Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SCENTS OF THE SEASON

When we came home just now, the only scent that we descended into as we came downstairs was that of the "air machine"---that ozoney, heavy something that hits your breath immediately when you click the little remote to turn it on.

The air was oddly bereft of all the scents which usually accompany all that hectic Thanksgiving preparation---the steamy waft of chicken simmering for stock or gravy or sauce; the crisp greenth of the just-snapped beans, and the sizzle of bacon and onion in the pot that will receive them, cook them long and low with a bit of garlic, a spoon of sugar, and then later, the tiny pink pearls of baby potatoes, one-curl-peeled all round, the better to soak up that luscious bean liquor as they steam atop. Yesterday was the day for the beans---I snapped them at the breakfast table, holding the tray on my lap, as our littlest Granddaughter toddled up time after time, filling her wee hands with long green extra fingers---she took on the look of Edward Scissorhands, with all the projecting bits, and today when I ran the vacuum, I'm sure I accounted for an entire whirring, buzzing serving making its way through the beater-brush.

I "canned" the beans in the old way, fresh though they were---our family's beans have always been canned in a brine with the vaguest hint of vinegar and sugar, recipe courtesy of my first Mother-in-Law. The kitchen then filled with the scents of a Summer morning, just for half an hour or so, with all the ease of filling a grocery bag and none of the hoeing and picking in that hot sun. The two clear takeout quarts are chilling in the fridge, as well, to be cooked for a long time tomorrow.

The sage I picked this afternoon, surprisingly springy and green despite all the tens and 'teens of the thermometer of late, was overmatched by the big cushions of parsley, lying low in the leaves, still as fresh and springy as in May---the sage has yet to be rolled like a wee green cigar and chiffonaded into threads for the dressing, and so has not yet let free its menthol breath of a Mediterranean hillside. I washed and towel-wrapped and bagged a handful of sage and a great bouquet of parsley; there are but six of us, and so we're breaking tradition and NOT breaking out Mammaw's milk-glass devilled egg plate this year. The eggs and some crisp little pale yellow tenders from the very center of the celery will go onto a small platter, cushioned in parsley and bringing green for the eye to this carb-rich meal.

The sweet potatoes for the casserole were yesterday simmered in the skins, which pulled free like fat limp mittens from the golden velvet of the insides. Whisk-beaten warm with a glob of butter, a scatter of sugar like round crumbs of molasses, a glug from the Watkins vanilla bottle (with a tiny dab behind each ear, for Old Times' Sake), they wait in Tupperware in the fridge to be spread into the buttered Corning Ware and covered in a snow of plump baby marshmallows.

The cornbread DID perfume the whole downstairs this afternoon, with the deep note of crisping corn and tang of buttermilk. It, too, waits, snugged into a plastic bowl, for tomorrow it will be hand-crumbled, seasoned with the already-minced-and-bagged sweet onion and equally-small-cut celery, a few hearty grinds from the peppermill, the exotic scent of the sage, and sluices of the stock which is now thawing on the counter.

And no spices. Oddly no spices, save for an apple-potpourri airwick thing that copes with the ozone. No cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg---not in anything. No mulled cider, no ginger cookies, no nothing with a whiff of the caravan road or Christmas cheer. Not this time. And I don't know why, really; it seems an odd house this season, though we've chosen, as always, what we've always chosen--cornbread dressing and beans and corn and sweet potatoes---quite a few pretty close to the Original Feast, I would think, though our choices are more habit than commemoration.

There will be a platter of just-steamed broccoli and cauliflower, with the a point colors arrayed on the same orange-rimmed platter as in a dozen other years, a boat of yolk-rich blender Hollandaise alongside, and some of those easy-peasy crescent rolls, cause we have two guys who really like them. And the sound of cans popping was heard in the Land.

Maybe it was the AHEAD of the thing, as I made allowances for a shifted, then re-shifted time to accommodate DIL's family, who then decided to have theirs Saturday, anyway; then there was our night-worker, whose sleep needs to be all-at-once instead of broken for dinner, then sleep again. And two of us are leaving Friday at OH-Dark-Thirty for a 1400 mile round trip this weekend---so there was suit-pressing and packing and cooler-stocking and where IS that battery-charger for the camera, anyway?

The confluence of all these ways and means and things and circumstances has rendered our house oddly olfactorily-silent, as it were. Everything is ready; it will BE ready. But the preparation, the flush of cheek and damp of forehead, the Open That Window Before I FAINT In This Kitchen---those have been separated by a day it seems, and there's been no scent of the getting ready, not all those warm, salty, rich, smoky, tangy smells that you could inhale in Timbuktu with your eyes shut and sigh, "THANKSGIVING AT GRANDMA'S!"

Tomorrow, when the simmering beans are adding their note to the pre-scent of frying bacon and onions, when the corn/chicken/sage crisping of the dressing in the oven, the candyshop scent of the vanilla potatoes and the Summer campfire smell of toasting marshmallows fills the rooms---THEN will be the time. We won't miss out on any of the experience---the scents, the tastes, the silver clinking on the burgundy plates, the candlelight and the leaf-laden chandelier, and all the scents of HOME.

But it SURE smells strange tonight.

1 comment:

fmrovai said...

Oh yes, the smells. I have cornbread fresh from the reming me of all the things to be thankful for oven for the cornbread sausage dressing (Husband made five pounds of sausage this afternoon) the joyous stab of the fragrance of grated ginger for my cranberry sauce, the stockpot bubbling away. Thanksgiving smells so good,

Rachel, you remind us of all the things to be thankful for.