Kitchen Ballet

It started early this morning. Joy posted the schedule for Thanksgiving preparations on the refrigerator and we went to work. There would be four of us for dinner, and the plan was to have the first course, French onion soup, at 1:00. Joy was poetry in motion, chopping, basting, sauteing and maintaining a steady stream of conversation all the while keeping one eye on her spreadsheets and the other on the clock.

The kitchen is not large and counter space is limited. I was assigned the task of chief dish and bottle washer throughout the morning, keeping the counters clear while Joy did what appeared to be kitchen ballet. Gracefully pivoting and pirouetting from oven to stove top to cutting board, she worked her magic. The mouth-watering aromas must have driven the other residents on the 21st floor crazy!

When Kellen came in from his morning run I was re-assigned. I happily moved on to table decor. He joined Joy in the kitchen and the two of them functioned together like a well-oiled machine. It was as though he read her mind, anticipating her next move then supplying what she needed before she asked.

KarenĀ  arrived and the soup was ready. A gastronomical journey of impressive proportions began!

Oh that soup…!

I’ve eaten a lot of French onion soups in my time, but Joy’s was far and away the most delicious concoction I’ve yet encountered. The delicate rich flavor of the broth was complemented by a thick slice of sourdough bread topped with the creamy gruyere. Oh bliss! The soup alone should have been enough, would have been if this were not Thanksgiving. But as soon as our bowls were empty, out came the rest of the feast.

We had the ubiquitous turkey, a 20# bird that Joy soaked in a spicy brine for 16 hours prior to roasting. She crafted her dressing from French bread that she cubed, toasted, and lovingly seasoned to perfection. The Brussels sprouts were tossed with olive oil, lemon zest and black pepper. She did a side dish of made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar and cream. Her cranberry sauce started with real cranberries and an unexpected addition of jalepeno peppers. The garlic mashed potatoes and giblet gravy were just as mouth-watering as everything else on her amazing menu.

I haven’t eaten that much at one sitting for many, many years. But I couldn’t resist the flavors of that beautiful meal prepared with such skill and love. And then…dessert. Karen brought apple pie and cheesecake that she had also made from scratch. Of course there was no way to choose one or the other. So slowly, very slowly, I ate apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream. Then even more slowly, I ate New York cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate sauce.

Some things are just worth it.

Now the day is done. The house is quiet. Neighbors in the condos across the street, those who don’t pull the draperies, are one by one turning off their TV’s and going to bed. I’m wide awake and still far too full to fall asleep. But it isn’t just my over-stuffed stomach, my heart is overflowing as well. The blessings of family, of friends, of love and acceptance, of a life filled to capacity with immeasurable goodness scroll through my consciousness like scenes in a movie. Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.

May I never grow so accustomed to plenty that I forget what a gift it is.

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