I had dreams about our first thanksgiving in Athens. Turkeys aren’t found as easily in Athenian freezers, so I opted for three fat hens in the local deli case. There are few things that actually scare me in the kitchen but one of them is cooking large chunks of meat, and the other cooking large pots of rice. Both had to be conquered so I squared my shoulders and hauled home the rice and chickens.
I made a beautiful brine with salt and lemon and Eric bathed the unfortunate hens while I tried to organize my brain and my tiny kitchen. I baked a few apple currant galettes and an apple cake, and dumped some buttery caramel on the top. Feeling optimistic, I even substituted currants for cranberries and made a sauce that bubbled cheerfully on the back burner.
About then is when misfortune attacked my kitchen. Or then it was just the combination of my tiny space and too many pots and pans awry. I found apple juice at the market and set it to simmer on the back burner. I had some wonderful smelling doterra oils; cardamon and clove, and added some of both. It smelled wonderful and tasted entirely like a clove bud (there IS a reason clove oil comes in a very tiny bottle). I added more juice, some ginger, and simmered it forever, and it still tasted bitter with clove.
About then my large, white platter (for the hens!) teetered and crashed on my countertop, and cracked down the middle, leaving two big pieces in my hands.
I stuffed them in the trash.
My sourdough rolls rose beautifully in the pan and I set them to bake. When I reached in the check them, the shelf dropped and I caught them in time to smash two of them soundly and significantly alter the rest. I comforted myself that I would smother them in butter. I set them on the stove top, and almost immediately heard that sickening cccrrraaaaack and realized I had set them on a piping hot burner, and my favorite pan was shattered.
I salvaged most of the rolls, and tried to arrange them on a plate to hide their abnormalities. Then I doused the hens in butter and herbs and stuffed them with onion and lemon and placed them gingerly in the oven. After chopping veggies and potatoes, I set them to roast slowly above the hens and crossed my fingers for good results.
Abby made a lovely salad, and the door bell started ringing. I lit the candles, and blew a cloud of relief that the chickens roasted fine. The veggies turned to mush instead of roasting nicely, and my Afghani friend who was going to make the rice didn’t come on time so I dumped some biriani spice into my largest pot along with oil and an onion and braved it myself.
My friend came dashing in the door late, and let me know I used twice the amount of spice, and too much water. Even if I love spice and rice, this was too much; a whole mass of mushy spice.
The table sure didn’t look like my dream, but the faces coming in the door were sweet and warm, and one of them brought me a beautiful bouquet of roses. We sliced the chickens and burned our tongues on the rice, and I don’t think anyone cared too much. We shared stories and dreams and represented Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sweden while we sipped on the clove cider to cool the burn from the biriani.
When I rose to attack the rising mound of dishes in the kitchen, I heard a resounding (and all-too-familiar) CRASH! A glass mug fell from the kitchen shelf straight onto the large glass bowl of salad, shattering both.
We may have shattered the platter, the roll pan, the mug, and the salad bowl but we gained things this thanksgiving that can never be broken. Perfect love is so much more important than perfect turkeys. Following Jesus is so much more important then beautiful tables and shivering pumpkin pies.
Somedays following Him takes me straight into unknowns, like trying to bake perfect chickens and cook perfect rice. And more importantly straight into the stories and lives of people that matter a lot more.
When things quieted I cleaned my kitchen I made a huge pot of broth from the chicken. Today I chopped in some veggies and it made a beautiful soup. One friend came grieving because she is losing her sight, another with a leg infection, and another three months pregnant. Another came with his dog and tied him in my kitchen. I gritted my teeth and bore it silently until he peed over the heater, and then all my pent up nerves let go in a panic of laughter and disinfectant.
We served them the spicy biriani rice doused in the soup to stretch the soup and calm the burn, and our hearts are warm and grateful.
Perfect love is a lot more important than perfect turkeys, after all.