Thanksgiving 2012.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. What’s not to love about a day dedicated to my favorite hobby and butter.  But this year was different. This was the year that only five weeks earlier, we became foster parents to two brothers ages 2 and 4.5.

Now, we are not young. We are not old either, but we also don’t have any children of our own. These babes came with nothing but sweatsuits and socks. Still reeling from the shock of readjusting our entire state of being, along comes Thanksgiving, hosted at our house out of sheer sympathy for our new lives.

I foolishly volunteered to do a side dish and dessert. Thanksgiving morning dawned and I realized, I had no lists, no timing plan, and not even a clean house. Underwear was strewn on the basement floor (what is up with that, mothers of boys?) and a barf-filled afghan had been dragged into the yard by our dog from the night before. Great.

Out of desperation, I grabbed my new cookbook, took stock of my ingredients – pears, check! Dried cranberries, yes! Nuts – found buried deep in the freezer, jackpot! 

The cake came together quickly (in one bowl!) while my parents were setting out the food they brought. It baked while we ate. We had no ice cream or whipped cream or creme fraiche, but served warm and buttery from the cast iron pan, even the barfy child could not resist. It is neither a traditional cake, nor is it pudding. But it is pure comfort – the pears melting into moist vanilla-y cake spiked with the sweet tartness of cranberries.

Did my luscious but humble cake save Thanksgiving? No, but maybe Thanksgiving doesn’t need saving from mess, noise and the unexpected. It was my parents looking bemusedly on the chaos, my sister and her boyfriend laughing about the “built-in birth control” and the two happy little boys snuggling and playing in the messy house…that’s what Thanksgiving really needs.