I started the day with twenty bags of cranberries in my freezer. Having done the math twelve times and then a test kitchen last night, I knew I could get ten servings of cranberry sauce out of each bag, about four more than I thought, hence the overage. I would need 14 bags of cranberries to make enough cranberry sauce for the 140 Thanksgiving dinners that were going to be distributed by street outreach volunteers tomorrow.
You’d be surprised (or maybe not) by how much time I’ve spent thinking about this the past few weeks. So much so, there weren’t twenty bags of cranberries in my freezer, there were twenty-five, because, you know, not having enough is a terrible, mortifying prospect. So I lied about having just twenty so as to appear less of a nut.
As luck would have it, this morning the Thanksgiving Day meal distribution was cancelled.
COVID-19. What else would stop outreach workers who brave sleet, snow, and freezing cold to bring food and supplies to people living outside? Someone tested positive, someone else was close to the someone who tested positive, and so it goes. The program is closed for fourteen days while everyone quarantines.
I was weirdly unnerved by this. And disappointed. Last night, in the test kitchen, I made twenty perfectly proportioned plastic containers, proud of how neatly they’d fit into the individual dinner boxes, nestled right next to the turkey and gravy. Each would be the perfect burst of color. My tiny present to some nameless homeless guy living in the woods. So that wasn’t going to happen, but he or she would find Thanksgiving dinner somewhere. There are so many good cranberry-sauce making, turkey-roasting, potato-mashing people in our town, we have to be careful not to trip over each other.
Still, the news put me off my game.The people who run the program are my friends and I worry about them and worry about their families. So there’s that. But it was also that making cranberry sauce for those 140 people was going to be what this day was about for me, my purpose, albeit tiny and probably too tart because I never use enough sugar.
I am all about curve balls, though, especially during the holidays. I tell people not to get stuck on having everything be the same every year – same food, same table, same people. I compare every holiday to the ones when I was by myself, when the newscaster doing the evening news was my dinner companion. I remember holidays with a child in the hospital and grown kids leaving early in protest of something. There have also been astonishingly beautiful holidays, as well, pictures of which I find tucked in drawers, as if I need to see them. It’s not exactly random, just unpredictable.
Not letting perfection be the enemy of good is my motto, although, at various times, I would swap out good for adequate. I am an enormous fan of adequate. Or survivable. Every day has just twenty-four hours, even holidays.
My husband, sensing my disappointment in not making my tiny cranberry sauce offerings, left me in the kitchen all afternoon where I made vast quantities of cranberry sauce for my kids – more than they will ever eat – for our Thanksgiving food distribution in the park tomorrow. I also made cranberry orange bread and two dozen cranberry orange muffins. It was in the grating of the orange zest that my mood evened out. That, and realizing that I was only an hour from cocktail hour, which is still 5:00 p.m. here although there has been lobbying for EST.
It has been the Day of the Cranberry here. A long day, but a day.