It's 3am and I'm awaiting the last oven timer's digital beep. She has been an overworked laborer today. Following a 7 pound chicken, cornbread dressing, candied yams, and a pumpkin pie, her final task this early morning is to bake the two chocolate layers of birthday cake necessary for the quick approaching celebratory date of a certain staff sergeant.
It was 8 or 9am before I finalized the decision to go ahead with the production of a miniature Turkey Day spread. I settled on a menu: roasted chicken, steamed green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, candied yam patties, cornbread dressing [of course!], cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin pie. Then my soldier and I braved the crowds of Turkey Trotters, last minute grocery fiends [like yours truly], and the usual damnit-I'm-out-of-[essential ingredient]-shoppers. It was mayhem that no Army training or seasoned chef experience could have readied a person for, but we prevailed. He had an agenda to entertain, and I needed to find my culinary center so, for a bit, we parted ways to best utilize the day off.
There were pans, pots, and casserole dishes shuffled from dish washer to oven to stove-top to sink, and chopping, steaming and seasoning, and antiquated Christmas carols, and chocolate chip cookies from last night...
I find that I feel very calm in the systematic madness of a busy kitchen. There is a deadline and a number of dishes that must all be finished and hot at the same time, and a workspace only large enough for a quick pirouette [assuming you're the only one occupying the space]. It's a challenge, but manageable, and the fulfillment of success is unmatchable. I was happy as a peach churning out the holiday ensemble and filling the momentary lulls with blips of conversational well-wishes and cooking questions. I was at home in my cramped little galley with the notion of guests arriving at six. Finally, it announced itself in neon green numbers across the tiny screen of my microwave, and low and behold, the chicken was done and everything else standing by on "warm". If that achievement wasn't enough, paired with the greatest of companionship, my day was perfection!
...Ah, I love the holidays! [Even when the situation makes them very tempting to hate.]