Will and Christina by Patty LaRoche

Maybe you could strain your stuffing.”

The stuffing recipe was new, a five-star dish, loaded with sausage, bacon and mushrooms. The photo-shopped picture—with precisely placed red peppers and browned bread chunks– was my Thanksgiving experiment for this year, the year when I needed to impress.

I knew what had gone wrong. I had become distracted when the recipe called for 4 cups of water, and since I was halving-again the ingredients, six were necessary. But had I already poured in four…or six? How was I to know? The bread had soaked up all of the water, so there was no way to dump it out and remeasure. I stood by my Dutch oven, staring, waiting for the brain cells to engage. Four cups or six cups, that was the question. Unfortunately, that was also the answer. I added two more cups, rationalizing that moist stuffing is better than dry. It isn’t.

That wasn’t the only mistake. Dave and I were half-way to our son’s family’s house for dinner when I realized I had left my salad’s apple/parsley garnish at home. My lovely apple-lemon-cranberry jello dish would be naked, and since my stuffing had required additional baking time, there was no time to turn around and retrieve it, especially since I needed to run by the grocery store to pick up one of those cheater brown gravy mixes because I had only enough turkey drippings to make gravy for two small children. I would supplement and hope no one noticed. In the end, my lack of jello garnish didn’t matter anyway because I got distracted (are you seeing a pattern here?) and forgot to add my lovely apple-lemon-cranberry dish to the buffet spread until after everyone had eaten.

I had wanted my contribution to be perfect. Our son’s lifelong friend, Will, and his wife, Christina, were visiting from New York. Will owns the #1 restaurant in the WORLD, and Christina owns 15 pastry shops scattered across the country. If you watch the television show Master Chef, you will recognize her as one of the judges. But here I was, straining my gourmet turkey stuffing (aka, mush) while Christina noticed my faux gravy mixes and offered to whisk away. It was she who sweetly suggested the stuffing could serve as a fancy gravy for the potatoes that I surprisingly had not ruined, probably thanks to two sticks of butter, one of cream cheese and overkill on half-and-half, facts I would not share, considering Will and Christina eat only healthy food.

In the end, the young couple raved about the meal, finding nothing but positives in my negatives. Here they were, two perfectionists in the food industry, and they were determined to make me feel unembarrassed. Christina even commented on how many mistakes are made in preparing pastries and that it’s how you correct the problems that makes the difference. I have no doubt their upbeat attitude contributes to their restaurant success.

Ephesians 4:29 addresses the way we talk to others: “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” Let’s face it. We are either an encourager or a discourager. I have been both. As a wife, a parent, a teacher, a committee member. And I can honestly tell you, looking for ways to build someone up is far more effective than tearing them down. Christina modeled that for me on Thanksgiving Day. She saw nothing but good in my efforts.

I expect that any day I should get her invitation to appear on Master Chef.

Yes indeed, any day.

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