Holiday spread from 2008
I love Thanksgiving, but it hasn't always been that way. There were times when I thought my mother took so long to cook everything just to torture us. We usually had just our small family with an aunt and uncle or my grandmother. No cousins to play with, lousy damp Oklahoma weather outside and nothing but a televised parade and football on TV.
When my mother became unable to cook the whole meal the way she had always done, I confess to being resentful at being handed the job. I even forgot to turn on the oven one time and we didn't eat until 8:00 at night.
Then one day it clicked. I brought a tiny TV into my kitchen and turned on the parade. I called various friends and relatives who I knew would also be up early, stuffing a turkey. I parked my mother at the kitchen table to help and to keep me company. When my mother was gone, my daughter took her place. I bonded with the tradition, the food, the memories. My mother's specialty was the stuffing. I have played with the recipe every year trying to make it easier and more tasty, but now I keep it very simple.
We liked moist suffing in my family. The prize was the stuffing from inside the turkey. Second choice was the pan of "side" stuffing with it's crunchy edges. Bob Evan's turkey and stuffing is much like my mother's. Also, Publix supermarket has the same stuffing for sale in an aluminum pan. When I worked at Verizon, their cafeteria roasted a wonderful turkey and made great stuffing. But buying the stuffing would not be the same.
My mom made a pan of cornbread and dried out slices of white bread the day before. She made broth by cooking the giblets. Then she sauteed lots of chopped onion and celery, crumbled the bread and added 1 egg, broth, salt and pepper and lots of dried sage. It was my job to taste for seasoning.
Over the years I have added apples, pecans, mushrooms and sausage (not all at the same time). Nowdays I use herbed stuffing crumbs and store-bought broth, but the rest of the recipe is very much the same as my mom's original including a little bit of cornbread. I leave out the extra stuff and strive for the perfect seasoning and texture. I make all the stuffing on the side now but with a lot of broth to keep it moist with just a bit of crunchy here or there.
My feast is spread out on a buffet table on the porch since it is usually very warm here in Florida. I have never been able to have the sparkling, beautifully set table that my sister-in-law does every Christmas. My fantasy is a big, white farmhouse with autumn leaves or a sprinkling of snow outside and a big, warm kitchen overflowing with family and a huge, shining dining table with candles. In real life, my kitchen will be overflowing mostly because it is so small, but also because many of my dear family and friends will be there. Some, but not all. Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all. I will be thinking of all my fellow cooks and many Thanksgiving memories, happy and sad come Thursday morning.