Monday, November 24, 2008

The BIG Day

By all reasonable measures the party was a success. We woke up the following morning to find my underwear on the kitchen floor and dishes piled up in the shower. So. Yes. It was a fun night.

It was not, however, all smooth sailing. Far from it.

Allow me to present article A. This innocent looking little piece of paper almost ended my marriage. As Grégoire and I sipped coffee discussing the big day ahead of us, he asked me a few questions, like when are you going to put the turkey in? What time are we eating? All fine questions which I thought I gave fine answers to. Turns out he was unsatisfied with my vague answers and decided we (read me) needed a schedule so we would not double book the two burners and one stove. Did I mention that Greg is a quarter German?

He breaks out the colored pens, scissors and graph paper. Then asks me questions like how long does the turkey need to rest. My reply was, "well at least 20 minutes but it can rest for up to an hour if it is tented with tin foil". Then he asked about the green bean casserole, "how long does that take to heat back up?". I say, "well if we preheat it on the stove then top it with the onions then pop it in the oven, then we would need about 15 minutes of stove time and 10 minutes of oven time. But we could do the whole thing in the oven and that would take more like 50 minutes.". At this point Greg throws down his pens and says, "Mary you can only give me short answers like yes, no, or a number. How can I write 20ish minutes on this graph? and how do you want to heat up the beans, oven or stove?! Just pick one!" Needless to say, things spiraled from there and we butted heads for about an hour.

In the end, as you can see, the schedule was created and although I HATE to admit it, it was mildly helpful.

The second obstacle hit around 4 o'clock. We have the discount electricity plan which heats our water during off hours (11pm to 7am). When we wake up in the morning we have a fresh tank of hot water that is supposed to last us all day. This is usually no problem. However, that day, I was using hot water like never before. I own two pots and one pan. I would boil the beans in my one large sauce pan then pour them out and quickly wash that pan so I could put the potatoes in it. This heavy rotation caused frequent dishwashing, which when combined with our two showers meant that we ran out of hot water hours before the party began. Reaching back to my food handlers permit class I am pretty sure not having access to hot water is an issue. I would boil water in a pan but of course they are all full of mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and according to Greg's schedule the burners are fully booked from now until 8:30. The show must go on.

Grégoire's two main tasks for the day were cleaning the house and getting the table and chairs set up. Moving any kind of furniture in Paris is a pain and damn near impossible when you don't own a car and neither do any of your friends. Greg was able to borrow the van from work and picked up two unbuilt ikea desks from the new office in the 9th and brought them home. He was hammering and screwdrivering all afternoon and then it dawns on him that he doesn't like the lighting in our living room. AHHHH! For those that don't know. I HATE with capital letters the lighting in our living room. For the past five months we haven't been able to decide what to do about it thus the bare light bulbs are still in place. 45 minutes before the guests arrive Greg announces that he is going to run an errand. Where is he going, you ask? Castorama. The French equivalent of Home Depot. Why, you ask? Because he has decided that NOW is the perfect time to fix the vintage lamp I bought in June and pick up some christmas lights.

He arrived 15 minutes before the guests were scheduled to arrive and they all arrived 30 minutes late (very French) so in the end Greg had just enough time to rewire the lamp and hang the lights which looked beautiful. So, again, in the end he was right. But I experienced a very stressful 45 minutes while he was absent.

While he was out, I Skyped my mother to both complain about my insane husband and have her take a look at the stuffing. My mother's stuffing recipe is one of those mysterious Debbie Campbell recipies that has a little bit of this and a little bit of that and in the end I'm not sure anyone knows (including her) exactly what's in it. I held up my webcam to the bowl and squeezed the bread cubes so she could gauge the moisture level. She approved and I tossed it in the oven. Speaking of ovens. In addition to disowning my husband I almost killed his best friend Mathieu. He was supposed to arrive at 7pm sharp with his portable oven so I could start heating up the sides. He saunters in at 8pm. By that time the other guests had all arrived and we were busy eating deviled eggs and drinking crémant, so at that point all was forgiven since I had forgotten all about my side dishes! We fired up the second oven which was stacked on my washing machine and by 9:45 we were finally ready to eat.

I gave a short speech on the history of Thanksgiving and in true Campbell family tradition we all stood, held hands and went around the table to say what we were thankful for. This year I am thankful for the luxury of choice. Thanks to the support from my friends, my family and my loving husband I am able to choose things like what part of the world I want to live in, what kind of fancy cheese I want to buy and where I would like to work. I am able to take my time and am lucky enough to have a wide selection of things to choose from. Choice is a luxury and I am thankful for it.


Anonymous said...

Mary, what a wonderful blog entry. I almost felt like I was there! I can't wait to see this kitchen in real life. I have a feeling I'm going to be amazed you have cooked anything more than toast in there, let alone a whole Thanksgiving meal.

Barb said...

btw, that last comment was from me.

McKaulick said...

Awesome blog! Thanks Mary, you make me miss Paris so much. Sniff!

Nica said...

i can relate on soooo many levels! i was state-side for the big day, but my french fiance and my american father are birds of a feather- like greg- running out to fix the lighting at the last minute. actually my dad usually picks thanksgiving morning to sharpen all the knives- that could be helpful, but seeing as how the knives are all in high demand at that point, its a little late... and didier too often picks less than convenient times to question what i mean by 10 minutes "ish"... but a whole graph to schedule it?! that's impressive! congrats on your first thanksgiving in paris!! hope to see you again after all the holidays...