Murphy's Law still in force

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

She who feels herself somehow above the fray, because she was early in preparing a hot dish for the annual Thanksgiving feast, must bake Humble Pie instead of Pumpkin Pie and admit that she is slipping.

My assignment: Baked sweet potatoes with orange juice and pecans. Over the years, I have called this my Senator Russell Sweet Potatoes, although the late Georgia senator might not recognize them when they alight on a table already laden with turkey, mashed white potatoes, green beans and mushrooms, cranberry sauce and, of course, pumpkin pie for dessert.

No, actually the menu above accounts for only about half the food on that table. We’ve been gathering for this national feast for about 10 years, and our numbers vary according to whose grandchildren are appealing enough to snag a visit. Last year one long-time diner went to Colorado to help out and enjoy the newest branch on the family tree.

There is no way to calculate from year to year whose faraway children or siblings will urge the presence of grandparents at their festal table, and it’s so hard to say no. We were in Virginia this year for an early holiday visit with daughter Jean’s family, but we’re leery about driving in winter weather.

All this to explain why I almost blew my sweet potato assignment. This year there would be only seven at the table, each responsible to provide one or at most two dishes. I’ve done the Senator’s potatoes many times and regard it as a no-worries-no-brainer. I looked forward to having an easy day Wednesday and then joining in the meal Thanksgiving Day.

I had microwaved three huge sweet potatoes on Wednesday, and they were now cool and ready to be skinned and mashed. In a deep mixing bowl, using an old-fashioned hand masher and elbow greasy, I could feel the soft chunks collapsing into each other until they were the consistency of just-right mashed white potatoes.

(A bit of history here. Dave and I have for the past 27 years been regular customers at the Braelinn Kroger store and brag a lot about how convenient it is to be able to walk over for a loaf of bread or a prescription. When we’re shopping, I invariably say, “I know I’m forgetting something,” and Dave’s response is always the same: “Don’t worry. We can always run over here with the golf cart and pick it up in a matter of minutes.”

He’s also good about remembering how many cans of tomato soup or tuna are in the lazy-Susan cabinet, and subscribes to the philosophy that it doesn’t hurt to have plenty of staples on hand. We’ll need them sooner or later. Which leads me to tell you that every week, standing in front of the frozen juices, I yell at him: “We’ve got at least four cans at home.”)

So. Time to mix together the orange juice, brown sugar, and spices. Flinging open the fridge door where the O.J. lives, I was momentarily stunned. The O.J. pitcher was not in its place on the door. A quick survey revealed no frozen orange juice in the fridge, nor in the freezer. A can of frozen pink lemonade concentrate was alone in the freezer drawer.

Dave had left the plastic O.J. pitcher on the counter. Fortunately, there was a quarter cup of juice in the bottom of it. Also, I had swallowed only a sip from my breakfast glass, leaving just about the right amount to stir into the ’taters.

“Close one, Sallie,” I muttered and looked for the brown sugar canister on the baking counter in the kitchen.

Found it. Empty.

“Now, darn it. This can’t be happening.” I aged 10 years during a very short investigation which located not one, not two, but three unopened two-pound bags of brown, not counting the Splenda brown sugar substitute. Whew.

Spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves – ah, here’s a can of sweet potato spices already mixed together, so in went a teaspoon or two. They had just disappeared in the brew I was stirring into the potatoes when I suddenly gasped, “Sweet potato spices? Oh, no, that was pumpkin pie spices.” A quick look over the can’s ingredients list reassured me that it was really the same spices, so no harm done.

(At this point I’m invoking Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Do you know O’Toole’s Commentary on Murphy’s Law? “Murphy was an optimist.”)

What’s left to go wrong? No pecan topping?

I have been in the habit of buying a lot of pecans to freeze, for instance, so we’d always have some on hand. Last week I realized I hadn’t been keeping up with walnuts, so I bought a bag.

You can guess what’s coming. Couldn’t find pecan No.1 in either the kitchen freezer or the chest freezer on the porch.

We had walnut pumpkin pie. Somehow, everything turned out all right and I was mindful once more that we are a people blessed with prosperity, a people to whom Thanksgiving should be a constant.

SallieS@Juno.com