Thursday, November 5, 2009

Life's A Feast, and Sometimes You Have to Eat Big!

I don't know why it is that setting your teeth into a well-browned hunk of hog makes you feel good, but it works for me. For Thanksgiving and Christmas I want meat, and I don't mean a measly, puny, stunted portion, either. I want big, maddeningly fragrant mounds of steer, hog or bird, or maybe all three, drenched with gravy.

Holiday meats should be baked until all you have to do is gently nudge some critical joint, and the whole thing sweetly falls apart into neat little sheaves. This meat is not burned, it is charmed, and you can eat right through its coral bones.

I wonder what spiritual eunuch first banned "cooking odors" from the home? I want to smell that heavy hunters-and-gatherers food baking. Morning of the banquet day you put the standing rib roast or the big boss bird in the oven. If it's a turkey, I will have dipped a length of cheesecloth into a pound of melted butter and snugly wrapped up that tom; he's now our big gilded turkey baby. In the next hours, ragingly delicious smells expand in golden waves from the kitchen.

Then the best time of all comes: you sit down to eat the food you love the best, with those you love the best. A glass or two of crystal white wine, or potent red goes well with this--wines that are the soul of grape, so that they seem to kiss you back when you smack them. At the end, there are berry pies nestled in buttery crusts. In our family, there's also a hundred-year tradition of serving candied nuts in the same gorgeous china bowl. I'm sure you know there are saints' bones that are handled with less reverence than we lavish on that bowl.

Then everyone alternates sipping his or her dark, fine coffee and nibbling the brown-sugar-crusted nuts of the field. We look around the table at these faces that we love, and every one of us (even the agnostics) thinks, "Thank you, God!"

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