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"Our holiday tables will not feature that summer vegetable again this year, which might be Thanksgiving enough for me."

I asked the produce clerk when Buddha Hands would be on the shelf. He looked up surprised, reporting that they'd come in that morning. "We weren't gonna put them on display until tomorrow," he replied, "but I'll be happy to bring them out for you now." The Muse and I twittered in the aisle, barely able to believe our good fortune. In past years, our seasonal search for this distinctive fruit took us further than far and wide. One year, when we lived just outside Washington DC, we must have clocked well over a hundred miles on failed Buddha Hand forays, returning empty handed day after day after freaking day. This year, we happened upon a virgin stash. We'd get first dibs on a fresh boxful of these babies. The holidays began that instant.

The arrival of this fabled fruit always kickstarts a season of baking and rendering.
The Muse will candy those hands to produce the citron critical to her stollen production. She'll also simmer orange, lemon, and Lord hardly knows what other kinds of rinds, all to celebrate the season which desperately needs some sort of celebration. I'd shoveled out the driveway, freshly encased in four inches of snowfall the texture of wet concrete. Roads were bare and quickly drying, and though I'd long ago started keeping both eyes peeled for the some-years mythical fruit, I'd not yet seen any. She suggested a short detour to a previously reliable purveyor, and we lucked into the season this year. My usual need to watch out and somehow keep myself from crying in the produce aisle evaporated, leaving a real possibility for an enjoyable Thanksgiving and even for a relatively placid lead-up to Christmas. Our hardest chore was already completed.

We found some chestnuts, too, though we've never mastered the open fire roasting art every seedy street vendor worldwide long ago figured out. We'll undoubtedly discover some fresh hack for separating sweet meet from clingy inner shell before the seasonal experiment goes all to Hell for us again. Never mind, and forget all the past failures, we're filled with fresh hope at the prospect of try, try, trying again this year. The Muse found a fresh pheasant, not on either of our shopping lists, and insisted upon purchasing it. We'll concoct a little practice feast for a few days before the actual one, trial running the smaller bird through brine and cold drying before trying to produce an impossibly moist result. She grew up in South Dakota, where the pheasant serves as the state bird. Their carcasses decorate every roadside lending a seasonal sort of cheery color this time of year.

One should never disparage another's sacred traditions, though The Muse keeps threatening to secure some marshmallows for some clearly nefarious purpose. I understand that some use canned cream of mushroom soup when a creamier and more flavorful kind can be conveniently concocted from scratch just about as easily as opening some old can. Those French's french fried onions command an end cap rather than their usual dusty bottom shelf in the boxed mac and cheese aisle. Some say sweet potatoes, we scream garnet yams. Canned corn belongs in green chile chicken stew, not served as a sad little side dish endlessly passed to the person just beyond you when feasting. We're scrimpy and particular, looking to limit the leftovers more than challenge the structural integrity of our dining table. We'll eventually get around to actually eating when the big day arrives.

Our usual Saturday morning sourcing's all screwed up for a spell. We went last weekend to fill eight times over the bag a neighborhood realtor left on the porch for the needy. This weekend, we'll circumvent our reliable stations of the sourcing cross in favor of a few we only rarely access. We will feel genuinely blessed when we find those unlikely-to-find, impossible-to-get little treasures which make this season bright for us. I stumbled upon a little bag of iced German gingerbread cookies. I already sourced extra turkey giblets and a small package of frozen goose livers. I swear that a simple supper consisting of just giblets in a creamy gravy ladled over The Muse's grandmother's recipe-inspired potato stuffing would perfectly satisfy me, though I admit that I'd miss making stock out of the turkey carcass. The green beans this time of year look like veterans of hand-to-hand combat, bruised and scabby. I tried substituting a can of them in one supper last week, and The Muse took me aside after, suggesting that I not try that trick again. Our holiday tables will not feature that summer vegetable again this year, which might be Thanksgiving enough for me.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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