Writer. Cook. Chocolatier. Celebrationist.

 

  • Mary Gulland is one resentful, angry, slave-driving wench. This Thanksgiving she had me on a particularly brutal and joy-less schedule. Constantly hissing about the” ingrates and blasphemer’s, gluttons, devil’s handmaidens, rogues, villains, and Lucifer himself. All expectin’ to be stuffed like pigs on the day of Thanksgiving to the Lord”.

    As soon as dawn broke on Tuesday morning she announced herself: Rise, laggard, rise! Your indolence is profane! The wolves are expectin’ a fine feast, and a fine feast ye’ll be deliverin’!

    Her wrath and animosity stuffed me full. I scrubbed my face, and then glared angrily at my husband snoring in bed. “Sloth!”.   The disarray of the kitchen from the previous night’s shopping and food prep threw Mary into a tizzy. “Disgraceful Slattern! She flung me ferociously around the kitchen, had me organizing the groceries with a brisk precision. And then furiously scouring last night’s pots and pans, all the while sputtering about eternal damnation and the ingrates, harlots, heathens.

    The itinery for the day’s cooking stretched ahead like a terminal condition to be suffered through. “Well, get to it. The babe will be sprouting whiskers if you continue at this slovenly pace!” Peeling, chopping, dicing, measuring, stirring, all executed under Mary’s unsparing eye. “Cubes! Cubes! There’ll be none of these chunks! Are you preparin’ slop for the hogs or a feast of Thanksgiving to the Lord!”

    A lemon chiffon cake that was pulled too soon from the oven, and revealed a soggy bottom, was her inspiration for a merciless tirade. What’re you thinkin’, you silly slattern?! An unforgivable error that even a fool and a novice housemaid could not perpetrate! Your ability in the kitchen would be amusin’ if ‘tweren’t so comical! The sheer gall! Expectin’ to be paid money for such desecrations!” Roughly she set about making a replacement cake, I’m certain that her expression was as harsh as the lemons that she zested into the batter, were sour.

    The children spilled into the kitchen, each one barely prepared for the school day. A broiling bolt of rage ripped though the room. “Useless sluggards! I’ll give you each a sound whippin’! A pointy reckonin’ to jolt you from your idleness! Do you not see how I tarry for the day of Thanksgiving to the Lord! And you appear in such states of disrepair, expectin’ me to dress you and feed you and treat you as I did when you were but mewling babes! Have you no concept? No clue? Who is going to prepare for our holy Thankgsiving but I? Will you Gabriel? You can’t even accomplish your own chores!   And you Grace?! Heaven’s forbid that you lift a dainty finger for any measure of assistance! A boil on my behind that’s what you are, punishment for my early transgressions!

    After dispensing orders and harsh directions in a manner that was crushing and cold, the children were turned out into the freshly falling snow to wait for the bus, no doubt feeling infinitely warmer outdoors than in the kitchen.   She yanked me away from both my wobbly remorse and the fogged-up window. “To work! There’s much to do for the holy feast! When I was a girl I was haulin’ water and firewood for miles in blizzards and hailstorms- with nary a peep! The good Lord proclaimed that man and woman must struggle and sweat in penance for Adam and Eve’s grievous sins! Read the holy bible and it will be your knowledge!

    That night, after all my chores were completed to Mary’s grueling standards, I crumbled into bed. My hands were raw. My back ached, and my fingers were striped with knicks from my “ artless handlin’ of the knife”. Dan rolled closer to me, his deep and even breathing proof of the good night’s sleep he was having.   Mary started whispering into my brain.   “How deeply he sleeps! Like a pup in front of th’ hearth! Without a solitary care in the world! While you are slavin’ in the kitchen”

    When Dan snuggled closer to me, I hear Mary actually say Harrrumphh as I roughly give him my back.

    There was not even a slice of gray light in the room when Mary began her wake-up harangue. By the time Jonah came into the kitchen I was sure it was lunch-time, but it was only 9:30. Mary was revving herself up, about to launch into one of sputterin’ diatribes about sloth and good-for-nothin’ tom foolery’ and consortin’ with the devil, but before she could I slammed her out, with a Mary-like ferocity.

    Jonah asked if he could help me cook in the kitchen for Thankgsiving. Mary is snarlin’ righteously from the other side. He tells me about the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread they made at school, and then he ran to his room to get the recipe out of his school bag when he saw that I wasn’t going to bite his head off. Then Grace joined us in the kitchen.

    I am looking over their shoulders as they stir the thick batter.   “Scrape the sides, look at all that flour—“ I say impatiently. I stand back and watch them with a just contained apprehension . The dark chocolate chunks they mix in looks as whimsical as polka dots against the deep orange batter. I bet chopped toasted walnuts would be great in there.

    So we add chopped walnuts into the mix. They scrape the batter into loaf pans, dripping globs of it on the counter and floor as they go along. Mary unfolds in fury. Damnation and infernal hellfires threaten to pour forth.   Instead I grit my teeth, and force out slow, even words: “OK guys, thanks for all your help. Why don’t you go wash your hands, and then you can watch some TV. I’ll call you when we’re ready to take it out of the oven.”

    The kitchen counter is a landscape of baking mess. Mary is ready to explode, the kind of explosion that makes insides rattle pleasurably with release. But then I catch a whiff of the sweet and spiced pumpkin loafs baking in the oven, and a mellow rivulet of calm funnels through. And Bitch is quiet.

     

    •  2cupsall-purposeflour
    • •¾teaspoonsbakings
    • • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    • 1/4teaspoonsalt
    • •2eggs
    • •1/3cupwater
    • •1½cupsugar
    • •1cupcannedpumpkin
    • •½cupsafflowerorwalnutoilorcoconutoil
    • • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • • 1 cup bittersweet choc chips or chunks
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
    • 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a 9 x 5” loaf pan with baking spray. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until well-blended. 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and water, add sugar and mix well. Add the canned pumpkin, vegetable oil, and vanilla, blend together. 3. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture bowl and stir until blended and smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. With a spatula scrape the batter into loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is firm to the touch and when a toothpick inserted into the center
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Glossary

Bissel (bis-sul)Yiddish: A bit, a little.
B'Tayavon (be-teya-von) Hebrew: Bon Appetit! Enjoy (in reference to a meal/dish)
Faux-sher Food (fo-shure) Rachelese: Kosher food in disguise. The minute Judy bit into the krab kake she was a fauxsher food fan.
Taim (tay-yim) Hebrew: yummy, delicious
Zetz (zets) Yiddish: smack