Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do You Speak Texan?

I graduated college, much to my profound amazement, with a Bachelor of Arts degree double majoring in History and Anthropology. This was after going through brief dalliances majoring in art and engineering with a much longer stay in the “I can’t figure out what I want to be when I grow up” major. Now that I think about it, it’s probably more accurate to say I never really got out of that particular major. I now work in the insurance industry as a commercial auto and general liability claims adjuster handling high exposure and litigated claims. Go figure. Poster child for academic counseling and career planning I am not.

I’m not complaining about my education. Believe it or not, it has been very helpful to my chosen line of work. Majoring in history taught me how to analyze what happened and draw intelligent conclusions about the ramifications of those events. Majoring in Anthropology taught me that not everyone is a WASP and also how a white bread from the suburbs like me can gain valuable information about different groups and cultures by observation and examination.

One of my favorite subjects in college was cultural anthropology, and I was fortunate to have some interesting professors. One in particular was a former Catholic priest who left the priesthood to marry a nun. And Ricky thought Lucy had some ‘splainin’ to do. I just hope I’m in line behind him when he gets his chance to speak with The Big Boss. I have got to hear that conversation. I imagine it would be something like this:

God: So, you were a priest in the Catholic Church, correct?

Professor B.: Yes, for a time.

God: For a time? Did you not enjoy your work? MY work?

Professor B.: No, no, no. I loved the work. However, I kinda wanted a family. So, I left the priesthood to get married.

God: Hmmm. I see. Who was the lucky woman?

Professor B.: A nun.

God: Interesting. Fishing off the company pier were we?

Professor B.: I suppose You could call it that.

God: I think I just did. You do realize there is nothing in the Bible requiring the priesthood to remain celibate don’t you?

Professor B.: Um…no. They must have skipped that one in seminary.

God: Seems like they skip more and more every year.…. Hmpf. Papal infallibility My bushy eyebrows. Makes Me laugh every time one of them shoots their mouth off.

Professor B.: Can I go now?

God: No. We’re just getting started. I haven’t even gotten to the Andean mountain religion thing or the coca leaves.

Professor B.: Uh-oh.

This particular professor brought a guest speaker into class on one occasion that stands out in my mind. I don’t recall the speaker’s name, but I do recall what he spoke about. He spoke about the theory of “language windows”. Basically, the theory is that any given culture can be better understood by the manner in which that culture’s language shapes its people’s outlook on life, relationships, etc. He used his study of one of the Arabic/Middle Eastern languages as an example to illustrate how it works. There was a greeting in which you said whatever you said verbally in greeting while covering your eye and bowing slightly. Apparently, the literal translation of the greeting is something along the lines of “I step on my eye for you.” I’m not sure what window those folks were lookin’ out of; however, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see that particular view. Especially if they’ve been walkin’ around in my backyard canine poo garden.

What brings this story to mind is the ongoing difference of opinion that exists between The Queen and me regarding linguistic matters. I was born and raised in the great state of Texas, and its imprint has been irrevocably left on me and my linguistic capabilities. The Queen, on the other hand, was born in California and mostly raised elsewhere (including Texas much to her dismay). Given her exposure to more “civilized” parts of the world during her formative years, The Queen’s delicate ears are sometimes offended by my occasional lapses into the more comfortable colloquial speech patterns of my native tongue.

So, as a public service, I thought I would take this opportunity to give a brief insider’s guide for outsider’s to words and phrases common to Texas’ unique window on the world.

1) “A cat can have kittens in the oven, but it don’t make ‘em biscuits.” This is polite way of saying to someone who was technically born in the state that, just because you were born here, it don’t automatically make you a Texan. Thanks to a thriving economy, favorable tax laws, a reasonable housing prices, Texas has become the Mecca for snot nosed, ingrate foreigners from other parts. That includes folks from Oklahoma and other points further north, east or west. We won’t talk about points further south. I’m trying to work on being politically correct… I mean being more diverse and inclusive. Yeah, right.

2) “That boy/girl ain’t right.” and/or “He/she’s touched in the head.” This one should be fairly self explanatory. These two phrases generally apply to someone who, while otherwise being free of mental retardation or severe autism, is exhibiting strange and/or abnormal behavior.

