The storm had been expected. You don’t live in the mountains without checking the weather reports religiously. So everyone knew and was well stocked. Most people had generators for back up power, but not everyone. Even those with generators had water put by though. You don’t live in the mountains without having a bit of common sense and a healthy understanding that you’re but small on this large plane.
Despite having prepared for the storm, there was the occasional person, like herself, who without a backup generator would be struck with a loss of power and an overstocked fridge and inevitably there’d be an invitation to dinner. The food needed to be used up before it went bad and who knew when the power would be back on and yes, yes, thank you, but no, I’d rather not move everything to your fridge but you’re very kind to offer.
And so it was that she found herself knocking on her neighbors door at five til, a bottle of sparkling cider in one hand and a flashlight in the other. She was welcomed in by a different neighbor who’d apparently also just arrived and was still hanging up his coat. Good to see you, how are you faring, did you get that generator put in this year, yes, yes, excellent timing.
There was small talk in the living room with a few other local faces, lots of laughter, a bottle of red being passed around, yes, I know it won’t spoil as it was never in the fridge, but on a chilly night who wants a white, after all. The smells from the kitchen were overwhelming and her stomach had started to murmur, she realized she’d skipped lunch what with the added chores a storm brings like felled trees and washed out driveways. The call to come eat came in the nick of time.
Having been invited to a fridge cleaning party her expectations had not been high. She honestly expected to find a bit of this and a bit of that. Smaller amounts of food all cooked up to create a larger spread, but not very much of any one thing. She was wrong.
There was a turkey and a ham, as though it were Thanksgiving. There were two kinds of rolls, one of which appeared to be very much homemade. There were the expected frozen veggies, warmed and slathered in thick pats of melting butter. There was the occasional odd dish here and there, clearly leftovers that would get thrown away if not eaten tonight, a bit of macaroni and cheese, some cottage cheese, an odd assortment of olives and dill beans.
The thing that took her breath away, the thing she realized she’d been smelling, that had set her stomach to rumbling and her mouth to drooling were the oranges. There was an entire platter of oranges that had been gutted and filled with sweet potatoes. They smelled absolutely delicious and she hoped there were enough for everyone, or that she’d at least get first crack at ’em and not have to miss out. She deliberately edged closer to them in an attempt to be seated within passing distance in order to be in the first one or two served assuming passing would go clockwise, because of course passing would go clockwise.
As everyone sat down and voiced the expected thank yous and this looks lovely and even a my goodness but it looks like Thanksgiving, she smiled, for she’d managed a chair directly in front of the platter of oranges. Up close they were even more delectable, she could see the sweet potatoes or yams or whatever they were inside had been mashed about like a twice baked potato and instead of marshmallow there appeared to be something else, honey perhaps, at the edges. She’d missed whatever was being said but recognized the people around her were grabbing dishes, serving, the passing would begin shortly.
She grabbed the oranges, placed one on the plate before her and passed them along, clockwise, of course, accepting the platter from her right and taking a tongs-ful of green beans, passing again and again and again. The food came in a near endless stream and she found herself running out of room, a balancing act now of food piling on food, the green beans succumbing to the turkey, the turkey to the roll. She left the orange undisturbed.
Finally the first round of passing was complete and people were taking their first bites, the conversation had died down and the occasional mmm or aaaah or clink could be heard. At one point someone paused their chewing long enough to say delicious and there were murmurs of agreement, a bit of laughter here or there, the host saying thank you, or I’m so glad, or please please eat up.
She took her fork and pressed it gently into the tuber mix, swirling out with a beautiful biteful and swiftly brought it to her mouth before any bits could fall. As the fork sat on her tongue and the flavor spread across it she closed her lips, unable to remove the fork, unable to move for a moment as the sweetness overtook her tempered a moment later by the tang of the orange flavor, subtle but there. It was like nothing she’d ever tasted before. She removed the fork and mushed the bite against the roof of her mouth, inhaling deeply before swallowing on an exhale. Phenomenal.