The smell of walnut torte filled the warm kitchen.
“Wow, Fannie, that smells great,” said Richard.
“Thanks,” I said, “you know, Lenora Jane is going to trip-out when she finds out there is more than one dessert on the menu tonight.”
“I can’t wait to see the look on her face,” said Richard.
“Were you able to clear enough space in the garage to house the rest of the desserts?”
“Mission accomplished,” he said, “you make ‘em and I’ll hide ‘em.”
“I have another three pies ready to go,” I said.
“When’s the turkey go in?”
“Will you have time to help me move furniture?” asked Richard.
“Yup, after I get the turkey in.”
“Sounds good. I’ll work on cleaning until you’re ready,” he said. “By the way, what time is everyone supposed to be here?”
“Why so late?”
“Late, that’s not late for dinner.”
“It is for a holiday, why not start around say 1 p.m.?”
“You know my family are night owls and the world does not exist before one o’clock in their world. I couldn’t imagine Aunt Verla or Uncle Carl getting anywhere before four, let alone my own parents.”
“Okay. I know you said four o’clock, what about the staggered arrivals? Everyone seems to arrive exactly ten minutes apart and leave on the same schedule each time.”
“Well that’s more an unwritten policy, you know, a way of avoiding too much quality time,” I said. “Come on, Richard, have you ever seen my family spend one minute more than two hours together unless it was planned down to the minute?”
“I just don’t get that.”
“Richard, not everyone’s family is like yours and spends all day and half the night celebrating.”
“We’ll see. Hand me those pies so I can stash them in the garage.”
By 3:30 the smell of mulled apple cider and turkey filled the air. The family room transformed into a buffet, vegetable platters interspersed with crackers, dip, and hot servers housed stuffing, gravy, potatoes, yams and assorted hot vegetables.
Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl arrived first, carrying Aunt Verla’s famous scalloped potatoes.
“Fannie, the house smells so good. Oh my, where can we put the potatoes?” asked Aunt Verla looking around the family room. “I have never seen so much food in all my life.”
“Richard, it looks like we will need that extra table in here after all,” I said.
“Verla, look at this,” said Uncle Carl, “Fannie made my favorite little onions. Oh and look over here,” he said lifting the lid to a server, “oyster dressing. I’m in heaven.”
The house filled with people.
Lenora Jane spotted the Walnut Torte in the refrigerator.
“Oh, Fannie, I’m so happy you made the torte this year. I am amazed you had the time to make it will all the food you prepared,” said Lenora Jane eyeing the buffet tables. “Oh, you even made the special green beans Steve loves.”
Ten minutes later Lenora Jane discovered the rest of the desserts in the garage.
“Fannie, did you go berserk? I found nine pies and two cakes in the garage,” said Lenora Jane.
“We decided to do something special and make everyone’s favorite foods this year.”
The smile of glutinous joy spread over Lenora Jane’s face. She owned the Walnut Torte.
For the first time in our lives, we lingered over dinner.
“Who’s ready for dessert?” I asked. “I have a menu and you can choose as much or as little as you want.”
The room filled with the buzz of twenty-one voices all speaking at once.
“Wait, wait, one at a time. Let’s do this, Eleanor and Lenora Jane, you take everyone’s orders, I will plate and you can serve.”
Lenora Jane’s turn arrived for dessert. She hovered over the pristine Walnut Torte.
With the honor of a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, I cut the first slice into the precious torte. Its light creamy chocolate frosting covered in finely chopped walnuts yielded to the knife. The light, crunchy walnut meringue layer followed by the moist cake layer.
Hovering, she directed the size of her slice. Calculating enough left over for grazing on for at least three days afterwards.
Anticipation filled her eyes as I eased the slice onto her plate, not a crumb lost.
Richard salivated over this dessert as well. He waited until everyone else feasted.
With one swift movement of a table knife, he lopped off one-quarter of the torte. Not wanting to dirty another plate, Richard stuffed a huge bite into his mouth.
At just that moment, Lenora Jane entered the kitchen for a cup of coffee to go with her much-coveted torte.
Inspired, he squished the rest of the torte into his mouth. The frosting which did not fit into his mouth he smeared over his face in mock ecstasy.
Lenora Jane ran from the room.
“Lenora Jane, what on earth is wrong with you?” asked our father.
“Richard just shoved a quarter of the Walnut Torte into his mouth and smeared the frosting all over his face,” she said in near hysterics.
On cue Richard rounded the corner, face slathered thick in frosting.
Lenora Jane pointed at him saying, “See, see, what did I tell you, he smeared it all over his face,” as if the idea affronted humanity.
Laughter filled the room.
Still the bratty younger sister, I said, “Richard pose right there for a picture like a model advertising a new line of cosmetics. You know, the Walnut Torte Facial can help you look younger too.”
After the party, we enlarged the picture to an 8” by 10”, framed it and hung it in the living room with the rest of the family portraits.
We made an extra copy.
The next time we hosted, we sent Lenora Jane and her husband, Steve, a special party invitation with Richard’s picture captioned, “Have you seen your Walnut Torte today?”
She framed it and hung it in the kitchen.