Thanksgiving morning found me extra bossy.
“It’s time to go running,” I told my roommates. I run a tight ship. If you live with me, expect to follow a vigorous exercise routine, or get pantsed. My girl-roommate, Erin, planned to make two pies and something with Velveeta, and I wasn’t about to let her get away with it.
This was the Thanksgiving I got to know Velveeta. It was also one of the best Thanksgivings. Unrelated.
Broccoli-Velveeta casserole has a special, Ritz cracker-topped place in my roommate’s heart, enshrined by decades of family tradition.
She made sure I paid attention while she assembled the components.
Go ahead, get in there.
This was also the year I learned about pecans.
There is a pecan tree in our yard. I would not have known this, had a bunch of people not come to our door asking if they could gather the stray pecans.
If our pecans fall on the sidewalk, people stuff them in their pockets, glancing around to see if someone is about to chase them away with a broom. I’ve come home several times from the gym to find the same gold-toothed old man eyeing the nuts, trying to make his grocery bag inconspicuous.
“You like nuts, mama?” He asked me.
“Ok! You eat the nuts?”
I shrug. He emitted a bemused chuckle. “This girl is too stupid to even eat her own yard nuts,” he probably said to himself, in Spanish.
Once, I heard nut burglars discussing if they should ask before filling their cheeks with our nuts. Then one of them knocked on the door. I didn’t answer, for personal reasons (pants/hatred).
“They won’t answer the door! WHAT DO WE DO?”
So a different person knocked on the door.
I gave in.
“Can we take some nuts if we rake the yard?”
“You can just take the nuts.”
And then I slinked back to my lair.
Erin dislikes coming home to a yard of pecan thieves. If she hears them gathering nuts outside her bedroom window, she gets out of bed to waggle a finger at them.
Before Thanksgiving, she took action and gathered a bucket of pecans, for the purpose of pie.
“Hey, how come you guys don’t get these nuts?” asked a passing pecan enthusiast.
“That’s what I’m doing right now,” she responded.
He didn’t have a comeback.
To make the pecan pie, she purchased a clear bottle of corn syrup. “This is the only way to make it, I swear. My family has tried everything else. This is the only way it tastes right.”
First Velveeta, now this.
My food snobbery raised its ugly head while we ate our non-optional, post-run carrot soup. We had paired the soup with Pirate’s Booty. Someone expressed that Pirate’s Booty, while cute, doesn’t live up to the real thing.
“Do you really like Cheetos better?” I asked innocently, batting my fake eyelashes.
“Molly. Jesus.” Suddenly everyone became quite stern. The popular opinion is that I pretend to like healthy alternatives, to be as big of a pain in the ass as possible.
“I love Cheetos so much, I have written two separate letters asking them to bring back the windows, and the paws.” Cheetos, Erin explained, experimented with alternative shapes. Cheetos corp suspected there might be snackers out there who don’t prefer crunchy orange turds.
Others chimed in with their feelings on the texture, taste, and consistency of Cheetos and Cheetos alternatives.
“Something about fake cheese really gets me going,” Erin admitted.
We invited another couple over for dinner, so all three members of Boss Battle (formerly known as Black Cock) were present. My roommate’s ex-husband’s dog was also invited.
Boss Battle and I put a lot of thought into the Thanksgiving menu. There was a lengthy rock n’ roll cocktail list. When Erin had finished planning, it turned out we were having almost as many different kind of boozes as foodzes (I’m drinking now).
When the guests arrived, we’d have gin and tonic. Then champagne to toast to our bounty. Once we had arranged our food piles, Erin had 2 more bottles of red wine to slosh through. During the hour of pie, she would dose us with something called amaro, a digestif concocted by monks to “aid digestion” (help make your farts smell more interesting).
You get away with having this much booze by referring to the drinky drinks as “pairings.” Erin learned this working at an upscale restaurant.
Gin is my favorite drink for cooking. It’s a cold, limey lifesaver when you’re about to pass out from the ole’ mashed potato sweats. Regarding the other drinks, I felt certain I would throw up.
“I’m sticking to gin,” I said at the outset.
Erin made it clear that she had put up with enough already.
So I steeled my resolve and donned my apron. This is a special garment. It was custom-crafted in Italy.
During a recent bout of carousing on an Italian vacation, Erin noticed a woman embroidering aprons in one of those open-air, late-night Italian embroidery shops. Erin suddenly remembered that she had wanted to get me a customized apron, inspired by my ornery kitchen ways.
“Do you want any help?” She had asked me, some months before.
I scowled into a grease fire.
“I cook alone,” I explained.
She returned from Italy with the apron. The top reads “I cook alone,” in cursive. The pocket says “Molly,” next to a sweet little duck.
You can see me and my apron in the background, striding purposefully past a my roommate’s ex-husband’s dog. He kept trying to assert his dominance by standing as obnoxiously close to me as possible.
Forget it, Buckley. I made the meat, I AM ALPHA.
This is what Thanksgiving looked like, prior to ingestion.
Everyone seemed lubed enough to lick mashed potatoes off their fingers, but not yet ready to brawl. Three drinks in, it was time to instigate.
“Everyone go around the table and say what food they liked the least,” I demanded. No one complied.
“Everyone go around the table and say what they’re least grateful for.”
We all eyed each other, wondering what we could get away with.
I thought of my parents, and sighed at the thought of them holiday-raging without me. “KEV! KEV! KEV!” My mom was probably saying, calmly and without judgement. “Temperature! Time! Poultry! How much have you had to drink?”
“Goddamnit, Laurie! Logistical difficulties!”
I called them and asked for a photo of their meal, so I could picture it better.
They made chicken. And salad. And what appear to be microwaved peas next to a decorative turkey.
I out-cooked my parents, and that is the point of Thanksgiving. Amen.
P.s. I’m grateful for pork tenderloin, because I’m not ready to let turkey break my heart again.