3) “He needed killin’.” This one is most often heard during arraignment in criminal court proceedings and is generally considered to be a valid defense to homicide.

4) “Sweet or unsweet?” In most non-chain restaurants in Texas, your waiter/waitress will ask you this question. They are not making a pass at you or making a comment about your child’s behavior. They just want to know if you want your iced tea pre-sweetened or if you plan on doctorin’ your own.

5) “Pee-can” vs. “puh-kahn”. This is a pronunciation issue regarding our beloved state nut, the pecan, which is still the subject of considerable debate between people hailing from different parts of the state. Whichever one you chose, just know you are annoying the stuffin’ out of the other half of the population.

6) “Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke”. If you want to be immediately branded as an unwashed heathen from out of state, please, by all means, ask for or offer someone a Pop. Soda is barely acceptable but may get you funny looks in certain small town establishments. Coke is the preferred moniker used to request and/or offer a soft drink regardless of brand. Brand preference is determined by the follow up question: “What flavor?”

7) “I’m fixin’ to….”. Simply put, it means someone is about to do something. Exactly when the something will take place is generally a little fuzzy and greatly depends on the past performance of the speaker. Get over it. Or duck if this phrase was preceded by the words “Hey, watch this.”

8) “Howdy, hi-dee, etc.”. Most everyone has a grasp on Howdy. It’s short for “how do you do?” or “how are you doin’?” “Hi-dee” is a little used variation of “howdy” which my grandmother used and which I prefer personally.

9) “Y’all”. This is the correct contraction of “You all”. It can refer to one person or a group of people. Some individuals are just a plurality all in themselves.

10) “Bless your heart…”. If you somehow manage to find yourself in the midst of a tragic comedy of your own creation or otherwise succeed in surviving doing something incredibly stupid, you will most likely hear these words spoken to you. Usually by emergency room personnel or claims adjusters. And your mother, grandmother, aunt and any other distant female relatives who find out about your spectacular screw up. Frequently used in conjunction with “That boy ain’t right.” It can also be used as a sincere expression of sympathy in certain circumstances. Context is everything.

11) “Over (t’) yonder”, “a little ways”, and other measures of distance. Texas is a big a** state. El Paso is closer to L.A. than it is to Beaumont. People from elsewhere just plain don’t get it. Not too long ago, my boss in Chicago suggested I drive from Dallas to Houston for a half day meeting returning the same day. I found that amusing. Most people will give long distance directions in terms or driving times in minutes or hours rather than miles. Driving across town in the DFW area can be 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending on traffic. Dallas to Houston is about 4 hours. For shorter distances, you can use “over yonder” or “a little ways”. They basically mean your destination is further than you’d really want to walk but you don’t need to top of the gas tank or make a bathroom stop before you leave.

I sincerely hope this helps those of you who have wondered about some of these words or phrases. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m fixin’ to go to bed so I can head over yonder to the Home Depot first thing in the mornin’ fer some more plumbin’ supplies to get the Queen’s shower built. Bless her heart.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I know I’ve been neglecting my blog posting here of late again, but I have an excuse…er, explanation. Several, in fact. Silly things breed like drunken, teenage rabbits on Viagra and meth.

Excuse/explanation number one: Work. Need I say more? Apparently, yes, I must. Being a claims adjuster is not an occupation for the easily stressed, offended or grossed out. One of these days, I will get around to writing an insider’s guide to the claims process for the uninitiated in the hopes that it will dissuade some poor idiot from yelling “I’ll get a lawyer and sue your a**.” The last quarter of the year is always the busiest time of year. Everyone wants to settle their claims or get their invoices paid so that they can have Christmas money or close out their books for the year. And they want it done RIGHT the HE** NOW!!!! There seems to be a universal belief among claimants and vendors that they are the only person/company I am dealing with and calling and emailing repeatedly several times a day will yield faster results. It will. It will completely grind my voicemail and email inboxes to a stop at the speed of light. There is a fine line between sufficient work to maintain job security and too much work to be productive thus leading to job termination due to ineffectiveness. I am so standing on that line right now. With a landmine under my feet.

