I once made Thanksgiving dinner for five Marine houseguests. The leader of the platoon was my cousin Gene. Gene is the son of my previously mentioned Uncle Eric. And it's my cousin Gene - the Computer Whisperer - who honed his skills thanks to the Marine Corps - to whom I heartily give thanks for healing my laptop - with countless hours of work - getting me back access to my all pix - including all the El Bulli and Paris ones that I did not back up - and back online.
I think that Thanksgiving was in 97. He was stationed in Twentynine Palms - an area which is inexcusably expensive to visit - but I digress. My sister and I were living in a classic California bungalow in the Larchmont Village/Hancock Park area of LA and invited him and his buddies over for dinner.
If you should ever have a chance to host a bunch of Marines in your home - jump on it. This is not some nationalistic statement - just the opinion of an obsessive-compulsive homekeeper. Those boys brought their own sleeping bags, swept my yard, cleaned up after themselves - you'd think they were on Special Ops in my bathroom - they left not one trace. They were dream houseguests.
I made the food - pretty classic American menu - whole roasted turkey; cornbread, aromatics, and herb stuffing - baked on the side; mashed potatoes - with a simple sauce of the turkey organs, aromatics, deglazed with white wine, reduced, finished with butter; green beans topped with crispy caramelised onions; cranberry-orange jam; pumpkin pie with whipped cream; and warm, dark chocolate brownies a la mode.
My sister Annie set the table - she is with paper how I am with food. She made placecards with handmade paper, hand-calligraphied names, sparingly embellished them with single stalks of wheat - she even made coordinating menu cards.
Before we sat down, the boys asked if they could take pictures of the table - with the untouched settings and food. Remember - this was back in the day - before eGullet, before digital cameras - and they were not dreaded "foodies".
We ate - we drank. And after - those amazing boys cleared the table, washed the dishes - no dishwasher in that little classic bungalow kitchen - again, you would have thought the Viet Cong was hot on their turkey-stuffed tails.
They thanked me. I thanked them. And I now have reason again to thank my cousin Gene. For helping me get reconnected - in more ways than I could possibly explain. Thanks Gene.