Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Wasn't sure til I woke up what I was doing on this major national holiday. I woke up and felt certain that I had to see my younger son, the one who lives in Maine. My older son lives in Pennsylvania, and was spending the holiday in Michigan. Too far to drive. But M lives just 45 minutes away, in Portland.

Really? Going to Portland? I thought about it as I shoveled snow off the deck, showered, and dressed up.

I ate an apple and a chunk of dark chocolate, drank a cup of coffee, and hit the road.

I knew he was working, so headed for his restaurant. Commercial Street was deserted: park anywhere. Old Port sidewalks also deserted, shops closed. I saw a woman pushing a legless man in a wheelchair. There were a few strolling couples and one pack of joggers.

I walked up the hill to M's restaurant, up the granite steps, and up the winding carpeted staircase. Inside was all wood, chandeliers, mirrors, and respectful staff. His restaurant is in a 4-star hotel. There's an outdoor courtyard with flowers and sculptures. They have an ice bar out there in the winter.

The dining room was full of sun. I asked for my son. "He's really busy," the hostess told me. "We have the Thanksgiving buffet today." She looked uncomfortable. "I think he gets out of work at 2. You could come back then." She hesitated. "Just a minute," she said, and turned to speak with the manager. She turned back to me. "You can sit at the bar. The buffet is down the hall," she smiled.

Thanksgiving buffet? Sit at the bar? Well, ok, I guess.

I wandered down the hall. I found a room full of long white tables and gleaming silver food containers. What do you call those things? The tops slide back and there are cans of flame beneath. Long handled silver spoons rested on white plates. Young men dressed in black stood at attention beside hunks of roasted meat. A family was there, filling plates. I grabbed a plate and bowl. Started with seafood chowder: shrimp, haddock, clams, and oysters in cream. Next was an enormous platter: chunks of cold salmon and strips of oysters were arranged artfully between broad purple cabbage leaves, on a base of asparagus mayonnaise. I looked to my left: a tray of raw oysters. There were five kinds of roasted meat and fish. There were sweet potato gnocchi, arugula and smoked trout with fig dressing, and cornbread stuffing. Brussels sprouts were shredded, sauteed, and adorned with oysters. Garlic mashed potatoes, lemon broccoli, corn on the cob, cranberry relish, cucumber salad, and mac & cheese.

There was a 6 foot table of breads and muffins. Another of cakes and pies. Diners drifted in behind me, exclaiming over the fare. M brought in a chocolate cake and hugged me. "Sorry I'm so busy. Happy Thanksgiving!" he wished me, and hustled back to the kitchen.

I went back to the bar and marveled. Every bite had about 10 distinct, subtle, and interesting flavors. Herbs, citrus, garlic, and salt.

"So what are you doing after this?" the waiter asked me. He wasn't asking me out, he was asking about Thanksgiving.

"Um, this is it," I replied. Then regretted it when I saw the surprise and pity on his face. I should have made a joke. "I'm having Thanksgiving with friends tomorrow," I added, stretching the truth a bit. Leftovers count, right? He looked relieved.

I wanted to go back for more but suddenly felt too shy. I left a huge tip. Fluff and I wandered around the cold sunny streets and waterfront. We looked at yachts, some were wrapped for winter. We saw fishing nets, lobster traps, and seagulls prowling inside fishing boats. I looked into store windows. I felt fuller as we walked.

Then I drove home and raked snow off my roofs. 

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