The days before Thanksgiving are growing fewer and fewer, and the number of guests rises and falls as does my confidence. Not only is this holiday a heap of work the day of, but the entire week leading up to the festivities is crammed with back-breaking preparations: grocery shopping, decorations, soups need to be made, sauces concocted… Another thing to consider is time, not only is it a lot of work, but its an outrageous amount of hours, hours that I simply don’t have!*!@?!
You see, what these ‘festivities’ are doing to my stress levels? Something has to be done!
I reviewed the menu and decided that I would have to scale down on some of the higher maintenance dishes. Number one on the list, Brussels sprouts, sautéed in a port Dijon reduction and garnished with rustic shards of Parmesan. They are a beloved dish and have been a Thanksgiving staple for years, but replacing them with a simpler dish would lighten my load and also free up valuable space on the stovetop. Most everyone took the news well, all except for Aaron that is.
Aaron has been one of my oldest Thanksgiving devotees; he is also one of my favorite people to cook for on account of his spirited responses to each and every bite he takes. “Diggidy-Dog!>” he says shaking his head after a mouthful of soup. After a nibble of salad, he jumps from his seat gyrating and shrieking “Eurika!” like an epileptic Elvis who has discovered something much more thrilling than electricity. It is impossible for me to write, without laughter, how it is that he responds to a mouthful of Turkey or stuffing for that matter. Foods of all sorts have a profound impact on Aaron, but it is the Brussel sprout that that has inspired the most heartfelt response.
Many Thanksgivings ago, when I first mentioned to Aaron that I was thinking about making sprouts he was more than a little skeptical. You see Brussels sprouts have never been his favorite vegetable. In fact, I’d go as fare as saying that during his childhood, he had a damaging encounter with the unsuspecting sprout and was now, years later, still experiencing post-traumatic stress. Aaron has an adventurous spirit however, and is a good sport, “I’ll give them a try,” he told me as if he had agreed to eat an insect.
It is Aaron’s original response to this innocent side dish that makes his later response so astonishing. After his first bite, he became quite, tilted his head down as if in prayer, and sat that way for almost a minute. Then, out of nowhere, possessed by some external force - good or evil it was hard to decipher - he popped out of his seat and began to twist around as if experiencing both pleasure and pain. Everyone at the table sat quietly half expecting a miniature alien to burst from his stomach and dance across the table. No such entertainment was on the agenda. When he had completed the unscheduled performance, he sat back down and continued eating, hepping and hollering with every spoonful.
At first I was surprised with how well Aaron coped with the elimination of the notorious sprouts, “I understand,” he told me, “but only because I know you’re going to make them.” The certainty in his voice was chilling. “ They‘re just too much work, I don’t have the time,” I reiterated. But, with a sparkle in his eye, and with the grin of a car salesman, he grabbed my hand gently and in a comforting tone repeated, “ I get it, I do.” He took a deep breath, “But I know you're going to make them.” His certainty must have been less creepy this time because I instantly began reviewing the menu in my head one more time, trying as hard as I could to figure out how I could squeeze in the adored sprouts.