Chapter 23 continues
So far: Pie crust and ghost stories are shared.
The first Thanksgiving feast we had in Richard’s loft after I moved in with him was an extravagant bash. We had only been living together a couple months and I think we wanted to show each other off to all our friends.
We had decided to do it potluck and each of us had invited just about everyone we knew. We set up three long worktables in the middle of the loft, covered them with white sheets. I made huge bouquets of sumac berries, bittersweet and pine boughs for the centerpieces.
We told people to bring their own plates and silverware and one dish to share. Richard grilled two twenty-pound turkeys on the outdoor terrace. It rained the whole day. He kept his orange poncho by the door to wear when he was out tending to the turkey.
People started arriving at noon and kept coming until nearly midnight. At one point I counted fifty people in the main room. This number ebbed and flowed as the day went on. The last couple left at about three in the morning. But when they left, there was no food left and no dirty dishes to do.
The white sheets on the tables had been transformed into amazing masterpieces of culinary color. Richard actually hung one of them up on the wall for a few weeks, where it looked like a Robert Rauschenberg painting — gravy and cranberry sauce blobs spattered across the center, wine spills decorating the edges.
We decided that night to never celebrate Thanksgiving with all of our friends like that again. We didn’t want it to be a big bash. From then on the holiday became a rather sedate, intimate and elegant affair with just family and a few select friends.
But always our favorite holiday.
• • •
After Dewey left, I pulled the pumpkin pie out of the oven and kept the oven heated for the turkey. The pie crust looked perfect, nice and golden brown.
It had taken me a whole year to learn how to make the perfect pie crust. I even went and watched a friend of mine who was a professional baker make pie crust, hoping to pick up those subtle tips that no one thinks to tell you and that can make all the crucial difference. Since she used a food processor — for some reason I wanted to do it by hand —watching her didn’t help as much as I had hoped.
Every time I tried to make a crust that year, Richard left the kitchen. Sometimes even left the house. It was the first year we lived together and somehow making a good crust seemed tied in to the success of our relationship. I reasoned if I could make a good pie crust, I could shape a life that would hold our love.
I would do everything perfectly: measure out the right amounts, cut the frozen shortening in, add the ice-cube-cooled water. Then I would gently swath the dough in plastic wrap, put it in the refrigerator for a half an hour. This was supposed to relax the gluten.
When I put the dough down on the marble board to roll it out, the clumped crust would crumble and break. After swearing and patching it back together again, I would take the mangled mess and throw it into the pie tin and press it into shape with my hands.
By this time, the dough was so overworked that it resembled cardboard when it was eaten.
Then, one day, I made a perfect crust. I don’t know what tipped the balance. Maybe I finally relaxed. Once I could make it, it came out perfect every time.
• • •
Around noon, I called for Cloud and even rattled her food box, which usually pulled her into the kitchen, but she didn’t show up. I looked around the house, but couldn’t find her anywhere. I figured she was sleeping in some new favorite spot.
I watched the clock, which was silly, because I could eat whenever I felt like it. The turkey would need to go into the oven pretty soon.
Richard had always liked to invite everyone over at sundown — around 4 o’clock. The idea was to have them there to watch the sunset. We had a wonderful west view from his loft, but three out of four Thanksgivings were overcast. We would serve appetizers, then have dinner at about five-thirty.
After another hour, I still couldn’t find Cloud. I looked everywhere in the house. The door to the bedroom was closed, but I even looked in there. No scrappy kitty anywhere.
I went outside and called and called, but I heard no answering meow.
Tomorrow: Chapter 24 begins.