I had known Amos for many years. He looked and sounded as if he could be James Earl Jones’ twin. We first met when I had directed him in a community theatre production of the Cole Porter show, “Anything Goes.”
Amos and I were different in almost every way and disagreed on almost everything. Possibly for those reasons we became the very best of friends.
I was a good cook. Amos had difficulty heating a can of soup. Amos thought that William Faulkner was the greatest author and genius the world had ever brought forth. I made six attempts at reading, “As I Lay Dying” – and never made it past page nine before I fell sleeping. I couldn’t wait for opera season to begin. Amos couldn’t understand how anyone would choose to attend the opera unless a gun were held to his head.
One year, about a week before Christmas, I ran into him on the street as I was walking Tristan my Irish Setter. Tristan did what he did best, jumped up on Amos and started licking his face. Tristan was well-trained.
Amos asked, “So what are you doing for Christmas?”
I replied that I would probably make a small roast of some kind for Tristan and me.
“Well, I was going to call you but I’m glad we met. I would like you to join mother and my sister and me for Christmas dinner.”
I readily accepted the invitation – expecting that we would be going to Amos’ mom’s house for dinner. He had told me on any number of occasions that his mother was an outstanding cook.
Then came the bombshell.
Amos said, “I’m cooking. Dinner will be at three o’clock.”
I politely inquired, “Could I help you – or is there something that I might bring to add to this festive meal?”
“Not at all. I have everything under control.”
So I went my way, wondering what was in store for Christmas dinner.
On Christmas day I called Amos about nine – just to see if he might have changed his mind and could use some assistance. He assured me that everything was under control – but said that if I wanted to come by at about one we could have a few glasses of wine together before his mother and sister arrived.
When I got off the elevator of his apartment building, I was struck with the aroma of vanilla which filled the rather large hallway. I went to Amos’ apartment and found that he was the source of this.
He greeted me at the door – and the vanilla aroma in the hallway had graduated to an overpowering smell. I asked, “What are you making for dessert?”
Amos said, “Oh, I bought a cherry pie at the store and got some Redi-Whip to top it off.” He pointed to the can of Redi-Whip sitting on the counter next to the stove. I suggested that he might want to refrigerate it.
“So what is the source of this wonderful vanilla smell?”
Amos said, “Well, I knew that you were supposed to rub the turkey with some sort of herbs and such but when I went to my cupboard the only thing I had was vanilla – so I used that.”
“I’ll take that glass of wine now, if you don’t mind,” I said. And he poured one for both of us.
The wine helped – a little.
“May I ask what else you’re making?”
“Well, I made rice stuffing to go with the turkey.”
“Oh, that sounds good.” I couldn’t help but ask how he had prepared this.
“The recipe said to cook the rice and add all the other ingredients – some chopped celery, a little onion, some mushrooms. But I figured since it was going to be sitting inside the bird for six hours (it was a 14 pound turkey), why bother with the cooking part. It would be nicely done if I just put the raw rice in with the rest of the ingredients.”
I asked for a second glass of wine – which helped a little bit more.
Thankfully, at that point the downstairs buzzer rang. Mom and sis had arrived.
Amos’ mom and I immediately bonded and the two of us agreed that since KFC was open, I would go and purchase a 16 piece bucket of chicken and a sufficient quantity of mashed potatoes to feed the four of us.
We all enjoyed the store-bought cherry pie (replete with Redi-Whip) for dessert.
That was the most interesting Christmas dinner I ever experienced – and the only time I almost got to eat a vanilla turkey.
Merry Christmas to my dear friend Amos and to all of you.