It Takes A Village

charlie, lotus augie oliver thanksgiving

I just came back from my third but not last trip to the market. Thanksgiving is in approximately two days, two-and-a-half, to be exact. I’m dizzy, I have a touch of vertigo, and I’m also dizzy from anxiety. Lethal combination.

I was given instructions from one friend, Robin, to ask the butcher to nearly cook me my turkey. She said I could ask him to take the whole bird out of its bag, clean it, pull everything that’s inside out and put that in one bag, and place the turkey in yet another bag. I liked the whole concept of never having to really touch the damn thing.

This Thanksgiving dinner crap is like my math phobia on steroids. I can’t help but think of my mom at this time because she did it all — and did it effortlessly. My mom didn’t ask for help chopping, shopping or even to clean up. We were all spoiled by this. Not to mention, she did the whole Thanksgiving dinner with no anxiety, and could have done that meal for us, on-demand, every night of the year.

Gelson’s, my market, wasn’t fully staffed, so there was a long line to ask for help from the one butcher. People stared me down when they heard of my over-the-top, time-consuming request. Embarrassed, I tried to explain that I don’t really cook turkeys. Two women nearby tried to help me; everyone seems to think cooking a turkey is as easy as pie, so to speak. And I don’t think pies are easy, so there goes that saying.

My friend Joy promised to e-mail a recipe to me, but since these two women were being held hostage by my demands of the butcher, they used the time wisely by offering me advice. It sounded so simple. It always does. I liked the younger woman because she seemed to have an easygoing temperament. She was so pleasant that I now wanted to be invited to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. Please invite me, it’s just me and my six guests.

Frankly, I’ve been angling to be invited somewhere for weeks. Thanksgiving has always seemed overwhelming. For years I could count on my family, or if not my own family then my boyfriend’s at the time, or my husband’s. I loved going to Gourmet Grandma’s house (mother of the ex-husband), because, well, it’s obvious — she’s a gourmet cook!

This year, as each week passed and we got closer and closer to this semi-dreaded, semi-thrilling holiday, I kept asking my kids if they were invited to go to their dad’s, which really means his mom’s. I never got an answer, so I worried that they never got an invitation. Finally I received a call that all mothers (or all other mothers) would love. My daughter announced that she and her fiancé and his adorable four-year old would definitely be coming to my house for the big day. “Why? Is something happening here?” I thought. Instead I said, “Great. Are you sure?”

She seemed not to pick up on my ambivalence and I still thought this could change. Her father might yet call with that invite. Then I got another phone call from my oldest son who said that he, too, would be here for Thanksgiving. Everybody was RSVP-ing to an invitation not sent. Now, it suddenly seemed set in stone — I was going to be the hostess of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

It hasn’t been easy since my mother died, scrambling at the last minute to figure out where I’m going. Even less easy when I remarried and we became seven people, five kids, two adults. Mind you, we don’t eat a lot, but still it’s hard to be invited somewhere when there’s seven of you. One year, I was solo because my husband was back east with his family and my kids were at Gourmet Grandma’s. That was easy. I thought/hoped that this year would be a repeat.

The year I was alone I went to my friend Tracy’s Godmother’s house and she hired a chef for the night, a meal I have not forgotten — and it’s been many years already. Some years we, the seven of us, were invited to my husband’s ex-wifes house. I always loved that because it sort of role-modeled for my ex-husband what life in a civilized world should be.

I’m sorry to say that in recent years it hasn’t stayed so civilized and we are no longer invited to the ex-wife’s house. Sometimes we’ve tried restaurants, and I do like the idea of being served and having no clean-up, but it isn’t really conducive for spending quality family time. Also, you miss all those delicious smells in your home.

For many years (and even this year), I will secretly admit that I longed for an invitation to Gourmet Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner. And you know what? I wouldn’t even care if we were civilized or not. I would easily suffer through the glaring, hateful eyes of my ex and his mother, just to eat her amazing food. I’m a food ho and I know it. I can and have been shameless in my life wrangling invitations to the homes of people where I know the food will be good. I was aware of the options for this year. Robin, an amazing cook, had invited me ages ago, so that’s where I really planned to be had I been alone or just with my husband.

I am aware that my friend Joyce, also an amazing cook, is having people over, and I might have called her to say that I’m alone and then hope for an invite. Or, I know Kimme is cooking, she’s so gifted, and I’m like family, so that could have been an option. I had entertained the idea of driving up to help my friend Cathy who is serving at a women’s rehab shelter. Jenne, a friend in my hood who is a seriously-talented cook, invited our whole crew over. But I just wouldn’t feel right about it. Here is what I do feel right about though: I’m asking for Jenne’s help. She is making her cornbread stuffing for me. And gravy. I’ve never even tried her cornbread stuffing, yet I know it’s going to be brilliant. I often tell her she needs to go into a business, cooking privately for rich people.

