Thanksgiving from Scratch


By Pam Tallman


This Thanksgiving I hope there’s no repeat of last year’s embarrassing potato incident. As designated cook for all our family Thanksgivings, I’d spent the day chopping, stuffing, pealing, baking, basting, name a verb and I did it. From scratch.

My potatoes had just finished boiling when the doorbell rang, so I turned off the burner and played hostess for a few minutes. Big mistake. Did you know that if you don’t drain potatoes immediately they absorb too much water and whip into an excellent wallpaper paste?

As I shoveled potato glop down the disposal, my 89-year-old aunt peeked into the kitchen. “Need any help in there?”

“No, Aunt Dorothy,” I lied. “I’m doing fine.”

In truth, I had two options: confess my failure and hear about it every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life or cook up more potatoes and serve dinner late. But then a third option walked into the kitchen in the form of my nephew.

“Sam, would you do me a favor?”  I pressed $10 into his palm. “I need you to run to the Quik-Mart around the corner and buy a box of instant potatoes.” I knew my culinary reputation depended on the discretion of a 10-year-old so to insure his silence I promised him a new X-box.

“Sure am looking forward to real mashed potatoes,” my aunt called from the living room. “At the retirement home we only get instant.”

Sam returned by way of the kitchen door. I never knew that kid could move so fast. He broke the speed record set by my brother-in-law when he heard the Lotto jackpot had reached $53 million.

“Here it is, Aunt Pam.” Sam pulled a Quik-Mart bag out from under his sweater and handed me a fistful of warm, crumpled singles.

“Keep the change, kid. And remember, it’s our secret.”

Alone in the kitchen, I quickly tossed together the instant potatoes and was about to throw away the box when I saw the flash. My sister had immortalized me on her digital camera.

“Hey everyone, you gotta see this,” she yelled. “Could I get another one of you holding up the box?”

“No you can’t!” I shouted, but before I knew it, my entire family had gathered around me for another picture and actually talked me into holding up the box of instant potatoes.

“I’m so glad this happened,” my sister said. “Trying to keep up with your everything-from-scratch Thanksgivings is exhausting.”

“And besides,” my aunt said, “I like instant potatoes.”

My nephew looked stricken. “Do I still get my X-Box?”

“You sure do, kid. A promise is a promise.”

“Thanks, Aunt Pam,” he said, then thought for a moment and asked, “Is this what Thanksgiving is all about?”

I smiled. “Yes, Sam. This is what it’s about.”


Pam Tallman lives and writes silly essays in Orange County.

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