Explanation/Excuse number two: The bathroom. When not waiting on the Queen hand and foot or earning a living, I am trying to rebuild the master bathroom from scratch which has been sans shower since the “Now You See It, Now You Don’t…” post in November. If I am seen after normal work hours without a hammer or other suitable construction tool in my hand, I get raised eyebrows and cross looks from the Queen who wants to have her bathroom back in one piece so she is not assaulted by all the chemical smells which were once safely trapped by layers of tile and mortar.

Excuse/Explanation number three: Our Anniversary. Monday was the sixth anniversary of the Queen’s and my glorious entrance into wedded bliss. As we enter into the seventh year of our marriage, I find myself wondering what the whole seven year itch thing is supposed to be about. I probably wouldn’t know it if it jumped up an’ bit me on the butt. Which is probably for the best.

Given the Queen’s ongoing health challenges, I’ve tried to make this anniversary as special as possible within the limitations imposed upon us (i.e. can’t go out in public for fear of being exposed to pneumonia or swine flu or something equally enjoyable…again). Nothing quite takes the joy out of fine restaurant dining like being forced to wear a self contained bunny suit made of latex. I know it sounds like it would be fun and kinky, but we’re just not into that sort of thing.

So, what is a loyal and faithful servant/husband to do? Cater to his Queen’s every desire of course. First, there were the two dozen roses. Always a must for any anniversary going experience. Then there was the dinner. We had home cooked filet mignon with garlic mashed taters and gravy with oven roasted veggies followed by her favorite strawberries and cream for dessert.

But, wait, there’s more. We can’t have an anniversary without a truly unique gift or experience. Now, I know there are some truly sensitive men out there who feel that giving his spouse a vacuum cleaner or a new dishwasher for their anniversary is the absolute pinnacle of loving thoughtfulness. Let me tell you, these paragons of marital bliss have nothing on me. If you really want to endear yourself to your spouse, nothin’ says good lovin’ like …. wait for it …. a colon hydrotherapy session. I spared no expense on my lovely copper topped bride. Only the very best in organic coffee colonics would do for her.

As is the defense of every vacuum cleaner giving man on the planet, she really did ask for it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tiger's Having Round of His Life...

Welcome to the Golf Channel.

It's sunny and cold here at the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Invitational, but that's never stood in the way of Tiger as he slices his way through the course like it's a cherry pie.

There is a raucous, party like atmosphere in the gallery as Tiger makes his way to the eleventh hole. He's been having a truly amazing round. He's been just tearing up the course in a way we haven't seen since Ron Jeremy took up the sport. He's made a hole in one on every hole. He just makes it look effortless, and he seems to be having so much fun out there while he's doing it.

He's even so contemptuous of the competition that he's playing each hole more than once with the same results every time. You'd think playing each hole repeatedly would have an effect on Tiger's stamina, but he's not ready to lie down and quit just yet. He's unstoppable. If Viagra doesn't dump Bob Dole as a spokesperson and sign up Tiger while he's hot like this, they need to seriously reevaluate their marketing strategy.

Tiger hasn't even had to use his irons or his putter today. He's been doing it all with his driver. That's just as well, when we snuck a look at his golf bag earlier, we noticed his nine iron was missing.

And now, a word from our sponsors....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tiger Update

This will be a quick post following up on "Tiger Grabbed a Tail." I had to go to Tyler, TX yesterday on business. Getting up at 5:00 AM and driving 2 hours one way to do someone else a favor does strange things to my sense of humor. So, when my attorney showed me the news article that the Tiger Woods mistress count is up to 9 now, I couldn't help myself:

I said, "Well, it looks like he's gotten nine holes in...he could finish out the 18 by playing the back nine."

(rimshot...wa, wa, wa, waaaah)

Then there was the part of the story about Tiger having sex with one of his friends with benefits while in his car in the church parking lot. Tiger, yelling "Oh God" repeatedly while in the backseat of an Escalade in a church parking lot does not constitute going to church.

Either Tiger is addicted to sex or he never learned how to say no to crack.

