“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in America. I must admit it is my favorite holiday primarily because the focus is on eating which I number as one of my favorite hobbies. I also get to eat dishes my mother and sisters have prepared. Foods that generate warm and tasty memories of the past.
My wife is a wonderful cook. I too am pretty handy in the kitchen and if the truth be told probably cook more than she does. But there are just some things, casseroles, dressing, gravy, desserts, that only my mother can make or supervise the construction of.
Take my mother’s cornbread dressing for instance. My wife has spent 30 years watching her make it. There are no magic ingredients or secret seasonings but there are also no written instructions, a recipe to follow. My wife, bless her heart, can’t make it like my mom does. She gets close, very close, but it never taste or looks just like my mother’s.
My grandmother, my mother’s mother, made homemade buttermilk biscuits with a slab of country ham every morning. When I started driving to school I would stop by, if I wasn’t running late, and grab a biscuit or two and eat them on the way in. These biscuits melted in your mouth. They were in a word “sinful”. Sadly my mother, bless her heart, could never master her mother’s biscuits. Again, there were no magic ingredients or secret seasonings or a recipe to follow. She made them by touch, and by taste just as my mother makes her cornbread dressing. Apparently you can buy of all the ingredients, but they don’t sell touch and taste at the grocery store.
I have tried to pass along the few dishes that I am accomplished at to my children, Chili, Brunswick Stew and Chicken Bog (if you noticed a trend all are prepared in a single pot). I also make a pretty wonderful cheese cornbread muffin which goes nicely with all of the above. Much like my mothers dressing I don’t have a recipe to go by though I have written down the “basics” for my kids to follow. Typically what I hear from children after they have made one of Dad’s specialties is “it just didn’t taste like yours” which may be true. But I remind them that they have many more years in front of them than I do. That what I have provided them with is a base, a start, to create their own traditions of flavor. I remind them that their mother’s dressing doesn’t taste like my mom’s dressing, but it is the dressing that they know, the one she has passed down to them. And one day, they will make it for their children at Thanksgiving many years from now creating the same warm and tasty memories of the past that I will have this Thursday.
So as not to sound totally shallow, yes I will stuff my face Thursday. I will eat until the button on pants pops from the strain of too much of everything, than I will eat just a little more. I will also look around the table and be thankful I am able to celebrate my fifty-fifth Thanksgiving with the people I care the most about. I will be thankful for the traditions we honor in fellowship and food. I will remember how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads and food on our plate. I will acknowledge that there are people in this great country that are struggling, struggling to stay warm, to eat, and struggling for a human connection. I will try to carry that thanks with me beyond one Thursday in November and share it with others. Thanksgiving should be perpetual, a perpetual recipe of thanks we share not only with our families but with the people in our communities.
“When I was a kid in Indiana, we thought it would be fun to get a turkey a year ahead of time and feed it and so on for the following Thanksgiving. But by the time Thanksgiving came around, we sort of thought of the turkey as a pet, so we ate the dog. Only kidding. It was the cat!” – David Letterman