I had three Thanksgiving meals this year.
At the first, wary of the second and third, I skipped turkey and enjoyed (grilled) roast beef instead. (Stuffed with garlic, and rubbed with garlic and black pepper, and charred to unimaginable beauty.) This was our annual Thursday luncheon with Dad’s family. A last-minute plumbing mishap had ousted the event from its traditional location to the home of some very hospitable and accommodating in-laws. I didn’t know if I should show up with a big, loud camera, so for once I sat down to a meal without taking any pictures.
A beach run on a cloudless Thanksgiving afternoon lit the fire for the second meal, Thursday dinner. I had turkey (dark meat) with the No. 1949s at the No. 1951s. Fenny made a pumpkin pie on an oatmeal-walnut crust. We ate at six–just about sunset–so no natural light, no camera.
The third was turkey supper on Friday, with the ’49ers and ’51st battalion at No. 1929. Helen and John were in from Kauai, and I chose white meat.
In spite of the crystal thimbles they use to serve wine, the good folks at No. 1929 really are world-class hostesses. We laughed and laughed. Mom brought up the story of a Thanksgiving dinner in that very house (prepared one odd year in the absence of the senior ’29s) when a cousin had cooked a turkey in the microwave to fantastic results, then ignited and exploded a can of peas when attempting the same. The girls, in their grand Manoa tradition (spanning almost too many years to still be called the work of girls, and costing to date approximately $1.07 in white thread) sewed plumeria lei for the dearest in our company.
No. 1929 is a home that glows and flickers with incandescent warmth like none I know. Again, too dark to really poke around with a camera (without a blinding flash, which is a surefire way to be disinvited from family meals) but at 0-2 at bat I had to swing, if only with the ambient light.
Aunt M. wondered aloud why her daughters had declined (refused?) to use the good china or the silver, setting the table instead with “Summer Wheat” cutlery that both she and my grandmother had purchased in 1956 at the Manoa Chevron station.
Someone (maybe Fenny) said it was because silver is too much trouble to wash. Someone (maybe also Fenny) suggested that it is because “Summer Wheat” is such a lovely, familiar pattern.
I read on food blogs this year all about how to do Thanksgiving. How to brine and baste and rub and smoke and fry and roast (maybe even microwave?) a turkey. How to do cranberry sauce twenty ways. How to make stuffing in, or out; with hazelnuts, apricots, Chinese sausages, water chestnuts, sticky rice, corn bread, etc. How to shop ahead and manage your time.
There may have been a pile of pots and pans in the kitchen sink, but this was a meal served effortlessly. The key ingredients were not turkey or cranberry. I didn’t take a single picture of food, and left with just a few shots on my card: summer wheat, pink plumerias, warm yellow light and the glow of memory. I think I got it all.