‘Tutto bene’ — Pavarotti’s verdict on my gravy was less than thrilling — but I got a kick out of it anyway. *AFP photo
‘Tutto bene’ — Pavarotti’s verdict on my gravy was less than thrilling — but I got a kick out of it anyway. *AFP photo

This is a true story.  Many years ago I made gravy for the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

Well it was more like he had the gravy that I bought from a kosher butcher in New York which my old friend Marcy “borrowed” so that Pavarotti would have gravy for his first ever Thanksgiving in the United States. I wasn’t invited, I just provided the gravy.

Naturally I was pretty put out when Marcy called looking for gravy. She wasn’t much of a cook and Lord knows I’m useless, so why was she calling me to find out if I had any extra gravy? Why didn’t she call one of our friends who really knew what they were doing? I’ll tell you why. I can keep secrets.

At first she tried to play it cool. “I’m just wondering…would you have any extra gravy?” I knew something was up. No one has extra gravy. You make it from cooked turkey drippings and add all sorts of other stuff with it and pray that it doesn’t taste like the Valdez oil slick. Marcy wasn’t any good at poker either. Not that we ever played but I felt pretty certain in that moment that she wouldn’t be any good at it.

I had taken note of the maestro’s arrival at a local hotel a few days before Thanksgiving, along with Marcy’s reluctance to stop by with her family, as a sign. She wasn’t fooling me. You see, her husband, a dentist to the stars and prominent politicians, had met our illustrious tenor when they were both young men. Their friendship endured and they both became renowned in their respective fields, although I guess you could say that Pavarotti was better known than Marcy’s husband. But if you broke a crown eating peanut brittle, who would you call? Pavarotti? Nope, Marcy’s husband.

Anyway, I smelled a rat. Good ol’ Marcy whimpered a little bit but then she was so desperate to have my gravy, she spilled the beans. Pavarotti would be arriving at two that afternoon and would be entering their building through a back entrance so that no one would see him. I confess that I did enjoy the strain in her voice as she pleaded for my help. As any good friend would do, I offered to bring the gravy myself. She wasn’t having it.  “Fine,” I told her, “Come get the gravy.”

She sent the babysitter instead and that just about put me over the edge. Now the babysitter was going to meet Pavarotti? Where was the justice? That gravy was expensive.

ut I had a plan. I could barely stay focused that morning as I cleaned and stuffed our own turkey. I made our cranberry sauce with the usual amount of bourbon and made sure our table setting rivalled the displays of any magazine. I put my potatoes through the ricer and then whipped so much butter, sour cream and cream cheese through the mashed mess, that the volume and caloric magnitude is still the stuff of Thanksgiving legend.  We’re not afraid of massive coronaries in our house thank you very much! 

We gathered around the table and gave thanks for all our blessings. We had seconds and I’m proud to say that the turkey wasn’t too dried out. I had performed admirably and although there were no standing ovations like some people got to enjoy, there were no complaints.  I took my curtain call and hurried off to the kitchen.  I had one last thing that I needed to do and that was to call Marcy.

I dialled her number and immediately her answering machine came on. Her twin daughters’ voices announced for the caller, “We’re not here right now, mommy is busy and daddy’s at work. Leave a message puhleeeze!” And so I did.

I took a deep breath and knowing that they and their illustrious guest would hear me, I sang my own version of Puccini’s famous aria Nessun Dorma from Turandot.  

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!      

Tu pure, o, Principessa

 I hope you liked the graaaaaaaavy

….and my extra seasoning…

Anyway, you get the picture. Marcy was pretty mad and didn’t think it was the least bit funny but I have an idea that the maestro didn’t mind too much. 

A few days later I saw him as he emerged from the neighbourhood hotel. The paparazzi were swarming, cameras continuously whirring and a voice called out from the crowd, “Luciano, Luciano, how was your Thanksgiving?” “Ah, Si,” he responded, “… it was bellissimo!”   

Not one to be outdone, I shouted in to the crowd, “What about the gravy?” “Tutto bene” [okay] was his reply and at that he turned and went in to the hotel. It wasn’t my best review but it wasn’t my worst.

Happy Thanksgiving and no — I don’t have any extra gravy!