Achievement Unlocked:

In the last five days, I have:

  • Driven 650 miles
  • Made and blind-baked four pie crusts
  • Roasted and braised a turkey
  • Made sides and gravy for 16
  • Reserved enough broth to make turkey gravy salted caramels (YES I WILL, MOTHER FUCKERS)
  • Waited to hear if my nephew has a brain tumor (he doesn’t, hell yes)
  • Hosted family overnight
  • Run a frankly absurd number of dishwasher loads
  • Hand-washed all the family china
  • Done an introvert-month’s worth of socializing
  • Invented the unit of measurement known as the introvert-month
  • Eaten enough carbs that I feel Confession is warranted, despite my Protestant-bordering-on-Unitarian leanings
  • Made my father-in-law cry

Every inch worth it. Tomorrow, I return to work, so that I may rest.

Tomb to Table

Holiday recipes from the dead. Includes a recipe for my wife's grandmother's chocolate pie and a meditation on the tradition of learning through failure:

I wish I could say I learned how to make chocolate pie at my mom's side, but the truth is I learned the same way she did — by screwing it up the first time I tried to make it, calling her from my in-laws' house on my first married Thanksgiving so she could talk me through what I'd done wrong. (My problem: I always forget to add the butter and vanilla at the end. After hearing me dog-cuss myself at his parents' house for five straight Thanksgivings, my husband started leaving Post-Its on the piecrusts while I wasn't looking. "Add the $%#@ing vanilla," he'd stick on one crust, "And the $&#!ing butter, too" on the second. It's our own little holiday tradition now.)

The end of that story is as bittersweet as the pie.

My wife's pretty goddamn great.

I'm Only Half Joking Here

We are here today to celebrate the career and herald the retirement of a lifelong friend. We are here not just to wish her well, not to merely hand her some gold-plated accessory and pat her on the back, but to honor her.

To honor her industry.

Her dedication. 

Her steadfastness and her genius.

Her beauty? Yes, her beauty too.


To this day she stands clad in Harvest Gold, a shining symbol of an age when our tools and our workers were not meant to be disposable, but were built to last and priced accordingly. She outlived that era, and she is still standing, still working---at the end, harder than ever.

She is, let it be said, the John Henry of dough.

She came into my home before I did. I have known her and her loving care literally my whole life. I spent my boyhood "helping" her and my mom make all manner of batters and doughs. I watched her whip egg whites into meringue Kilimanjaros. I watched her turn cream into lust, a defiant reversal of the natural order. Bit by bit, she taught me how to conjure.

She gave me love and comfort beyond measure. She was part mother, part science teacher, part enabler. When I finally became a man and had a wife and children of my own, she followed me to my new home to give them that same comfort and joy.

But two loaves' worth of bread dough a week is simply too much to ask of someone who has already given so much for so long. Her paddle beater is nicked, the tines of her whisk dulled. These marks of use and usefulness only enhance her beauty, but I can no longer ask her to bear more scars on my behalf.

Yesterday I laid my hand on her as once more she diligently massaged life-giving gluten into a mass of hot cereal and flour and honey and yeast, and I felt the searing heat of her brow. She never complained, not once, just gave a small sigh when she laid that burden down for what I hope will be the last time.

When it was done, I washed her bowl and paddle and dough hook, wiped her down with a cool, damp cloth and left her to return to room temperature. I fretted over the strain I had forced her to endure. And if there was some excitement in my anticipation of Tuesday morning's trip to Tuesday Morning to arrange for her replacement, know that it was tempered with sorrow and conflict.

She will always have a place in my home. I will not toss her aside after so many years of loyalty and dedication and love. But her days of bleeding for my family are over. She has earned her rest.

Enjoy that rest, dear lady. Thank you for all you've given me.