Okay...I'm done now. I think.

More updates as events warrant.

Monday, December 7, 2009

With Friends Like These...

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find a comment on one of my posts from GunDiva (aka Mrs. Wilson of directing me to her blog for a little pat on the back. GunDiva has been a loyal reader and commenter on P&H since the EasyStreet Blog Carnival award I received in early October brought me to the attention of people outside close family and friends. It seems I made an impression with my special brand of baffling bull hockey ('cause I know I ain't dazzlin' no one with brilliance). While I didn't set out on this adventure to win awards or receive recognition, I have to say it's really nice to be appreciated and get kudos from my peers.

This award comes with strings attached, though. The rules, as explained in GunDiva's blog posting, are as follows:

1) grab the award (see the big blue circle thingie above - click on it and save it as jpeg file on your hard drive somewhere you can find it)
2) post it on your blog along with five things you love to do
3) name five others you want to recognize
I think I've already posted at least five things I love to do in my blog; but, what the heck, repetition can't hurt. Here, in no particular order, are five things I love to do:

1) Read. I think it was Stephen King who said that anyone who wants to be writer should read everything they can get their hands on. I'm not sure I ever had a conscious thought to want to be a writer until recently, but I've tried to read just about everything I can get my hands on for as long as I can remember.

2) Cook/Eat. This may seem like trying to cheat and get a two fer; but, the truth is, you can't do/love one without doing/loving the other. They go together like high school sweethearts. As the saying goes, never trust a skinny cook. Unless they have metabolism issues. I was 30 before my pasta binging caught up with me and beat my metabolism into submission.

3) Fly. It's sad that one of the things I am most passionate about in life is so freaking expensive. To fly for one hour in a small, basic single engine plane costs upwards of $75. Get something with a little more power or complexity and you might as well light a stack of Benjamins on fire. Still though, when I can afford it, there's nothing I like better than breaking the surly bonds of mother earth to go punch holes in the air.

4) My Wife. If you haven't figured this one out yet from reading this blog or knowing me personally, you are seriously and truly screwed in the observation department.

5) Tinkering. I can't help myself. Really. I just can't bring myself to pay someone else to do something I can do or figure out how to do myself. It's just too much fun to learn something new or fix/make something with your own two hands.

Now comes the hard part...figuring out who to recognize. Here, in no particular order, are the five people I'd like to recognize:

1) GunDiva. The logic of this choice may seem a bit circular and perhaps not in the spirit of the award, but the rules don't say nothin' about not doing it. So, I'll recognize who I darn well please. Thank you very much. Seriously, GunDiva is a loyal reader and regular commenter whose feedback I value. Knowing that there is someone else out there who gets a kick out the thoughts oozing from you brain is, more than anything else, what makes writing worthwhile. She also happens to be a pretty good wordsmith herself. I am a particular fan of her "other blog" Lyon's Roar Protection Agency (

2) Candace at Crazy Texas Mommy ( This is double recognition for her since GunDiva already beat me to it and recognized her. Candace is flat out nuts and knows the true meaning of "bless your heart" to boot.

3) Melanie at One Hot Mess ( Like GunDiva, I've met a few people I wouldn't otherwise have crossed paths with. Melanie deserves special recognition as she was follower #2 on the blog and the first follower from the blogosphere outside of friends and family to publicly admit to following my deranged ramblings.

4) Mary Witzl at Resident Alien ( Given the fact I have a double major in History and Anthropology with an emphasis in cultural anthropology, I was immediately drawn to Mary's multicultural stories of growing up and living in foreign countries and teaching English to young kids who are not so interested in learning anything much less English. Great writing, and it will probably irrevocably crush any thoughts I ever harbored of entering the teaching profession.

5) Tay at ProfoundiTay ( Tay is another glutton for punishment who fell on the hand grenade that is P & H and publicly admits to reading my witty attempts at prose. She is also another person whom I would never have met but for this world of blogging.

There. I hope my selectees enjoy my humble accolades as much as I enjoyed mine from GunDiva.

