Recently, a friend described her Thanksgiving table as the Land of the Misfit Toys. “Anyone who doesn’t have a place to go comes to my house,” she said. Years ago that was us when David and I were new to the East Coast, and two gay men, Glenn and Donald, took us under their turkey wing.
“Suzetteski, we’re cooking the entire Thanksgiving menu from Gourmet Magazine! Why don’t you and David come?” said Glenn, a master cook.
Back in 1996 we had relocated from California to Connecticut, and so to have a place to go for the holiday comforted me in ways I hadn’t expected. I had met Glenn at a local coffeehouse where I worked as the morning barista. At first we were wary of each other. He found me too perky, and I found him too critical. As we became friends, he saw me as “energetic” and I thought him “discerning.”
That Thanksgiving, David and I arrived to find beribboned topiaries dotting the marble counters of the kitchen. Standing on a Persian runner, Glenn dabbed at the Waterford with embossed towels. It was hard to imagine anyone cooking an entire magazine menu because there wasn’t a breadcrumb or a lettuce leaf in sight.
“How do you manage such a pristine kitchen?” I marveled.
“Oh, the sous chef is downstairs doing all the prep work.”
That would be Donald, and “sous chef” is Glenn’s fancy name for the peeler, slicer and dicer. Mess has no place on Planet Glenn, thus Donald’s banishment to the basement kitchen. Suddenly his assistant emerged from the scullery. Donald was in his sixties, and his good-natured calm was a counterpoint to 40-year-old Glenn’s vivacity. Soon cocktail glasses were clinking. My scientist husband shared stories of his boyhood in the North of England. In San Francisco where I grew up I had worked in the legal field for two decades, now I was pumping espresso, the most fun I’ve had in years. Glenn, an interior designer, recalled how he did backbreaking garden work in his teens just so he could afford fancy shirts. Donald talked about how much life has changed for gay folks since his own memories of the Stonewall riots in 1969.
“Get out of the L, get out of the L!” Glenn scooted invaders out of the L-shaped working space bordering his stainless steel stove.
Soon the feast was ready. For just the four of us, the boys had cooked everything from the Thanksgiving pages of Gourmet Magazine. The pony-sized turkey was savory with herbs and hand-prepared chestnuts, which are very labor intensive. We saluted to the sous chef.
Donald said, “I had no idea how long it takes to peel those suckers.”
There were dauphine potatoes, glistening green beans and fancy squash laced with real maple. The root vegetables wowed me since turnips and kohlrabi are so hard to cut. One time my knife got stuck, Excaliber-style, in a rutabaga, and I told them, “I was so tempted to throw the whole thing away, knife and all.”
“Tell me about it,” Donald said.
The dinner was a triumph. We laughed and ate and belched and laughed and later dug into a swoon of a pumpkin pie. Our two friends had scaled a culinary Mount Everest.
“We should have started two days earlier, but we thought we could get everything done last night,” said Glenn.
“What do you mean ‘we’? I was the one peeling until three in the morning.”
Glenn rolled his eyes. “Donald, that’s because you’re the sous chef and I had my own duties.”
“Right — like polishing the silver,” Donald replied.
I raised my glass, “Boy, boys! A toast to your wonderful meal! We can taste the love. We’ve never had an entire Gourmet Magazine menu before!”
Glenn’s hyena laugh filled the room, “And Suzetteski, we’ll probably never do it again.”
Donald bowed his head in thanks, “Amen!”
Many are from the land of misfit toys and to those hosts who take in the untethered for Thanksgiving, God bless you!
(This post first appeared in The Huffington Post, 11/21/2013)