During that one trip, and others, to Gelson’s, I picked up a lot of advice about preparing a turkey. Everyone seemed to want to help me. But it was mutual because we were all collectively helping each other. Either where to locate hard-to-find items in the store, or to figure out how long the turkey should cook for. The younger woman said definitely foil throughout most of the cooking, and the other woman said no on that, or was it the opposite? I don’t know, I couldn’t be more confused, but I’m just going to have faith and jump in. You know, as long as I don’t have to actually touch the damn thing. I have Domy right now in my house helping me with that, putting everything but the kitchen sink inside the cavity.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m enlisting a lot of help on this Thanksgiving and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. I’m also thankful for my oh-so-talented and soulful kids. Thankful for my husband (and his decision to be out-of-town at his sister’s and not pacing impatiently in the kitchen) and for his kids and yes, even for his ex-wife. Thankful for Jenne who is cooking those few things for me. Thankful for all my friends, because I truly love and cherish them and I think they know that. If not, they can read this blog and find out. Thankful for my brother and his beautiful family. I am, and will forever be, especially thankful for the parents that raised us; my dad, who I miss more than words can say, and my mother for being a great nurturer and cook. As long as I live, I will miss her pecan pie, made every year at this time, but of course made on-demand any other day of the year.

I just wrote those last words about being thankful when, in the serendipitous way that my life always seems to turn, my brother called to say that his wife Kris had just made me a pecan pie, my mom’s recipe, as a gift. My sister-in-law Kris has done this for me at Christmas time, but never before at Thanksgiving, so it came as a complete and wonderful surprise. Something else for which to be very thankful.

Enjoy my mom’s and my Granny’s pecan pie recipe

the pie my sister in-law Kris made me (the following year, 2010)

please feel free to buy any pie crust you might like, my mother made her own with shortening.
Evelyn's Pecan Pie

oliver, max, augie, barnaby thanksgiving

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14 Responses to “It Takes A Village”

  1. Kim says:

    Nice… Hope it turned out well. I see how i wasn’t mentioned as an option!

  2. Janet Petkin says:

    What a comedienne!! that was hysterical: particularly how the ex’s played in. you are blessed for your kids and ex’s.

    Next year throw a complete potluck luck buffet party with your Facebook friends: two thousand people will show up with two thousand dishes.
    Just provides tables, paper plates, soft drinks, etc.

    I am guessing the whole town will show up. Cute.

  3. rosanna arquette says:

    hey honey i love this blog .. you could have come with me to my families….. i thought you were cooking up a storm for everyone …. anyway i will give you my tips next time since this is the best meal i make .. send you love and peace ro

  4. Fredde dear – you made me laugh so hard and then i cried equally as hard. i guess i have known you for too many years, in and out of it all and then some. I know your turkey was as delighful as your heart!! here is my own and thanks for sharing.


  5. Madeleine Gallay says:

    Love this. You are the best writer and this is so the way it is.

  6. Chris Pina says:

    I read all your posts and they’re wonderful. I love how Mike thanks you and cleans up after – and I love your appreciation of your husband. You guys are cool.
    PS – You’ve got a fan.

  7. I LOVE that you loathe turkeys and am happy to know you can ask the (one) butcher to get all the yuck out of it ..

    Pecan pie forever.

  8. Gidget Flori says:

    Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Fantastic. I’m also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

  9. Laura Plotkin says:

    So much fun to read–as always. We are gearing up here for the first of two days of hosting 16 people each night (my husband loves to cook, thank god, and now the kids are old enough to help by bringing a dish of their own, so I am in relaxed mode). Just to add to the humor of the typical “California family,” my husband’s ex comes the first night with her son from a second marriage and her sister and borther-in-law join us as well). Flexibility is key in all things. Just enjoy! XOX

  10. Mumy says:

    I’m sure it’ll be yummy and funny.

  11. pauli says:

    I remember reading this in 2009 and thinking, I would really like to invite this person and her 6 guests over for Thanksgiving dinner. But I don’t really know her. Well, here we are 4 years later and I think after getting to know you a little that the best thing would be for you to have a pre-Thanksgiving “pot Luck” for your friends where everyone brings a dish (enough for 10 people) and then, abracadabra – instant Thanksgiving. No stress. And all us Fredde fans could rub elbows. Just an idea. 2014? Love you and wish I had know you years ago…

  12. Linda says:

    Love you ….Happy Thanksgiving! And remember,.you ways have an invitation here … XOXO

  13. jennifer dudley arbs says:

    Ok.. One of your CTFC I forget or didn’t read …. I usually if not always make a point of responding.. not just because you are wacky broad .. Your writing is an inspiration … and what’s with the KICK ASS slogan..from your new fb photo KICK ASS SMILE/// that you have always possessed … just make sure your ASS isn’t filled with left over turkey and all the stuffings… Happy Day After. xxx000 and one to grow an inch on.. jenn

  14. Linda says:

    Why? Is something happening here? … brilliant!

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