Carving the turkey, practical jokes, Nathan, and knives...
(Tim) On Thanksgiving, my sorrow over the absence of our brother, Nathan, is most acute. Food and table fellowship were Nathan's specialty.
In his home, I envied his ability to host a meal. Whether lunch or dinner, his enjoyment of his wife, Sandy, their children, the food, the sunshine streaming through their dining room windows, music, and you, his guests, was contagious. He was a gentleman so he told merry jokes. Just before the meal, Nathan clucked over the table, finished off the iced tea, chose the music (usually baroque brass leading up to the meal and something quieter while we sat and talked), took taste tests, spiced up this or that dish, kissed Sandy--oh the Christian joy!
Thanksgivings, too, were the day each year that Nathan pulled out his soapstones and sharpened the knives of whatever home we'd gathered in. He'd work on them in the kitchen. Were they sharp enough, yet? The test was shaving hair off the forearm or a clean vertical cut down through a piece of paper, leaving no ragged edges. (Here's a great account of the growing custom knife business.)
Then it was off to manhandle the turkey. Men do it in our family, but not because we don't cook. Nathan and Dad were both superb cooks, but regardless of the sex of the chefs, carving the turkey was man's work. (Here's a short video on carving the turkey--thanks, Jake.)
Speaking of carving the turkey, back in time to our childhood home for a minute or two. Mud and Dad always had a ton of people for Thanksgiving...
First, of course, our Aunt Gail: She was an elderly widow who lived alone in Wheaton and was an adopted family member. Each Thanksgiving, Dad asked her to bless the meal. No one prays like that any more. Steeped in Scripture, she began with a matter-of-fact statement of our unworthiness before God to receive any single one of His infinite blessings--most especially this fellowship around this table loaded down with food He Himself provided.
Aunt Gail also had the privilege of ending the meal with her ritual proclamation: "That was a delicious sufficiency. Any more would be a superfluous redundancy."
Usually, there were twenty-five or so at our table with about half guests who had no family of their own. So the Christian home spread her wings and they nestled underneath.
Most years, Mud and Dad had a few words over the cooking of the turkey. Our kitchen was always on the verge of being spoiled by too many cooks--before the meal, that is. After the meal, competitition was gone; we kids had it to ourselves until it was spic-and-span spotless.
Meal prep equally shared between the two of them many evenings, most Sundays after church, and every Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, Dad owned some of the dishes and Mud others. But they always shared the turkey and most years tension over temperature, timing, or basting wasn't absent. But it was always a lover's quarrel.
One year, Dad pulled a humdinger. Years before, Mud and Dad had built an in-law apartment in the lower level of our split-level where Mud's parents lived their final few years. The apartment had a full-sized stove and oven that ran off the propane tank hidden in my mother's perennial and rose garden behind the house. Since, following my grandparents' death, the kitchen was never used, we all forgot it existed.
One year when we were having a particularly large crowd, Dad got up in the middle of the night, stuffed and tied a Cornish game hen and put it in a regular sized broiler pan, then placed that pan in the oven in our kitchen and moved the turkey down to the oven in the apartment.
The time came to take the turkey out of the oven the next day. All the guests had arrived so Dad suggested Mud do the honors. She went over to the oven, opened the door, and lifted up the broiler pan. She said she'd been surprised by how light it was, but she carried it over to the butcher block table at the center of the kitchen and, lifting up the lid, Nathan caught a picture of her mouth wide, eyes popping out as she gazed down at her turkey--now reduced to a itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny Cornish game hen!
Later, she told us she was thinking, "Well, if that big bird shrunk down to such a tiny size, maybe one bite will be enough to fill us." Amidst much laughter and glee, Dad brought the real turkey up from the apartment and all was well. We ate both Cornish game hen and turkey that year.
So, what practical joke will add to the joy of your home this year? Who will pray? What guests have you invited? Have you sharpened your knives, yet? Who's going to carve the turkey?
Be a man and do it.
God is so very good to us. Bless Him by blessing others tomorrow, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.