Here is one of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving tales, which many of you have already heard multiple times:
Our good friends (when they were still together), Alex & Maima, used to visit us every Thanksgiving–for about 9 or so years. Maima went to culinary school to become a chef and chose not to pursue that career but has a real love of food, preparation and presentation. She’s also pretty highbrow about it, but SSSHHHH! She is a great chef and we love the food she makes. They had to come down close to Thanksgiving for business once and so they stayed a little longer to feast with us. We enjoyed cooking together so much that we declared Thanksgiving “our” holiday and it was a big deal. Maima would visit armed with a slew of recipes–some for voting on and others were not up for voting, but essentially came with an entire planned meal in hand. They all were exotic or different in some way. One year we had a celery root and crab salad, which came at the end of the meal-not the at the beginning. All good and fine if you eat with restraint and save room (or are “Continental” as one guest declared), but after turkey, stuffing and whatever else is served, there really isn’t room in my mind for a salad. But, I digress. That isn’t the funny part but an aside–if you know me, you know how I feel about salads in general and those who think a lone salad is a meal.
Acquiring the items we needed for this salad–mind you, we are in the desert looking for crab in November–was epic. It’s not an easy thing to find. I could understand Maima forgetting that we no longer were in Seattle (where crab is easily procured) and I could understand Chief and Alex’s dismay at hunting down the elusive desert crab–but they weren’t the ones driving around after work searching for it, I was; I was also a non-contributor to the menu. I’d be happy with a bowl of old-fashioned bread stuffing and gravy. It’s interesting that I was the most sympathetic to Maima’s intrinsic need for culinary uniqueness, despite the fact that at the time my palate did not like unique. I’ve evolved, but (again) I digress.
While waiting for Maima to get ready for yet another shopping expedition, Alex, Chief and I were standing in the kitchen kvetching about the salad. In my defense, we are now on day 4 or so of the hunt and it’s nearing the big day. The men began huffing and joking, “Why isn’t K-R-A-B good enough? Why does it have to be C-R-A-B?” I responded, “Because it’s Maima and she has decided.” If you don’t submit suggestions or requests the meal defaults to her–not a fast or written rule, but something I realized along the way and was o.k. with: i.e., not worth the fight. I went on, “You better just let her get it out of her system and have it this year. If we don’t have it this year we’ll never hear the end of it and will probably have to do it next year. A waste of many grocery runs. Besides–I am the one driving, not you, and I say let her be.”
Alex may have flat-out refused to drive her around for the crab–I can’t remember exactly. Fortunately, we found a crab at the 4th store we went to, which wasn’t close to the house but oh, well. Sadly, I had to put the live things in the boiling water and handle it afterwards. Of course this is after the many trips in search of the at-the-time exotic celery root and other forgotten miscellaneous items. Our cabinets used to be filled with odd spices, oils and foods that had a one-time purpose in our kitchen. This was before the Food Network and the stuff she liked to cook was “out there,” at least in terms of the local Phoenix grocery stores. We also had to buy the food as close to the cooking date as possible…at any rate, we succeeded in making the exotic celery root and crab salad; Maima got it out of her system; it was tasty, but not the best salad; it was the most expensive salad I’ve ever had –over $80 to make; and we’ve laughed about it ever since.
So. Many. Trips. To. The. Store…I was near tears by the time it was all said and done, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d drive her to the store to get it out of her system–it’s what the situation called for. Lolling about the grocery store during the Thanksgiving rush is not my idea of fun. Each trip brought us closer and closer to the dreaded date. Longer and longer lines. Less fruitful trips. More exasperation. Two very sad crabs eventually coming home with us. But we finally found the main ingredients, which were also the most difficult, the Tuesday before Thanskgiving which is such a bonus in my book. Of course that didn’t mean we didn’t have to go back to the store on Wednesday…that time I didn’t drive.
Here’s hoping that you did not have to make any last minute grocery runs today (or tomorrow)!
Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy!