Jill N Davies
Frances had never cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner all on her own. It wasn’t that she couldn’t—she was a chef of some renown—but that she came from a very large family. It was impossible to fit even the most modest of sides, most reasonable appetizer or bite-sized of desserts into the mix when there were so many hands in the kitchen.
Coming from a large family made holidays the stuff of chaos. The way she figured, the apocalypse was probably more organized than her parent’s house on a holiday. The kitchen absolutely bursted with the smells of so many dishes…
Grandma Trudy’s famous roast, Uncle Iver’s pickled radishes, Great Grandma Ida’s spiced potatoes…
And then you had to count the current generation: Hildy’s brownie bottom pumpkin pie, Trevor’s sweet corn casserole, cousin Barbara’s pineapple upside-down sweet potato dish…. It was enough to make anyone’s head spin, even before counting the varieties of cookies the kids made!
And the food was only the half of it all. Each family member managed to bring their own drama to the table. Since Frances was a chef, she embodied that drama in the dishes:
Momma’s histrionic glazed ham
Anita’s baked brie stuffed with petty jealousy
Cousin Benji’s pigs in a blanket with another woman, resting on a pile of divorce paper cabbage and served with alimony sauce
So when the opportunity arose for a solo Thanksgiving, Frances basked in the idea of a peaceful, drama-free meal. She just hadn’t realized how judgy the food could be.
Turkey trussed-up in a double-deep roasting pan stuffed with vegetables, mounds of potatoes obscuring the counter-top, bowls full of lettuces, breadcrumbs and several experimental sauces, Frances viewed her world.
She took a sip of wine, letting the bright acidity contrast the scent of simmering broth laced with rosemary.
“I’m so glad I don’t have to spend the day smelling Aunt Kacy’s over-seasoned green beans with emotional-baggage mushrooms,” she said to the turkey.
She took another sip of wine, staring at the turkey as if she expected it to respond.
But it was the sprouts that spoke up.
“You sure don’t sound like you’re enjoying it,” they said.
Frances looked around the room, startled to find no one there. Her eyes settled on the sprouts. She tilted her head curiously as she studied their ordinary-ness.
“It’s nice not to have any drama,” she said.
“No drama? What do you call that panic-attack you had when the salt-shaker top came off then?” the turkey asked.
Frances gave the turkey a stern side eye and said, “Fixing that issue means that you’re going into the oven instead of the trash, so watch that attitude!”
The Turkey gulped and the oven dinged. She grabbed a couple of oven mitts and set about the task of getting the bird settled.
“Enjoy yourself in there!” she said.
“I will!” the turkey replied.
She gave it a content nod before shutting the oven.
“Where’s my wine glass?” she asked.
“Over here!” it called.
She retrieved it, took a sip, and decided that it wasn’t weird that her food was talking to her.
“You all make better company, anyway,” she said.
“You don’t miss your family at all?” the chopped potatoes asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Frances said.
“No, but you said that a bunch of talking food made for better company than your family. Don’t you think that means there’s something wrong with you?” the Waldorf salad asked.
“Food’s always spoken to me. It’s why I became a chef!” Frances said.
“Yeah, but we’re literally talking to you,” came the muffled voice of the roasting turkey.
Frances shrugged. “You’re all just in my head. What’s the harm?”
“Some serious mental and emotional ramifications, probably,” the pecan pie suggested.
“Cuz you’re not quite drunk yet!” the pinot chimed in.
“Damn, that was gonna be my excuse,” Frances said. The diced fruit snickered.
“Just admit that you miss them!” the sage-rubbed sweet potatoes said.
“I don’t! I don’t miss them! Family is nothing but drama, noise and a bunch of people who don’t appreciate your cranberry sauce,” Frances said.
“Didn’t Uncle Iver like your cranberry sauce?” the sprouts asked.
“Yeah, and cousin Chelsea too!” The turkey piped in.
“And Pappa, don’t forget him,” the pumpkin risotto added.
“Sure, a couple people liked them, but Mark’s kids said they were goopy and Grandma Jane threw them out after dinner. She said there was no room for leftovers!” Frances argued.
“Maybe they were goopy,” the potatoes said.
“They wouldn’t even know! They took one look at them and stuck their noses up!” Frances cried.
“Maybe you’re being a little sensitive,” the pinot suggested.
“I’m not being sensitive! My mom’s the one who gets sensitive. Anita and Hildy get sensitive. Those cranberries were the same recipe that got me my first star,” Frances argued.
“So?” the brioche rolls asked.
“So they’re important!” Frances snapped.
“Maybe this isn’t about cranberry sauce,” The turkey suggested.
“Yeah, maybe this has more to do with feeling like your family doesn’t appreciate you,” the sprouts agreed.
“They don’t,” Frances agreed.
“Do you appreciate them?” the yams asked.
“I… do. Most of the time,” Frances faltered.
“When you’re not criticizing their cooking,” the rolls said.
“And their personal problems!” the mushrooms added.
“I don’t criticize,” Frances argued.
“What about the dish names—Henry’s close-talking clafloutis—and all that?”
The food was talking all at once now, their voices overlapping.
“Okay, so maybe I can be a bit of a jerk to them sometimes too. It’s hard not being noticed, being put aside because I’m the single at the table. Always sleeping on the sofa because I don’t have a partner… I just want to feel important!” She said.
“So you shut yourself in and made a 12-course meal all to yourself?” The turkey asked.
“Who’s going to tell you you’re important, you?” the pie asked.
“She probably expects it to be us,” They sprouts said. Frances could practically hear their non-existent eyes roll in the back of their sprout-y little heads.
“Alright! I get it! I’ll go call them right now. Will that make you happy?” She asked.
The vegetables cheered.
“Put them on video so they can see my drippings!” They turkey yelled.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Frances chuckled.
She set her wine glass on the counter and made her exit in search of her phone. The door shut, knocking a small paper sack over and spilling its contents.
“Can you believe she didn’t even notice me?” the spilled cranberries asked indignantly.