SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - So, what was the best Thanksgiving dinner - taste wise - you ever had? For me, that's hard to narrow down, considering how many I have choose from, spanning six decades.
Six decades? Kee-rist!
But the one that sticks in my mind today wasn't served on fine china, on a table covered with linen. And the silverware wasn't silver, though it got the job done neatly enough.
It was 40-plus years ago that I was working at a Minute Man gas station in the burg of Falconer, New York, seven miles from my home in Lakewood that Thanksgiving Day. And there was no getting around the job and working. Jobs were scarce, particularly for unskilled college kids. And I certainly fit that bill.
So I sat staring at the mostly empty gas pumps for four hours that afternoon, the very occasional customer stopping by on their way to a nice dinner somewhere. They were dressed quite fancy; I was dressed in ragged white coveralls.
Mostly I remember it was cold - damned cold - and I was hungry. The little restaurants nearby, where I always picked up a cheap lunch, were closed that day.
But midway through my shift, a familiar car came barreling in, a Camaro if my memory is right. It was my high school amigo Bud Hooper whose parents lived in Falconer. Bud was bearing a plate of leftover food from their dinner eaten earlier that day. Bud's mom Shirley knew I was sitting at Minute Man, counting the hours until I could head back home to my family where the official Thanksgiving dinner was underway, Manhattans flowing.
What I also remember was putting the aluminum-foiled wrapped plate on a radiator in the backroom to warm it up a little and cracking it neatly in two.
Cracked plate or not, the turkey and potatoes and dressing were soooo good I rarely smell a turkey cooking without thinking of them and that cold November afternoon and how nice it was.
And perhaps the nicest thing - something to remember today - was that it was totally unexpected. I had decided that afternoon that I would rely on some stale Fritos from a vending machine and a Mountain Dew soda to get me through until quitting time.
Instead, thanks to the kindness of a friend's mom, I had fabulous meal.
Sorry about the cracked plate, Shirley. But thanks again, 40-plus years later.