The Butterball Challenge (Haitian Style)


As Sara and I continue to pack up our lives here in Haiti, and I continue to reflect and reminisce about some of Haiti-related “challenges” we’ve faced over the last year, I simply must share, for those of you who may have missed it, the following about our effort to prepare a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner for 24 under, shall we say, less-than-ideal conditions:

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I’ve decided to share, over the next several days, a few of the challenges we’re facing trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinner from Haiti.  So stay tuned all week for the sometimes amusing, sometimes maddening, sometimes mind-numbing complications that inevitably arise when celebrating this most American of holidays in the least American of locations.

Today I give you the oven-related challenges.

 

Is my Haitian oven up to the Butterball challenge?

 

I told Sara when we were looking for a house here in Haiti, that I simply had to have an oven.  Neither of the two homes we had in Vietnam had anything other than a cook top in the kitchen, which bothered me to no end, since I like to bake—cookies, cakes, biscuits, pies, muffins.  The only thing I like more than making them is eating them, but that’s another post for another day.

 So Sara did what any Tollhouse-cookie-loving partner would do.  She got us an oven—a real honest-to-goodness gas oven—minus the thermostat.

 I kid you not.  There’s no way to set any specific temperature on this most essential of kitchen appliances, any temperature either Fahrenheit or Celsius.

 Now, I love Sara more than anything, even more than my daily dose of cake and cookies, and those of you who know my inclination toward carb-consumption, know that’s saying quite a bit.  But sometimes she misses the most obvious of details.

 “Oh, that’s not that important.  You’ll figure that out.”

 Twelve attempts and twelve burnt batches of cookies later, I’m still figuring. 

 Which brings me to the matter of needing an oven this week, a temperature controlled oven, I might add.   In America we can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.  It’s the most Thanksgiving of Thanksgiving desserts—even when celebrating from here in Port-au-Prince—especially when celebrating from any far-away, cholera-sickened, earthquake-toppled part of the planet!

 A pumpkin pie likes to bake for the first 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit and the final 45 to 50 minutes at 350, temperatures too precise even for the oven thermometer I brought back from the US.  It only seems to get me in the ballpark of a particular temperature, give or take 100 degrees. 

 But what about the turkey Sara plans to roast, what about the thermostatic requirements of the old Butterball?

 Oh, that’s not that important.  She’ll figure that out.

Have you had any memorable Thanksgiving dinner disasters?

(un)Sunday’s (un)poem post


The poem below is about an (un) family–one that appears to be something that it’s not–a family where things seem to be order–but are, in fact, far, far from ordinary.  It’s about family dysfuntion on a massively deceptive scale. 

We wear nice clothes.  We drive nice cars.  We go to church, to school.

But–we are, in fact, none of those things. 

We are the inversion of family.

(un)poem

everything begins and ends
     with appetite
                                the edge
 
of the photograph
     where the girl’s
     arm ends
                                and the tablecloth
 
begins again its
     grammar of red
                and white
                                diagramming
 
father / mother
     sister
     sister
                                plates
 
in their places
     knives to the right
     spoons
     roast chicken
                                relics of
 
10,000 family dinners
                                that swim
 
     white cat
     cadmium yellow
 
to the windowsill
     on the east side
               of the house
                                where we
 
have set blue mason jars
     absorbing particles
                of spring
                                the early
     face of april growing
                in the yard
 
seeming untime
                unspace
 
work room
wood floor
 
tangle of limbs
     jungled
     wet
 
always never
     arriving