Happy Thanksgiving & a Family Tale

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you all (or at least you Americans) a happy Thanksgiving. His turkey is in the oven and various side dishes have been prepped and are awaiting their cook time. He is taking a little break and trying to relax a little before doing more cooking…

For some reason this little family story popped into his mind today and he decided to share it…

Many years ago, your Maximum Leader was sitting in his maternal grandmother’s kitchen discussing what he and his maternal grandmother would be cooking for a family gathering. In the course of discussing the menu, your Maximum Leader’s maternal grandfather said that this would be a good time to pull out “that cookbook I got you” and use it to plan a menu. Your Maximum Leader asked what cookbook while glancing over at his maternal grandmother. Grandma suddenly had a sour look on her face. Your Maximum Leader again about the cookbook. At that point his grandfather got up and went to another room; returning shortly with a beautiful book.

Your Maximum Leader is serious. It was a gorgeous book. It was bound in thick green leather and debossed with gold leaf (real gold leaf in fact). On the front and spine the lovely script said the book was the “Cordon Bleu Menu Cookbook.” As your Maximum Leader opened the book the spine made a noise. It had obviously not been opened in years. The book was published by the Cordon Bleu school in Paris in the early 1950s. (Your Maximum Leader was looking at it in the late 1980s.) The pages were heavy bond and had wonderful hand. The book was divided by season and holidays. Each chapter provided a number of complete formal menus for breakfast, lunch, brunch, tea, and dinner by season or holiday. The menus were described in detail with recipes, order of service, description of what to use to decorate the table, what wines to serve with the food. All of this was in French and in English. The photo pages were spectacular.

So… Your Maximum Leader leafed through the book and commented that it was a lovely book and asked how long it had been hanging around without him ever seeing it. At that point Grandpa started to tell the tale of the book. Grandpa worked for the Department of the Army from the 1939 to 1969. During the 1950s he was often assigned to various NATO related tasks and would often travel to Europe (with a cool diplomatic passport that your Maximum Leader still has). So, the tale progressed. Grandpa was on NATO business in Belgium and France and happened to be in Paris. It occurred to Grandpa that he ought to try and bring Grandma a different type of gift than his usual. He was in the habit of buying some fancy perfume or article of clothing for Grandma while he was abroad. This time it was going to be different.

Your Maximum Leader’s maternal grandmother was a great cook. She was taught by her mother and grandmother. She could bake (and was a great baker). She could cook. In a kitchen she was an expert. In your Maximum Leader’s life, he couldn’t remember seeing her study a recipe to make a dish. She did have a copy of The Joy of Cooking but it seemed to be for quick reference or to jog her memory when she was cooking something.

Grandpa continued that one night on this business trip to Paris he was being wined and dined by some French official. The dinner was prepared by students and professors at the famed Cordon Bleu school. Of course, back in the 1950s there was only one Cordon Bleu in Paris - now they have them everywhere… Anyhow, at some point during the dinner, or just after, Grandpa commented on the quality and breadth of the dinner and how it lived up to every preconception of fine French dining. His host noted that the students and professors had put together a book with recipes and other instructions for how to put on a similar type of meal. Grandpa asked where he could get a copy and was told that they would deliver one to him the next day.

And so Grandpa acquired the large green-leather bound debossed in gold leaf cookbook.

Needless to say, Grandpa was pretty excited that he’d found such a thoughtful and unique gift for his wife. He had it wrapped up for presentation when he arrived home…

Well… The gift didn’t go over as planned. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure of the exact circumstances under which the gift was exchanged from Grandpa to Grandma; but it didn’t go well. Apparently Grandma took the cookbook as a subtle jab that she wasn’t well versed in preparing fancy meals. To your Maximum Leader’s knowledge, Grandma never looked at that cookbook after that first instance. It sat on a hidden bookshelf in your Maximum Leader’s grandparents house for 30 years before Grandpa retrieved it that day.

After perusing the book, your Maximum Leader said that the book was really cook and would be a handy reference when planning a formal dinner party. Right after saying that, Grandma said sternly, “If you like the book you can have it. I never use it.”

So the book passed from Grandma to your Maximum Leader…

Unlike his grandmother, your Maximum Leader used the book a few times. He prepared multi-course meals for friends, girlfriends, girlfriend’s parents and others. (NB - Your Maximum Leader cooked a huge meal - six or seven courses - for a girl he dated for a while and her father and step-mother. It must have been sort of impressive because years later when he happened to encounter his now-former-girlfriend’s father at the mall the father reminisced that he could still remember the meal and that your Maximum Leader was the only boyfriend of his daughter of whom he had approved. In fact he encouraged his daughter to consider me a fine marriage material.) That cookbook came in handy on more than one occasion.

So, on this huge feast day in America is your Maximum Leader using this great tome to help him make a great Thanksgiving dinner? Well, no… Sadly, the book is no longer with your Maximum Leader…

You see, a number of years back, your Maximum Leader was dog-sitting for his sainted Father-in-law and beloved Mother-in-law while they were on a trip to Canada. One of the dogs (there were two - they were beautiful purebred Chesapeake Retrievers) had never been to the Villainschloss before and was a little nervous. After overcoming his nerves, he decided to start marking the Villainschloss ash his… He decided to pee all over one of your Maximum Leader’s bookcases… Sadly, the primary landing point for the pee was the Cordon Bleu cookbook. This happened while your Maximum Leader was out at work, and Mrs Villain did her best to rescue the book. But it was not to be. Mrs Villain threw the book (and a few other favorites that met a similar fate that day) away….

And thus the book’s karma was fulfilled…

Today, while planning the Thanksgiving menu, your Maximum Leader did wish that he still had the book… For reference purposes…

Happy Thanksgiving….

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader.

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