On Turkey Pie and Other Small-Town Business
I still don’t belong to the Gold Crest Riders Snowmobile Club. Mostly because I don’t have a snowmobile, and probably never will. But because in this town, nearly anything that matters happens there, I end up spending quite a bit of my time at the clubhouse down along that dirt road.
This weekend, as a case in point: the first Saturday in December has been, for the past 22 years, the date of the DUMC turkey pie supper, held at the club, which is the only hall in town big enough to hold it (I moved into this burgh, as it happens, in time for the second one). This is big doin’s in Dixmont: nearly everyone in town shows up for a plate between 4:30 and 6:30. The menu is always the same: all-meat turkey pie, with sides of mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, squash, rolls (white or oatmeal–I highly recommend the oatmeal), gravy, and for dessert, cheesecake with cherries on top. When I first came to town, I was one of those people who showed up, ate until I was enormous, talked to people, and wandered away into the night. For the past couple of years, though, I’ve been one of the red-aproned women behind the counter: I’m the gravy girl.
I blame this all, of course, on my son, who, at around ten years of age, decided to become a Methodist. I’m not sure that I am–I’m not sure that I’m anything much–but in taking him around the corner and up the hill to the church, I managed to make some wonderful friends. If they need me to don the red apron and make triangle toast at the once-a-month breakfasts at the snowmobile club, or wash some dishes in the deep industrial sink, or sling ladles-full of gravy in December, I’m fine with that. It just means I get to hang out with them, making myself useful, and getting a good laugh into the bargain. And the food is good. Sometimes my friend Nancy even lets me take her Doobie Brothers CD out of the player and put in my Oysterband: she knows how to keep me happy.
I am always in awe of the people who put together this enormous undertaking. In the days leading up to the event itself, my
neighbor down the road, Sonia, oversees the cooking and picking of somewhere around 500 pounds of turkey, the mixing and rolling of who knows how much pie crust, the filling and baking of 180 pies…and then comes the peeling and cooking of all those vegetables. Sonia, her daughter Robin, Katie and her daughter Heather, the Nancys, Lorilei, Lois–they’re all busy, and they all make me feel woefully inadequate. I’m a latecomer to the scene, arriving during the day on Saturday to help where I’m least in the way: drying dishes and putting them away; helping to strain potatoes and carrots and squash out in the back yard. This year I got to divide up cranberry sauce and put it in bowls for each table, which kept me safely out of the way each time Robin shouted “Fire in the hole!” and came rushing by with an enormous pot of boiling something. In past years I’ve made enough lemonade to fill swimming pools. I’ve been known to roll up silverware in napkins. I once got to be in charge of putting cherries on the cheesecake, a harmless but necessary occupation.
This year, though the sign at the end of the road gave the opening time as 4:30, there were people waiting to fork over their $7 by four o’clock. As soon as the vegetables were ready in their warming trays at the pass-through, and as soon as the first of the pies were heated up in the giant black monster of an oven, Robin opened us up for business, and off we went. As I’ve said, I’m the gravy girl: I stand midway between the island and the pass-through, taking plated slices of pie from Sonia, ladling gravy over them from an enormous pot, and passing them to Lorilei, who made sure there were always enough hot plates for the people coming through the door. And, oh, they came, in ones and twos and fives and families. This year, though, they stayed–so much so that we began to run out of seats–primarily because the Neighbors Helping Neighbors raffle was to be drawn after dinner (sixteen themed baskets–fishing, chocolate, movies–put together by various neighborhoods in town; the proceeds from the raffle go into the town’s contingency fund, to aid people who need help getting through the winter). It was busy; it was noisy; it was friendly; and in the kitchen, we were having a grand old time. Even my son got into the act, helping people with kids get their plates to their seats.
The crowd dwindled once the raffles were drawn–once again this year I bought 15 tickets, and didn’t win anything, but that’s always the way of it–and the kitchen help finally got dinner around 6:30. Afterwards, clean-up. Pans and silverware and pots to be washed, leftover vegetables to be packaged up and sent home with people, tables and chairs to be rearranged and put away, floors to be swept, trash to be taken out. Oh, and a bottle of Merlot, shared around in paper cups–but don’t tell.
Next year, the 23rd annual turkey pie supper: Gold Crest Riders Snowmobile Club, Saturday, December 3rd, from 4:30- 6:30. Mark it on your calendar. I’ve already got it marked on mine–the 2011 Gold Crest Riders Community Birthday Calendar, which Sonia delivered to me while I was eating my turkey pie supper.
I’ll be the gravy girl.
Postscript, for Trisha O and anyone else interested:
First left on Rt 7, once you’re through the intersection. Head down that dirt road, and it’s at the bottom of the dip, on the right. Can’t miss it.
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