Tiger Grabbed a Tail

It seems like all I’ve heard for the past week or so on talk radio, in the news or in casual conversation is something about Tiger Woods, his accident and his alleged infidelity issues. I say alleged because, as a Christian, it’s not my job to judge or condemn Mr. Woods’ purported behavior (go look at Matthew 7 starting in verse 1 if you need more instruction on the subject of judging others). He’ll have to stand before God and explain himself just like the rest of us. I don’t imagine that will be a fun conversation for any of us.

However, given the apparent facts: 1) at least six women have come out of the woodwork claiming to have had a little Tiger in them; 2) he reportedly renegotiated the pre-nup with his wife; 3) he made a public statement about letting his family down; 4) he left the house at 2:00 AM for no good reason, etc., I’d say it’s pretty safe to say Tiger was out looking for strange. Where there is smoke, there’s fire as they say.

Tiger, just answer me one question: Why are you out hooking up with other women when you are married to a Swedish swim suit model? A SWIM SUIT MODEL for crying out loud. Was it just not the same after she gave birth to YOUR children???? Okay, so that was two questions. Sue me. You can stand in line with the rest of the world and try and get blood out of this turnip.

I just don’t get it. In most cases, no one puts a gun to your head and forces you to get married. If you’re not done sleeping with everything that moves and mentally/emotionally/spiritually ready to fulfill marriage vows, don’t get married. It’s that simple. “Forsaking all others” does not mean you can cross your fingers behind your back and whisper “Except when some hot chick just HAPPENS to tackle me and forces me to give her sex…repeatedly.” Unless, apparently, you are a professional athlete or are elected or appointed to government office. I bet John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Kobe Bryant, and a whole bunch of others were having déjà vu moments this week.

As many of you already know, I have very strong VIEWS on the subject of marriage, and I feel like I have been blessed to be married to a wonderful woman. I would never, ever consider cheating on her. And it has nothing to do with the fact she wouldn’t stop at breaking out the rear window of the car with a nine iron either. The Queen is much more creative than that, and I’m rather attached to certain parts of my body. At least, if given a choice, I’d like to remain attached to certain parts of my body.

Seriously, though, all this focus on Tiger Woods’ marriage has me thinking about my own marriage and the marriages of people close to the Queen and me.

While the Queen and I will have only been married for six years at the end of this month, we’ve known each other for twelve and a half years. We almost made it past the seven year itch before we even got married. Six and a half years might seem like a long courtship to some people; however, the Queen and I are not even in the running for the record. We know a couple who have been ENGAGED, not just dating, for at least nine years. We think they are nuts. And not about each other either.

On the other side of the coin, The Queen and I are friends with another married couple who we have known for a while. They married each other after a long distance relationship which lasted less than a year. The Queen has known the husband of the couple since they were kids. Individually, they are decent people who are fun to be around despite their character flaws and other personality quirks (like the Queen and I don’t have any of those). Together, they are like oil and water.

To say they have been having marital issues is like saying the Mona Lisa is a pretty picture. These two have taken marital strife to an art form. They should be framed and studied.

He thinks she is a “whore” who should meekly obey and submit to his authority as head of the household instead of contradicting and undermining him every chance she gets. She thinks he is an overbearing, selfish control freak who is Hell bent on making everyone else’s life miserable. This is his second marriage and her first marriage. He has custody of the kids from his first marriage, and she had two kids “out of wedlock” from prior relationships. They now have one child together.

Let me take a moment and step up on my soapbox for a moment. To all you guys out there that think you have to be “in charge” and force your wives or girlfriends to submit to your authority, you are morons. Submission is a voluntary act committed by the person submitting out of faith. Attempting to force someone to submit is, in fact, subjugation and won’t last. Dave Ramsey quotes a line frequently which is applicable here: “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.” By attempting to force your will on others, all you are doing is bringing your own little Al Qaeda terrorist cell into your life. Look forward to that day when you wake up strapped into your bed soaked in gasoline. It’s coming.

Stepping off the soapbox now….

As near as the Queen and I can tell, these two are not on the same page about anything. They don’t seem to agree regarding how the money should be spent, how to raise the kids, religion, how to dress, makeup, etc. The Brady Bunch they are not.

