My small brown Spanish-speaking mother's Thanksgiving dinner always surprises people. Having grown up with a Panamanian mother who makes amazing Pennsylvania Dutch food seems perfectly normal to me, but I think guests expect to have arroz con pollo, or arroz con pavo, or something. She also kind of speaks with a Spanish and Pennsylvania Dutch accent, which is neither here nor there, but kind of something other people notice. Anyway, there is not a hint of saffron on our dinner table.
My mother came to this country when she was 17, the second youngest of twelve. She learned to cook Spanish food, the country of her mother, but her older sisters mostly cooked, then she came here, worked for a while, met my dad and married. My dad's Aunt June taught her how to cook stuffing, turkey, ham, pork and sauerkraut...anyway, you get the picture. Don't get me wrong, Mami throws down the paella like no woman's bizniz, but she also makes some mean German food.
Coming from a family of twelve kids and a large extended insane family means my mother cooks like a motherfucker. I mean, she really lays it out. There is going to be a turkey, a ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, creamed corn, regular corn, green beans, pearled onions, cranberry sauce, and a whole host of pies.
"Who is coming to dinner, Mama? Canada?"
"No, honey, I just want to send you home with leftovers."
**flip, pound, pound, pound.**
(that was Sam's heart doing a somersault, then running the length of his body with unconditional love for my mother.)
Actually, there is no editing involved, much like this blog. My mother actually has no ability to say the words, "Maybe that is too much."
My mother always says the same thing, "There are pearled onions for those who want it."
"But we know everyone and no one wants it."
"But you never know."
"No, actually, we always know."
"But we always make it and it gets eaten."
"Actually it doesn't. You tupperware it, stick it in my bag and I chuck a week later."
"Oh, people might want to eat it."
And around we go.
The desserts are always the best and worst. By best, I mean, there is every indulgence. And by worst, I mean there is every indulgence. Here is the typical conversation pre-Thanksgiving:
"Hi, Mama. What do you want me to bring for Thanksgiving? I can make the stuffing, or the potatoes."
"Bring a dessert."
"Like a pie?"
"Well, one isn't enough. Why not bring two? An apple and a pumpkin."
The problem is she is a control freak with trust issues. So she has the same conversation with everyone who attends. This year it is just my family and my cousin, and she asked me to make three pies, and then called me tonight and told me that she thought I should just buy it, since I have a baby. Whatever that means. But here is the thing, she freaks out beforehand about the desserts and ends up buying some decadent cake, like chocolate mousse or cheesecake. After she told me I should have just bought a pie instead of baking three this morning, she also mentioned that she picked up a cheesecake, oh and some brownies, because some people like chocolate. It is literally my family, my mother and stepfather, and my cousin. WHICH PEOPLE?!?!
Anyway, the point is families, like my family, goes home with whole pies.
It is in just this scenario two years ago that I came to unload our post-thanksgiving car with bags of leftovers and two pies. We had an eight month old Beatrice who was screaming. And my husband was unloading and placing things on the roof and handling the car seat and our overnight bags, and we collapsed in our little home ready to boycott next year.
The next day, I drove to my sister's house to pick her up. We were going to visit our father with leftovers. I had enough for all of us, and despite my parent's divorce, he still enjoyed eating her food. It was one of many thing he missed about her.
As I drove down, the highway, I heard a crash, and looked behind me to see the car brake to a full stop. It wasn't a busy highway, luckily, and I pulled over. The man gave me the ole' New Jersey hug, which is a combo of fisticuffs through window, honk and the finger. I had no idea what just happened, but I suspected that I may have lost a hubcap or something. The man didn't stop, and clearly there was no damage or anything, because I was at a full stop on the side of the road, and he could have engaged me. So I got out of my car, walked up the road a piece, and there it sat in the middle of Route 70, my tin pie pan. Clearly with all the exhaustion, we left the pie up on the car roof and so in true homemama gangstah fashion, I pied the jackass behind me.
Yes, a drive-by pie-ing.
Happy Thanksgiving, You Wonderful Old Building and Loan. Hey, wait, that is not how it goes. Ah, well. I am off to visit my mother for about a week. Pray for me. And my waistline.