had finally mastered her recipe. It’s almost like I was channeling my mother.
As I spread the noodles out to dry, I remembered how much I liked to eat the raw noodle dough as a kid. And how my late grandmother would scold me: “Those noodles will plug up your butt if you eat too many!”
One dish at a time, over the next two and a half hours, I made the noodles, skillet cornbread (for the stuffing), cut up bread to dry for the stuffing, and made two pies.
I prepared them with love, and I looked forward to sampling them with my family. I actually enjoyed myself. The whole process became very soothing.
My husband not only helped, he also helped make sure they tasted the way they should. 😉
My kitchen looked like a wreck, because I worked straight through without stopping to clean up.
I am somewhat neurotic when it comes to organization. (My friends will all testify to this.) My husband came home and, eyes wide, said, “Boy, something’s going on here!”
I actually found it both amusing and rewarding. I knew I had created something!
How is that possible?
I think food connects us in ways that we don’t even realize. The ritual of cooking food connects us to the women in our lives who preceded us, and who showed love for their families through the art, and heart, of cooking.
In return, we express our love through the same time-tested rituals.
Sure, I still had more stuff to make the next day, but it was just as satisfying.
The irony of all this was that nearly everything was homemade. There was nothing that was a short-cut or a convenience food. And the funny thing is, the real thing wasn’t so difficult to make.
I remember a day when a ‘convenience food’ was a treat. Now, it seems it’s the way so many live today. Maybe, like electronics, they’ve only added to our stress and our health issues.
I felt like I’d stumbled onto a secret treasure.
I think you have to be willing to look at your life and your family, see what works, see what you enjoy, and either continue, or maybe make a change. After so many years of obligatory family dinners, we really enjoy going to St. Charles…but because we were here, I chose to cook. And it wasn’t an obligation.
Some traditions should be tweaked, and that’s okay.
For instance, instead of pumpkin pie, we had pumpkin wine. 🙂
It was a beautiful day, a great meal, and we all took naps afterwards.
She is fine. Although I doubt she’ll ever have the opportunity to run free in search of deer poop again. 😀