My gay boyfriend Michael and my running coach Jessica somehow managed to move 15 minutes away from each other in Tulsa. They both lived in Memphis at one time but have never met. Between the three of us, we’ve moved 8 times since we lived in Midtown Memphis. When a Thanksgiving invitation came around, I jumped at the chance to visit them in Tulsa.
I was stoked when I realized a trip from Michigan to Tulsa would bring me through one of my favorite stops, The Hill, in St. Louis. This Italian neighborhood reminds me of the place I want to go when I die, the North End in Boston. I got there early enough to buy bread at Digregorio’s market. When I lived in Memphis, I often made a weekend trip out of a shopping trip to the The Hill for a few classic Italian meals and a shopping spree at this traditional Italian grocery. This time I loaded myself up with a high quality (purported to be the best) olive oil, fig preserves, truffles, cheese, salami and specialty sausage.
Another patron who’d lived on The Hill all her life sent me to the Missouri Baking Company for pastries. I was not disappointed. Michael’s husband Darren – a full-blooded Italian with a penchant for perfection – moaned when he opened the box to find a sfogliatella. I had never eaten one, but I can guarantee this won’t be my last. Delicate layers of flaky pastry dough encapsulated a fresh ricotta custard that was thick enough to have some substance but creamy enough to melt in your mouth. The three of us had a culinary party sampling the pastries and a St. Louis traditional cake called the Gooey Butter Cake. I still can’t decide what I liked best, and I’m so glad that I’ll be passing by The Hill on the way home. I won’t have to share on the return trip!
I arrived in Tulsa just after dark, and I was treated to the most beautiful sunset as I was driving across the Oklahoma prairie. With nothing but trees and grass, the sunset seemed to last for hours as clouds and color danced like a kaleidoscope.
After a short dinner and visit with Michael and Darren, Ashok and I retired to the Peacock Room in a beautiful century-old home downtown. Wendy, our hostess, is the mother of 12, and decided to turn her skills of taking care of others and tucking them in at night into a career. The room is beautifully colorful and warm, but not nearly as warm and colorful as the cozy dining room fireplace downstairs.
The sound of laughter and song from the family in this house is literally floating up the stairs as I write tonight. Last night I fell asleep exhausted from the drive, laughter with friends and a sugar-induced euphoria. I took a two-hour nap today, and I’m still eager to go to sleep. I have very little planned this week, and I love playing it by ear.
No matter where you go for Thanksgiving, I hope you are surrounded by people who love you, your favorite foods and a smudge of adventure.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Let the holidays begin.