The Queen and I did a lot of soul searching and counseling before we made the decision to get married. Watching the meltdown of this couple’s marriage, I am reminded of some advice our minister gave the Queen and I when we were in pre-marital counseling. He said, “A bad marriage is a whole lot worse than no marriage at all.” Truer words were never spoken.

This is just my opinion, but I think a lot of people lose sight of one important component in any marriage. That is: marriage is both a physical union and a spiritual commitment. I see so many people getting wrapped up in being “Princess/Prince For A Day” and forgetting that they are making a promise and a vow to God in front of however many witnesses, friends and family to “have and to hold” a particular person until “death do you part.”

That’s serious business. God says so (see what Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 has to say about failing to fulfill a vow). I have no intention of standing before God and having Him call me a fool. Or worse. Not if I can help it.

To borrow from Forrest Gump, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.” It’s about applying the Golden Rule every day. If you want to be treated like royalty in your marriage, treat your spouse like royalty. Not because they are royalty, but because you made a promise before God and creation to treat that person like no one else.

I didn’t marry a Swedish swim suit model. I married someone much more beautiful than that. I married a woman who loves me unconditionally not because I have money or fame or physical endowments, but because she is a loving, caring individual who sees the same in me. I married a Queen, and I try to be worthy of her every day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good Food, Good Times

I think I’ve already mentioned a line I once read in a book which really stood out to me, but it’s worth repeating here. It went something like: “I love to cook, I love to eat, and I’ve won awards for both.” I haven’t won any awards for eating yet mainly because I haven’t entered any eating contests. Not that I ever will, mind you. I find the concept of trying to eat mountains of any particular food faster than the next guy to be utterly repulsive. In a projectile vomiting kind of way. I did, however, win third place in a cake baking contest once for my Black Forest Kirchen Torte.

The fact I learned not only to cook well but also learned to enjoy the process of cooking is nothing short of a miracle. I learned to cook when I was rather young. I wasn’t forced to learn how to cook, per se, like some kids were; however, it wasn’t exactly an optional experience either. Learning to cook became more or less a necessity for survival in a single parent household in which the parent, mom, was busy earning a living and going back to school to finish her degrees.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first learned to cook, but I know I learned to make a fairly basic spaghetti sauce sometime before I was eight years old. By the time my parents separated when I was eight, I was fully capable of managing most basic meals.

This early introduction to the culinary arts came with some interesting side effects. Most notable was the occasional odd menu choice. Leaving a pre-teen with a sweet tooth in charge of meal planning and cooking is not always wise. Fortunately for me, my mother had the prerequisite combination of desperation/insanity/lack of choices which allowed me to make what others might consider to be, shall we say, unwise dinner selections. I remember one dinner in particular which consisted solely of uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough. In my defense, I did ask her what she wanted me to fix for dinner to which she infamously replied, “I don’t care.” I don’t recall her protesting very strongly when she was presented with her bowl of dough either.

While my mother gave me a good grounding in the basics of cooking, she never really had the time or inclination to teach me about cooking for the shear joy of it. I was to learn the finer points and the love of cooking for the sake of cooking from others. From my grandmothers, I learned the fine art of baking. Mother’s mom had a way of making biscuits that was just divine. There was no better breakfast that her biscuits with cream gravy and a little (read a lot) of butter. To this day, I can’t match her biscuits which she managed to get done with a high degree of consistency sans recipe or measuring cups/spoons. I also got my cinnamon cookie recipe from her Liberty Cookbook of which my sister currently has custody. T., if you are reading this which you admitted you do, that cookbook is long overdue for a stay in my kitchen. Hint, hint. Then there was great grandmother’s carrot cake recipe. Mmmmmm…..(slobber, drool, smack). It’s no wonder I can’t pass up a bakery without whimpering and drooling like Pavlov’s dog.

However, it was really my uncle Don (mom’s brother) who taught me the finer points of cooking from a truly Epicurean point of view. To him, food was not merely a means of sustenance. Food was an experience. He was of the opinion one should only consume food and beverage of quality and skillful preparation. To his way of thinking, the ingredients of a sauce which had cooked for less than an hour hadn’t really gotten a chance to get to know each other yet.

