From Thanksgiving through Kwanzaa I try to focus my attention on sharing the holiday season with people I love while we eat great meals that are prepared with love. Love is the message for me. One of my childhood friends who is like a sister to me, Lorraine Hargett, an elementary school teacher in Richmond, VA asked me to cook Thanksgiving dinner in NYC for her family and I jumped at the opportunity. She and 5 other family members would not arrive in NYC until Thanksgiving Eve. So I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 15 this year, and I was blessed to have 3 little sous chefs to assist me. Two of them are Lorraine’s grandchildren; their mother is my oldest god daughter, Jennifer Lisbon. Josiah Lewis is 7 years old, and his sister Jeniyah Lewis is 9 years old. The third one is Lorraine’s god daughter Asherie Wilson, and she is 9 years old as well.
The way things worked out I knew I would be up all night cooking in Lorraine’s NYC apartment. So when the kids asked if they could help I told them no problem. I am a firm believer in teaching kids about cooking at a young age because that is when my elders started teaching me. As young as they are they were very quick learners. After the washed their hands they sat down and I had them working on the following tasks:
- snapped the fresh string beans;
- removed the stems from the fresh collard greens;
- grated the 3 blocks of cheeses for the baked macaroni and cheese;
- peeled the Yukon gold potatoes for the mashed potatoes;
- peeled the sweet potatoes for the sweet potato pies;
- placed the whole cloves into the ham on the lines that I had scored with a knife;
- mixed the ingredients I put into the bowls to make the corn bread for the corn bread stuffing; and
- Mixed the grated cheeses into the 2 half sheet pans of cooked macaroni noodles and with the other ingredients.
Josiah was the first to fall asleep around 1:30am. The corn bread came out of the oven and while it was cooling off the girls informed me that they didn’t want any cornbread stuffing; they wanted to eat the cornbread as is. It was like 2am when they started fighting over the crumbs as they were breaking it up to make the stuffing, I told them it was time for them to join Josiah in going to bed.
When Josiah woke up the next morning he came running over to me, gave me a hug and asked what are we going to do this morning? His grandmother Lorraine told me “Wow, he must really like you because he never warms up to somebody that quickly!” I replied that’s because I’m treating him like he is a big man, and can help out with dinner. Our menu that afternoon was as follows: a 20 lb. roasted turkey stuffed with cornbread stuffing, beef tenderloin with port sauce, pineapple glazed ham, candied yams, mashed potatoes, baked macaroni and cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, collard greens, string beans, potato salad, sweet potato pies, apple pies, lemon meringue pies. I also made two iced teas: half and half (green tea peach mixed with lemonade) and rooibos; both were big hits with everyone. I made a second pitcher of half and half before I went home to crash.
My three sous chefs were telling everyone all the things they did to assist with making the Thanksgiving meal. Both Asherie and Jeniyah admitted to me that they liked the cornbread stuffing. On Saturday morning I took my three sous chefs down to the Union Square Farmers Market so that they could see where I had purchased most of the fruits and vegetables from that we had for dinner. I picked them up real early; before they could eat breakfast. I treated them to hot apple cider, and apple cider donuts. We sampled the potato chips made by the potato vendor; they could believe how the purple chips tasted great. The cheese vendor was really nice because he let us sample five different artisan cheeses; they range in price from $20 a pound and up.
For the road trip back home to Virginia they purchased three bags of the potato chips (two with the purple chips inside), maple caramel popcorn, pretzels from the Amish vendor, cotton candy that taste like maple syrup, and some maple candy pops. We took the train and bus down, but we rode the bus back uptown to Harlem. When we got back to Lorraine’s apartment they couldn’t wait to share their buys with everyone. The spoke about the delicious cheeses we sampled, and even stated they were better than American cheese. Imagine, from the mouths of babes.
For Christmas, I joined my nephew James Canty and his family at his wife Ebony’s grandmother’s house. Now last year Ms. Alice was battling throat cancer and going through chemo and radiation treatments. This year Ms. Alice Allen threw down; she cooked turkey with stuffing, ham, spare ribs, red rice with sausage, collard greens, potato salad, and assorted cakes and sweet potato pies. She decorated her apartment from the front door to the bedroom windows so festively for the holidays. The tree was magnificent, and the empty fish tank looked like Santa Claus was landing on somebody’s rooftop. Ebony’s mother Necie had the slushy alcoholic drinks flowing all evening, and her sisters and their families were in attendance too. A wonderful time was had by all. I went home with enough food for two more meals. Thanks for inviting me to join your family’s Christmas Ebony.
I can’t wait to see what I will do to celebrate Kwanzaa.