Gracie and I made pumpkin pies together earlier tonight. They’re cooling as I type this. My cornbread and biscuits are in the oven now. I will make them into dressing tomorrow.
My dressing recipe is a simple, no frills recipe that my Granny made every Thanksgiving and Christmas for her six children and eventually for all six of those children’s children. She made it out of cornbread and biscuits. Completely homemade. I now use Bisquick and Corn Kits to cheat on my dressing. If I use any other cornbread mix, it comes out too sweet. It has to be Corn Kits. I would feel bad but towards the end of Granny’s life, she firmly believed some shortcuts were okay.
Holidays were always spent at my Granny and Bud’s house. My grandfather went by the nickname of “Bud”, even his kids called him that and when we grand kids started coming along, we did also.
All six of Granny and Bud’s children and their families would pile into their small house for holidays. The smell of the house on a holiday was the most heavenly smell in the whole world. We could barely squeeze around all the card tables set up in the already small kitchen and dining area, filled to the brim with so much good country food.
We kids would play raucous games of Spoons after lunch. My uncles would doze on the couch until the Dallas Cowboys game came on the television, then they would start yelling angrily at Roger Staubach. I knew to stay down and out of the way but that was my favorite place to be – in the middle of yelling men and football.
After Bud died, I would spend the night before Thanksgiving with Granny. It was just us. We would bake and talk and laugh. One of her favorite things in the world was watching WWE wrestling so if that was on, we watched it. This was back in the golden days of Rowdy Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan. We tried to tell her it wasn’t real. You didn’t make that mistake twice.
My Granny was getting on in years by that time, so my goal was to learn how to make her dressing. I was her official taste tester and it didn’t go into the oven until I had given my approval. I knew the distinction between not enough sage and too much sage. I knew when it needed more salt, more pepper. She would add ingredients as I said because she couldn’t really taste it anymore and after growing up with her dressing, I knew how it should taste. During all those taste sessions, I learned how to make her dressing, which was such a simple recipe that it has never been written down.
Those Thanksgiving Eves were the most valuable gifts she gave to me, to this day.
We stay in Alabama for Thanksgiving every year so it’s just my small family. There’s not the chaos of a big family to distract me so this is when I miss my Granny so badly it hurts my heart, even though she’s been gone for 15 years now. I’ve felt her presence this week so strongly, I can’t even explain it. That presence is special but this year, for some reason, I’ve felt pain over her death I haven’t felt in a long time, like a healed wound has been opened back up.
So I took to my Facebook account yesterday and asked friends what food it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without, besides turkey. I told them they got bonus points for stories attached to the food. I really wanted the memories and that’s what I got. The stories that showed up in my status had me both laughing and crying. There is no shortage of love and memories out there.
Jana: My mother made scalloped pineapple. It was the most disgusting thing in the world, but my father circulated prior to dinner and insisted that we all take some and eat it, so as not to hurt her feelings. Mind you, we had this as far back as I remember. Two years ago, she says, I hope you all don’t mind, but I really hate scalloped pineapple so I am not making it anymore. Seriously? Our kids should have to suffer through that crap, since we had to!
Kari: Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole. Bonus? The time my niece and daughter made it at my house for the entire family and somehow managed to bake a dryer sheet in it. It was the most outdoor fresh casserole ever made in the history of shitty food.
Cameron: Grits Souffle. My Mom. Nuff said.
Brett: Sweet potatoes and cherry and blueberry cheesecake, I miss having Thanksgiving at my Grandmother Costellos, who left this world four years ago. I miss the way her house smelled on Thanksgiving, her big hugs, playing football with my uncles in the street and my siblings and I being younger and living in the same house. My grandma was one of a kind, miss her daily, she always called me Brettzky.
Christina: My grandmother was the best cook! Never used a recipe for anything. It was all in her head. I cooked with her a lot when I was young and can make from memory just about anything she made with one exception, her maple fudge. It was of the gods and the absolute best thing you ever put in your mouth and I can’t make it to save my life. The stingy old broad took it with her when she passed! I miss her so much.
Shawnda: Dressing ( no stuffing here. We dress the bird, not stuff it. Lol) Cornbread base with some plain old white bread thrown in. My Granny’s recipe that was passed to my mom and her two sisters and then to me.
Deidre: My mom said corn was all the pilgrims and Indians had to eat so we always had to start off with corn! Of course we got to eat more, afterwards, but we had to do this ceremonial thing first and go around the table saying what we were thankful for! (We all hated this and laughed and had good jokes about it, but looking back now, I don’t know anyone else that ever did this, and what a memory now!)
Chanse: My thing for Thanksgiving is Giblet Gravy. I must have it and cornbread dressing. I remember one year my grandmother said she was only gonna fix cornstarch gravy, I replied if there is no giblet gravy grandma I will not be coming. She called my mom Thanksgiving morning and had my mother tell me she went and got Giblets and I could make my own as long as her oldest grandson was there, lol. Memories indeed.
Derise: My mammaws cooking and watching the Cowboys on TV at least that’s how we do it in Texas
Cindy: Homemade cranberry sauce. The first time I made it alone, I had the heat up too high and the cranberries exploded all over the kitchen. I was laughing and crying at the same time.
Cody: My Thanksgiving food memory is being in my parent’s kitchen the night before helping my Mom make dressing. I would be the taste tester for it and my Dad would cringe when I would eat the raw dressing. He swore up and down that I was going to get salmonella poisoning. Never got it and really enjoyed being the official taster tester. Miss those times so much.
Cherish: My Dad’s ham is pork shank injected with butter and cajun seasonings. Last year right as were were about to get the ham ready we discovered our injector to be missing with no time to go get another one. So we had to figure out another way. We used team work, I stabbed the ham and made a nice slit and held the slit open and my dad poured the butter mix into it and we did that several times all over the ham. haha
Gary: Dressing! While she was alive…..my Mom’s German Chocolate Cake was a holiday staple!
Laurie: My Mimi’s dressing, which became my Aunt’s, and my Mom’s and Sister’s and now Gary’s! A family tradition! This year we are going to start some new traditions, but I can’t say what they are or no one will show up!
Lee Ann: Obviously, dressing evokes fond memories and each person makes it differently… Some with prozac and others with pot. Truth is we all call it “sage” and get along because it is Thanksgiving, and being pent up with family takes work and help.
Dressing was the clear cut winner for favorite Thanksgiving food, although broccoli cheese casserole had a couple mentions and good old pot got a nod from my funny yet realistic friend Lee Ann.
Thank you to all my friends who participated. I laughed, I cried, and the best part is I don’t feel so alone missing my Granny.
There are gaping holes in every family left by loved ones no longer with us but those spaces are filled up a bit by the wonderful memories they left behind. Their memories live on in that same food you ate as a small child that you now make for your children. Maybe your loved one isn’t gone, you just can’t be together this holiday. Call them and share one of your best memories with them. I bet they’ll be surprised what is special to you and they’ll be touched you told them. Honor lost loved ones by telling a story about them at the dinner table.
Celebrate life, give thanks, and love those who love you. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.