By: Tanya Ward Goodman
Over fifteen years ago, my husband and I cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner together. He wasn’t my husband at the time; he was this hunky, 23 year-old guy that I referred to as my “young buck.” My dad and stepmother were joining us for dinner and I was nervous about having them meet my fella and also about getting our dinner on the table. I wanted to impress them with my grown-up life. I’d spent days paging through cookbooks and back issues of Gourmet magazine, coming up with the perfect menu (albeit one that could easily feed twenty-five people.) I planned to make everything from scratch – from broth to biscuits to pie. My planning left me with a grocery list about a mile long and a sheaf of recipes the thickness of a small paperback book.
I started cooking two days before T-day, filling the kitchen of my small apartment with amazing smells. I prepped and pre-prepped and then realized that most of the big stuff would need to be done on the actual day — almost exactly when I would be retrieving my parents from the crowded airport. (Timing has never been my strong suit.)
This is when my fella, that young buck, stepped in. He arrived early and took charge of my kitchen. He prepped the turkey and peeled potatoes. He baked the little pull-apart rolls with the poppy seeds on top; he mashed the yams. While I drove across the city to pick up my parents, this boy made sure my house would be welcoming and warm and filled with the aroma of roasting turkey.
We have cooked many, many, many dinners together since. There have been years when we’ve spent days pulling together a menu and slaving over brandied tarts and poached miniature pears and there have been years like the one when we had my four week-old son, when it was all we could do to throw the bird in the oven and mash some potatoes.
This year, we’ve spent less time planning our menu and more time just anticipating being together. It’s gotten easier and less stressful. We aren’t daunted by the idea of a big bird and a bunch of guests. We have loosened our (admittedly tight) control on the menu to allow for a kind of potluck. Instead of my usual ream of paper, I have one gravy-stained note card. On it, written in my husband’s almost illegible handwriting, is the recipe for our first turkey together. I give thanks for him, for our children, for our life together. I give thanks for the chance to share a meal with family and friends.