Dad said to just bring my appetite after I offered to bring a side dish and a dessert to his house in Wayne, Nebraska for the Thanksgiving dinner of 2013. He wanted to take my sister and me to a restaurant for the meal. The plan was to visit some old friends who lived in the nursing home. Later, we would wait for my sister to leave work. Once she joined us, we three would go out to eat.
After sis arrived, the three of us piled into my car to go to the restaurant. When we were near our destination, I noticed that the downtown area was completely deserted, the restaurant’s parking lot was empty and its windows were dark. Dad remarked that we would just have to follow “plan B” and find another restaurant.
It’s important to remember that Wayne, Nebraska is a small town of around 5,000 inhabitants. There are only a few eating establishments, including fast-food service. In less than half-an-hour, we discovered that none of them was open. Furthermore, the two small supermarkets and all of the convenience store/gasoline stations were closed for the holiday, too. I offered to throw something together in order to salvage the meal, so I drove us all back to dad’s house.
I soon discovered that dad had not done his grocery shopping for the rest of the week. Aside from some milk and cereal for dad’s breakfast and a TV-dinner for the next day’s lunch, his larder was practically bare. All three of us were hungry, so I had to be resourceful.
A more thorough search revealed a packet of spaghetti and a can of green beans stashed away in one of the cupboards along with various cans of condiments. Dad then remembered that some tomatoes were stored in the deep-freezer in the garage. I found them, and nothing else. So, basically, we had some dry spaghetti and a solid, two-pound brick of frozen tomatoes.
Thanks to dad’s microwave oven, the tomatoes thawed enough to break apart sufficiently to fit inside of a saucepan. While the tomatoes simmered into a thick liquid, I sprinkled in oregano and some other savory spices plus the small can of mushrooms I found tucked away inside another cupboard. While the sauce steeped on the range, I boiled the spaghetti.
The humble meal not only filled us up but it became one of our family’s most memorable Thanksgiving dinners. The mere mention of it brings about smiles. I also feel a touch of melancholy about that simple meal. It was the last Thanksgiving dinner we ate at dad’s house because dad went to live in the nursing home before the next Thanksgiving.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes humorist Erma Bombeck. “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not a coincidence.”