Monday, October 10, 2011

Thirteen at the Table

I’m not much for cooking. Never have been. Cooking is a chore that holds little appeal for me. My greatest culinary achievement is that I’ve never given anyone food poisoning. (Except myself a couple of months ago with a hotdog of dubious condition, but that was thankfully minor.)

I do have a few specialties. Thanks to my brother-in-law, I make a decent Rouladin; my lasagne is okay; I make a killer Chicken Florentine; my potato and split-pea soups are awesome; my beef stew is delicious; and I have managed to pull off a few not-so-bad turkey dinners in my time. I also make a pretty good tuna casserole and creamed tuna on toast smothered in cheese is one of my favourites. Baking is another story; I like to bake and have been known to pull some really yummy things out of the oven.

So, while I can find my way around the kitchen, I tend to require a detailed map when a meal is the destination. Even then, I tend to meander down improvised routes, taking detours around ingredients my unadventurous palate prefers to avoid – like most cooked veggies. Ugh. My cooking motto is: Cheese fixes almost everything.

Every now and then, I decide to have a dinner. Thanksgiving is often the time when I am drawn into the kitchen with the intention of cooking a meal for a number of invitees. I think I like this holiday because there are no religious connotations attached to it. It’s a nice, friendly, neutral occasion worthy of good food, good wine and good company. This being my first Thanksgiving at Alegria, I decided to take on the task of serving dinner and started tossing out invitations to some of the near and dear with and for whom I wanted to share my table – 12 in all.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that if everyone showed up there would be thirteen at the table. While I’m typically superstitious, thirteen is not a number to which I attach bad luck or ill tidings to. In fact, as numbers go, 13 is a numerologically auspicious number. Like all number energies, it does have its dark side, but so does everything. To be on the safe side, I imbibed my meal with as much five energy as possible. And it paid off with much laughter and jollity. Everyone seemed to have had a good time.

The dinner consisted of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, carrots and buns with pumpkin and apple pies for dessert. A traditional Thanksgiving meal! Except for the part where I tried a few new recipes...

For instance, I brined the turkey. For 24 hours before it went into the oven, the turkey was immersed in a concoction of apple cider, chicken broth, onions and spices. The stuffing, rather than coming safely from a box, bravely combined bread crumbs, chorizo, dried apricots, walnuts, onions, celery, chicken broth and spices. The cranberry sauce was home made with maple syrup, cinnamon and cloves. The gravy incorporated some of the marinade, making for an interesting and unconventional sauce that was just a touch sweet and delightfully different.

All was well until I started to realize that I had no idea how any of this stuff was going to taste. A little ball of panic started to swell in the pit of my stomach. What if it all tasted like crap? What was I thinking, making food that I’ve never tried and had no idea what to expect? The little ball of panic spread and grew. I considered faking the flu and calling the whole thing off at the last minute. But then the first guests arrived and if I hadn’t been committed earlier, I certainly was then! People were gathering in my home, expecting to be fed. And there was no back-up plan if the food turned out bad.

Wine! A glass of Gewurstraminer might help calm the old nerves, all of which were rapidly reaching the snapping point.

More guests arrived. Armed with a chilled glass of wine, I put on a brave face and welcomed them into my home. I began setting them up with wine of their own, or, in the case of some, beer, coolers or coffee. I was relieved to hear things like, “It’s smells delicious!” as coats were hung up and small clusters of people gathered to engage in small talk.

But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the moment of truth all too quickly arrived. “Come and get it,” I called past the lump in my throat.

My guests lined up to fill their plates from the buffet-style arrangement. (We didn’t actually sit at a table since that was impossible to do.) They found places to sit and started digging in. I tucked in as well...

It was far from being gastronomically spectacular. But it wasn’t bad. As I looked around, no one was gagging and as plates were cleaned off of food, several people went back for seconds – always a good sign! Conversation was light and much laughter filled the air. Food – and relief – forced the anxiety to abandon its hold on my abdomen. I started to revel in the great company I was surrounded by. If ever I had something to be thankful for, it was this wonderful group of people who dared to share this holiday repast with me.

As for thirteen at the “table,” two guests were unable to make it. So eleven it was. In numerology, 11 is one of the three master numbers (the other two being 22 & 33). It represents a strong foundation on which to build. A higher vibration of the number 2 (1 + 1 = 2), 11 brings harmony to the table – so to speak – with intuitive humanitarianism and sensitive charisma. All-in-all, a good number for a dinner party.

And now I’m looking forward to left-over turkey sandwiches and home-made turkey noodle soup. But first a slice of apple pie for breakfast...

1 comment:

  1. Wish we could have been there - as I wish you could be with us today!


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