“I wanted it for a punch bowl,” she said. And that’s how she uses it. Yesterday, she pureed a huge bag of frozen fruit and poured the puree and nearly two liters of ginger ale into the snifter. This was our T’giving punch. V3 and her mama cooked nearly everything for our dinner –and from scratch: the turkey, the pork roast with cranberries, the macaroni and cheese, the giblet gravy, the dressing, the rolls, the sweet-potato pies, and the carrot cake. And, in case you’re not sure, when I say from scratch, I mean the “Good God, aren’t these the biggest sweet potatoes you’ve ever seen?” from scratch, not the “Are these all the canned yams we bought?” from scratch. And V3’s husband, S, wasn’t satisfied with merely makin bread; he had to serve his braided and painted with an egg glaze. He also fried the second turkey in peanut oil. (This one was treacherous: havin been born and raised in NO, S felt he had to inject copious amounts of liquefied heat into the turkey, the kind of insidious temperature that doesn’t start to bite till you’ve said, “Hey! This is good,” and walked out of the kitchen, away from water, bread and anything else that might save your tongue, until it was too late. If you like, you may picture S, 6’6”, dark and resembling a taller, more athletic Luther Vandross, grinning with evil anticipation as he fried this turkey. You won’t be far off.) Goobs and I, V3’s daughter, supervised by V3’s mama, made a yellow cake –again from scratch.
My own mama was serving dinner to the homeless at her church, from about 8 am till 1 pm, when she felt her 74-year-old legs and feet couldn’t take anymore, and then she went home and rested.
I contributed the collard greens to V3’s dinner. V3 bought the greens, the prettiest I’d ever seen, and we two picked the hard stems off, while V3 searched vigilantly for worms. Nobody likes worms in their collards, but V3 is right neurotic about it. We found one and a half tiny, brand-new-leaf-green worms during the picking, and one worm after the first washing. Now, if it’d been my kitchen, there’d been no “first” washing, just one washing, but during my (I have to say meticulous, leaf by leaf) washing, V3 kept lookin over my shoulder into the sink full of water, her huge, long-lashed brown eyes worriedly searching for hiding worms, her thick brows bent in a frown of suspicion.
“See any more worms in there? They hide, you know. Sneaky things.”
“No,” I said lightly and amusedly. (I can’t help but think that if it was anybody else but V3, I’d’v been annoyed. Huh.) Unfortunately, after that wash, I was stupid enough to show V3 another tiny worm, pressed on the lip of the sink stopper. This is when the washing became “the first washing.”
So “If I find another worm, I’m just gonna eat it and not tell you,” I said, as my fingers became ever more pale and wrinkled. V3’s mama fell out laughing. V3’s mama was a tad dubious about my collards recipe (salt, pepper, butter, and steam: “No Southerner worth his salt puts butter on greens!” she said), but she was pleasantly surprised, to my relief.
V3 had invited her parents (who brought three of their grandchildren, twin girls and their brother), my sister, her husband and their sons, a colleague and her mother, a couple from our church, my daughters and me. Over the phone, a neighbor* whose oven had to be borrowed, said, “This isn’t like you! You don’t like a lotta people!” Kind of embarrassed Neighbor to find out that she was talking to V3’s mother (who loves a lotta people), and not V3. This characterization, however, is not strictly accurate: V3, like me, hates spending a lotta time with total strangers (and she has to, on the regular, because she’s a published author, and her husband’s a well-known artist). But most of these folk she knew and loved, so . . . .Anyway, the colleague and her mother couldn’t make dinner. Colleague’s mother lives in NC, which was havin horrible Weather on T’giving. Colleague decided to stay home, too. And the church couple didn’t show up, either. We don’t know what happened with them.
So we arranged the tables in the kitchen and the dining room to V3’s satisfaction (which is sayin somethin: she’s not The Artist of the family but she has an artist’s eye, certainly), got the food on the tables, and V3 put the punch at the very end of the table in the dining room, where the adults would sit. The sixteen of us joined hands and the evil S gave the blessing, thanking the living God for His presence in our lives, for each other, for the food, and then we all said “Amen.” V3 forestalled our children’s bum’s rush for the food with instructions on how to feed:
“You will take one plate from one table in the kitchen. Come in here (the dining room) and get what you want to eat, moving to the right. Take your full plate back to the place where you found it, take one cup from the same place, come back here and get some punch. Go back to the kitchen, sit down and eat. You don’t have to try to get everything you want at one time. You’re welcome to come back for seconds, but remember that you may want dessert, too. ” My sister’s younger son, M, ten, bright eyed and always commentary ready, raised his hand. (My sister, on my left, nudged me: this was gonna be good.)
“Is the punch alcoholic?” M asked. I think my jaw hit the floor.
But “Yes,” V3 said, without missing a beat. “We’re all gonna get drunk.”
*This is the neighbor who once owned, then fell out of love with, the dog currently named Frody.