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Philosophical Musings: A Thanksgiving Journey

I didn’t travel anywhere this Thanksgiving, but I did go on a journey. And I feel something deep and powerful from this voyage I have undertaken.

The journey began about a week ago, when I really organized the cabinet that held the good china: recreating a beautiful display of plates, cups, saucers, bowls, and glasses all neatly lined up. Now mind you, a lot of other things gotten stuffed into the cabinet over the course of time, and it was pretty overcrowded. And although the settings were individually displayed, they were never used.

China Cabinet

My Thanksgiving dinner itself came together in a very haphazard way. Many (many!) years ago, I used to have what I called “Orphan Friends” dinners for Thanksgiving, and I would have people who had no family in town, and who weren’t travelling, to join me (and my ex-husband) for a meal. Since I would be returning from my Branson excursion just a few days before Thanksgiving, I didn’t feel like travelling any distance to have dinner with my wonderful inherited family (with whom I had just recently spent a week in Orlando), and since I’m rattling around in this big house by myself, I decided to have a little party of my own.

With this in mind, I had invited my dear friend, Randy, and his son to join me for dinner, along with another long-time friend from here in Grayville, who said he’d be happy to join me if I was planning a meal. But time passed, Randy forgot, and he accepted an invitation to go to Louisville to have dinner with his daughter, so I decided to cancel the whole thing and just have an ordinary dinner by myself.

However, just before I left for Branson, I dropped a piece of furniture off with Randy, and ran into a couple of mutual friends who weren’t doing anything for the holiday, and said they’d love to spend it with me. So, I invited Dale again, and the game was once more afoot.

I immediately went into Dinner Hostess mode. I bought a wonderful organically-raised turkey and all the traditional trimmings, and undertook my usual preparation for such a meal.

Dinner Day minus 2:
*Cut the turkey in half (I am only feeding 4, after all.) Debone and freeze the second half, and season the half that will be devoured at the party. Roast said half with the extra carcass bones and giblets, and then debone all of that and chill the meat.
*Prepare my stock: cover the bones with water, add a lot of chopped onion, celery, and carrots, about 15 black peppercorns, a few cloves of garlic, and 3-5 whole cloves.
*Set the stock aside in my nice cool pantry. (It’s not insulated, and makes a great cold room in the winter. In the summer, not so much.)
*Clean up the roasting pan, and eat the giblets for lunch.

Dinner Day minus 1:
*Double check that I have everything necessary for the dinner, and go on about my life. This involves continuing to sort the myriad “stuff” that was tucked into every nook and cranny of the house, and reassure myself that I actually had until noon on Dinner Day to finish clearing the dining room table, so we would actually have a place to eat. (I use the dining room table as a “staging area” whenever I’m sorting out another batch of clutter.)

Dinner Day Morning:
*Alright – the first order of business was that dining room table! I cleared it off, with a promise to myself that I would finish organizing the stuff I was moving back into bins over the weekend.

*Set the table. Then, as I was setting the table, I looked at that beautifully re-organized cabinet, and I thought, if having a Thanksgiving dinner with friends isn’t a good enough occasion for using the good china, what is? Out came the dinner plates, side plates, salad bowls, water glasses, and wine glasses. (I didn’t even have to disturb the main part of the display, because there were another half-dozen place settings now tucked neatly into the lower part of the cabinet.) Then the platters, gravy dish, and serving bowls went into the kitchen, to await their chosen foods.

And it was at this point that I decided to make the dinner service formal, if not the dinner itself.

So, next came linen napkins, crystal napkin rings, candelabra, wooden salt-shaker and pepper grinder, lemon in a bowl, butter in a butter dish, and mustard for the ham in a little pot. I was now following the principle: “Do not put a label on the table.”

Dinner Table1I also decanted a bottle of wine into a crystal wine decanter, one that hadn’t been used, I’m sure, since my grandmother’s days, and put it out in the cool pantry. (She passed away in the early 70s.)

Dinner Day Afternoon:
So, in preparation for the dinner itself, all I had to do is slice the turkey, wrap it in foil and warm it up in the stock (ensuring that it is wonderfully moist), while I prepared the other stuff. (Except when I strained my turkey broth – and poured it all down the drain! Seems I forgot about the pot I had ready to put under the colander. Or I was thinking I was draining the potatoes. Or I wasn’t bothering to think at all! Good thing I had tinned chicken broth on hand.)

I precook the potatoes – about 30 minutes before my guests arrive – and leave them in hot water until the last minute, then reheat them, drain them, and do the seasoning and mashing bit. With that, I’m down to warming some sliced ham, making the green bean casserole, the stuffing, and the gravy. All pretty easy tasks!

I got all the serving dishes ready to go on the table, and all the food doing it’s thing on various burners, in the regular oven as well as in the toaster oven, in my electric frying pan.

But as I was doing that, I realized that this was indeed a journey. It was Solo Senior Travel. As I have expressed before, you can’t travel without a destination, a destination where there are other people that you were going to interact with. Yesterday, my journey was toward a Thanksgiving dinner with a few friends.

As I said at the beginning, I feel something deep and powerful from this voyage I have undertaken.

Every day is a journey. Everything we do is a step towards a destination. We always have a choice – fine china, or every day stoneware, or paper plates. It doesn’t really matter what we choose, because each has its own place and time. What matters is how we feel about the choices we make.

Nobody dressed up for the dinner, because it wasn’t a formal dinner. That wasn’t the point. The point was that I took an afternoon to prepare a gift for a few friends, and then sit back and enjoy some time with them.

IMG_1397(And once I set the table and took the photo, we all got so involved in eating and sharing anecdotes, that I forgot to take a picture of my guests – but you know who you are!)

And now, it’s time to go and make myself a turkey sandwich for lunch.

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