I woke up early the next day, determined to beat Phyllis to the kitchen. This was my prep day. I needed to make the rolls and pies, and get the turkey soaking in its brine for tomorrow’s cooking rush. I pulled my hair back in a ponytail, put on a grubby T-shirt, and ran downstairs, ready to work.
Phyllis had my fridge pulled out and was scrubbing the floor behind it.
Number 12: Candace probably only deep-cleans her house when she is moving.
In my defense, who cleans behind their fridge, anyway?
“Phyllis! What are you doing?!” I exclaimed, shock written all over my face.
“Good morning, dear. Just helping you spruce up the place. I know how hard it is to keep up.”
“I have a detailed list of all the things that we need to get done today, along with a schedule, dear,” she said, her voice a little strained as she was intent on scrubbing a stubbornly sticky spot on the floor.
I looked at the list.
6:00 am: Disinfect all work surfaces. (Did she consider the floor behind the fridge a work surface?)
6:30 am: Start on rolls--
1. Start yeast rising
2. Chop parsley, rosemary, thyme, fennel
3. Mix dough
4. Cover with towel and set aside to rise
7:00 am: Start on Jello salads (raspberry, orange, cranberry)--
1. Peel and dice fruit (pineapple, mandarin oranges, pears, cranberries, shredded carrot)
2. Prepare Jello according to directions
3. Let set in refrigerator
7:30 am: Start on pies--
The schedule went on and on, with every minor detail included. I knew exactly what I would be doing at 11:45 am: chopping vegetables (carrots: julienne, celery: small dice, radishes: thinly sliced, green onions: chopped at a 45 degree angle, etc….) for the green salad.
Grunting as she got up from the floor, Phyllis looked at her watch.
“It looks like we are right on track for the 6:30 roll preparation,” she said.
Four hours later, the rolls were about ready to go in the oven, three different Jello salads were cooling and setting up in the fridge, two pumpkin pies were cooling on racks, and I was working on the fancy finishing touches on the top of the apple pies before they went into the oven. I had fought for the traditional apple pies, when Phyllis insisted that we add some new ingredients. She was sure that she saw on the Food Network the addition of oregano and lime slices and it looked delicious. I stuck to my guns and kept the apple just plain apple.
Phyllis was sweating over a huge pot on the stove, the one that I reserve for canning peaches. She was simmering her own brine, insisting that the ingredients needed to simmer for about an hour, then cool, before we could put the bean-sprout-fed turkey into the pot to soak. It smelled ghastly, like how I imagine a tub of stinky, dirty socks would smell if you were simmering them on the stove top. Her brine consisted of water, red wine vinegar, kosher pickling salt, sugar, a handful of finely chopped herbs, liquid smoke, and I think I saw her dump in several cans of my Dr. Pepper. As I watched her, she resembled a crazy old witch, cackling over her brew. I laughed a little to myself. Then I saw her pull out of the pot a bundle of something dark wrapped in cheese cloth, that she had evidently been steeping. She lifted it up, sniffed it, gave the bundle a squeeze, then discarded it next to the pot. She really is a witch, I thought to myself. I didn’t want to know what was in the bundle.
“The brine is ready to cool!” she announced, wiping the sweat from her brow. It looked like she was about to lift the pot herself, to move it from the stove, and I stopped her. I certainly didn’t need an injured mother-in-law on my hands.
Sam came to the rescue, moving the heavy pot out to the garage, where it would cool more quickly. When he came back in, he stood listening for a moment.
“Is it just me, or do you hear a funny clicking sound?” he asked. We all stopped what we were doing, straining to hear. Then I heard it. It was coming from the oven.
I had just pulled the pumpkin pies from the oven, and it was still warm, ready for the next installment of pies.
Sam opened the door to the oven. It clicked three more times, then suddenly there was a snap and a huge spark. The oven went dark.
Sam fiddled with the knobs and controls to the oven. Nothing happened.
“What just happened?” I asked, my voice rising beyond my control. “What’s wrong with the oven?”
“I don’t know. Let me take a look at it.”
Roger tore himself away from the football game long enough to help Sam tear the oven apart.
Two hours later, the boys were still fiddling with it. “I can’t have a broken oven, Sam, not on Thanksgiving!” I was getting panicky. My apple pies were in the fridge, waiting to be cooked, and the rolls I spent hours on, fashioning them into cute little cornucopia shapes, were beginning to droop. “How are we going to cook a turkey tomorrow?!”
“Well, the microwave still works…” Sam said, and then wisely chose to discontinue his thought when he saw the look on my face.
“Don’t worry about it, Honey, we’ll figure something out,” Phyllis chimed in.
“Don’t worry about it?!” I began to lose it. “Don’t worry about it?! The most important day of the year to have an oven, and mine is on the fritz, and you say don’t worry about it?!”
Number 13: Candace is losing it.
Sam intervened, “Give Wendy a call, and see if you can use her oven tonight to finish baking your stuff. We’ll keep working on this, and hopefully it will be up and running by tomorrow.”