It was also because of him I never had to worry about other people drinking my beer at college parties. While most college kids are more interested in a cheap drunk using Milwaukee’s Best or Keystone Light or whatever else was on sale for under $10 a case, Don taught me to enjoy beer that actually tastes like beer was meant to taste instead of the watered down, purified rat urine most college kids swill. As a result, I usually went home more or less sober with enough beer left over for the next party.

That’s not to say, however, my cooking skills are without their limitations. For instance, while I am fairly successful at cooking well timed meals for a small group of people (no more than six people), I find myself intimidated by pulling off meals for larger groups. I think this comes from an experience I had in high school. I was dating a girl who wanted to introduce me to her parents. She suggested I make a batch of my now famous spaghetti for her parents and sister. She asked me what would be required, and I gave her a shopping list based on an expected audience of five diners. I arrived at her house to find out I was cooking for ten. There’s nothing quite like being surprised and put on the spot to go with the nervousness of being a tall, uncoordinated 17 year old meeting a girl’s parents for the first time to throw you off your game and put a damper on your joy of cooking. I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. This was the same girl who introduced herself to mom as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. At the ripe old age of 17 no less.

So, when the Queen informed me we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, it gave me a moment of pause. The kind of moment where one of your eyes twitches uncontrollably and coherent speech is temporarily impossible. After all, I was at a business meeting in mid October when I received a phone call from the Queen advising me of her royal decree. No discussion. Just (Surprise!) “We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year.” That would be the Royal “We” apparently. What else is there for a good slave to do but hear and obey?

To quote the famous infomercial announcer guy, “But wait, there’s more.” As loyal readers are already aware, the Queen’s health issues result in her not having the energy to really assist in the meal preparation. Add to that my mother in law’s complete lack of interest in cooking. She claims to be allergic to the kitchen, and her idea of cooking is to put a pot of beans on the stove to be served as bean and mayo burritos. There are times when I really do feel sorry for my father in law.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression that my family is without its culinary ineptness. There is one story involving a certain family member’s first attempt at roasting a Thanksgiving turkey which bears relating here. I am withholding the identity of the guilty party by request in good faith. I didn’t even solicit a bribe for this one.

As the story goes, our intrepid Turkey Toaster was fairly young, newly married and clueless as to the secret arts of the kitchen. Not one to be shy about asking for guidance, our would be chef put in a call to an older and wiser family member who instructed said neophyte to begin by “bathing” the bird and to call back when done. Having no other experience in the matter with which to compare and taking the words of wisdom somewhat literally, picture a young person merrily drowning and scrubbing a turkey in a sea of warm water and Ivory liquid soap suds.

It’s my understanding that the subsequent phone calls to the older and wiser family member involved much more explicit instructions after the initial shock and laughter wore off. I don’t know how well that particular turkey tasted as it was before my time; however, the story does not involve any trips to the hospital for food poisoning. So, I assume everything turned out well.

So, you see where this is going right? Me, who is not real comfortable with the whole cooking for a large group idea, cooking for no less than twelve people. We actually wound up seating 14 for dinner. It was almost 22 at one point. Fortunately for my sweaty palms and nervous ticks, the friends with a family of seven politely declined.

All in all, despite my aversion to cooking for large groups, we had a good Thanksgiving dinner. No one went home hungry, and leftovers were kept to a minimum. My brother in law and his family brought several side items, wine, chocolate chip cookies and a chocolate cheesecake for dessert. I managed to bake a batch of cinnamon cookies, roast a turkey, cook a brisket, make homemade cranberry sauce, make fresh hot sauce, make cream cheese Rotel dip, cook a pot of mashed sweet potatoes and whip up some cream gravy more or less on time.

The only thing that didn’t turn out right was the attempt at homemade barbeque sauce. It was one of Grandma Erickson’s recipes I had never tried before. It was bad. I mean gag a maggot bad. It went down the drain before anyone had a chance to realize how bad it was.

I’ll have to try that recipe again. Maybe with a little Ivory soap next time.