On Wednesday evening, as we pulled out of our driveway, I noticed that our rose bush had forced out one last bloom. Unusual. Our roses usually bloom in June and again in August, but this was the end of November - yet there it was, proud banner at the very top of the otherwise-dormant bush, looking bright and fragrant and summer-y. I asked for a volunteer to cut it and bring it in from the impending frost, but no one was willing, so when we got home I cut it for myself, placing it in a bud vase by the kitchen sink.
Every Thanksgiving, my husband invites people to our home for dinner. There are plenty of lonely people around here. Even though our home is uninvitingly small and I am a poor cook at best, Thanksgiving is all about togetherness, and no one should spend the day alone. Typical of those without plans, most of them don't let us know if they will come until just before the meal is served. I am not usually familiar with the people who are invited, and sometimes meet them for the first time when they arrive at my house.
Being a poor cook, I used to be quite sensitive about having people over. It's hard to prepare foods for special events when there is no hope of the food being special. However, over the years I've become pretty good at a few dishes: turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and homemade rolls. While I will never make a Thanksgiving Feast cookbook, my versions are passable and sometimes, by chance, tasty.
This year, however, the potatoes were a problem. First of all I forgot to buy them. When I realized on Wednesday evening that I didn't have them, I considered skipping them altogether, but they are a favorite with Teen, so off to the crowded supermarket I went (which is when I spied the rose). On our return home, I scrubbed, cubed, and boiled them. Something wasn't right, though. Some of the potato cubes were overdone, while others seemed undercooked. I drained and mashed them anyway, but the result was a starchy, lumpy concoction that even I was embarrassed to claim. I decided it was too late to change plans, though, and on Thursday I put them into the oven with the rest of the food to warm. To add to my embarrassment, the top and sides ended up a bit crusty. Ah, well. No one really expects gourmet meals from me, and there would be plenty of gravy.
All of our guests called with regrets, but at the last minute one man, David, decided to come. My husband introduced us, then Teen and I set the food on the table and we all sat down to the meal. After a prayer of thanks, I served as we made small talk. Everything was going well until I began to serve those potatoes. I mentioned that they'd been a bit of a problem to make. My husband said, "Oh! Well, David can help you with that. He's a chef!"
At my table.
And I'm a terrible cook.
And I've ruined the simplest dish on the table.
I heaped everyone's plates Thanksgiving-full, but went very light on the potatoes. I didn't want the added embarrassment of having six plates full of potatoes to scrape into the garbage. Gravy, butter, salt, and pepper were passed, and we began to eat. The usual compliments were passed, as well: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and rolls all were duly noted.
Then it started. "These potatoes are delicious!!" "Amazing!" "Wonderful!" Everyone ate their potatoes. Most asked for more...and more. The chef had three helpings, all the while extolling the virtues of the incredible potatoes.
Figures. The one thing I cook fantastically well is not only an accident, it's also not reproducible! Still, it felt good to have cooked something that everyone genuinely liked.
We enjoyed the rest of the day, sharing family stories, playing Wii, and discussing Scripture. The table was cleared and our guest left after a very pleasant time together.
Reflecting on the meal and fellowship as I washed dishes, I sniffed my unlikely rose and called it a good day.