The Old Family Recipe

The year was 1975, I was a newlywed and would be spending my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws and away from my family. What would the holiday be like without my mom’s stuffing, not to mention without my mom and dad? I’m not one to be dramatic, but it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.

Bob never really cared about stuffing. This was one of the many ways we differed. To me, the stuffing was of more importance than the turkey, which simply served as an elaborate, weird, stuffing cooking device. I never thought about how disgusting it was for people to prepare food to be inserted into a turkey cavity, only to be scooped out of said cavity and served in a fancy china bowl to their loved ones. Pretty gross, but I digress

By mid-October 1975, I was contemplating making my own stuffing, but alas that was among the many, many things that I was clueless as to how to cook. I waited until a Sunday afternoon to call my mom for help. (This was way before cell phones, and long-distance calls were cheaper on Sundays.) In those days, we corresponded via letter through the Post Office, so she said she’d send me the recipe.

Mom’s letter outlined the intricacies of her prized stuffing. I wish I could tell you that I made it and it turned out great, but I chickened (or maybe turkeyed) out. In hindsight it was probably a good thing that I didn’t try to compete with my Home Economics mom-in-law’s cornbread stuffing. What woman wants her cocky new daughter-in-law to bring in a superior stuffing as a holiday icebreaker? And in my hands, who was to say it would have been superior, or even edible? But when I tasted hers that Thanksgiving afternoon, I understood why Bob wasn’t wild about it, and shed a little tear as I thought about what used to be.

Forty-five years later, I still have that letter. It is precious to me. Every year I get it out and read it. I love hearing how my nephew, their first grandchild, walked for the first time. It’s a sweet walk down memory lane. I have often thought I should frame it and hang it on my wall.

Since that time, I have made this stuffing dozens of times, and Bob loves it. I’ve tweaked the recipe a little, but it’s basically the same. My sister, Chris, and my daughter Dena both continue with this same recipe. It’s a cherished family tradition.

This Thanksgiving my mom sat at our kitchen table and watched me chopping celery and onions and making bread cubes. We chatted and I read her the letter. “This recipe is from Aunt Audrey, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mom replied. “I think I got it out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“No, no, no. It’s from Aunt Audrey – not Betty Crocker. It’s a family recipe! I think I remember you telling me that,” I pleaded.

“I’m pretty sure it’s from Betty Crocker,” she said.

I was crestfallen. Betty Crocker! I’d been living a lie my entire married life! I spiraled into an identity crisis wondering if this woman sitting here was really my mom. Could Betty Crocker be my mother? Did she abandon me at birth and present me to my “parents” along with a recipe for turkey stuffing?

I pulled my own Betty Crocker Cookbook from the shelf. It was a wedding present and taught me a lot, but I didn’t want to give Betty credit for the family recipe. I wanted that to be from Mom or at least Aunt Audrey. But there it was on page 281 of my tattered cookbook.

I read from the book and then read from Mom’s letter. I had to admit they were the same. “…Turn into deep bowl. Add remaining ingredients…”

I looked at my mother, who was unphased by the unearthing of the largest plagiarism plot I had ever been exposed to, and said, “Why didn’t you just tell me it was on page 281?”

I guess we’ll never know. Please, don’t tell my sister and Dena. Sometimes it’s better to live with a wonderful illusion.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Carving courtesy of my son-in-law

I find it strange to wish someone a happy Thanksgiving, yet I do utter those very words. What am I saying? Have a happy day on Thanksgiving? Find happiness in giving thanks? Or maybe, as John Wayne would say, “Take ‘er easy there, pilgrim?” Perhaps all three sum up my greeting – just something to chew on while you’re gnawing on that turkey leg. (more…)

How to Avoid Cooking

4 and 20 Blackbirds minus 20 eating leftover pie

It’s been almost two weeks and we have finally made our way through the Thanksgiving leftovers. That means I had to generate more leftovers by cooking. This is not my favorite thing to do. I rank my love of cooking on a 1 to 10 scale, and that can change daily or even within any given day. One means I won’t even entertain the idea of cooking, or entertaining for that matter as they kind of go hand-in-hand. I’ll have to let you know what 10 means if I ever generate that high a score. It is highly doubtful that will happen, but hope springs eternal like eyes on an old potato, which I would know because I just cleaned out my refrigerator.

Here are the reasons why I don’t cook much, feel free to put them into practice in your own life:

  1. I’m lazy – I thought I’d get that one out of the way.
  2. I’m not particularly creative in the kitchen.
  3. Costco – Need I say more? Chicken potpie, stuffed peppers, and the famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken are just three of the Costco reasons.
  4. Enchilada night at Amigos in Altamonte Springs. On Thursday night you can get an enchilada platter for $5.88, and that includes all the chips and salsa that I can fit into my purse. Essentially, that is two meals for $5.88.
  5. The Orlando Magic get a win at home. This means Papa Johns offers half price on your entire on-line order. Granted, we have not been able to take advantage of this much lately.
  6. My husband Bob is a great cook and likes creating new dishes. I can’t wait until he retires.
  7. I’d rather be writing.
  8. I have cooked enough. I multiplied the number of years I’ve been married (42) x 365 days and then assumed (conservatively) that a meal was cooked by me 70 percent of the time. That is 10,731 meals.
  9. I like to take naps after doing complex mathematical problems like the one above. Of course, that just got me off the hook for tonight.
  10. Leftovers – Whenever I do cook, I make enough for a family of six. I can’t figure out how to cook for a number smaller than that, but it means, like the meal or not, I don’t have to cook the next night.

Since my cooking is becoming rarer and rarer (amount of times I cook, not the temperature of meat), I now award myself bonus points for any night that I do cook. I told Bob that I can redeem these for a night out to dinner. He gave me one of his famous eye-rolls. I’d keep on writing, but I just realized it’s past time to heat the leftovers for dinner. Looks like no bonus point for me tonight.

The Lighter Side of this Presidential Election

It’s challenging to find a lighter side to this presidential election. It has brought out the dark side in many Americans, but like Luke Skywalker, I think there is still good in us. So, even though this might be a very short post, I am committed to finding ten things that will fit into this category, so here goes.

  1. We live in a country where we can participate in the election process.
  2. There is less sign pollution. It seems people are hesitant to advertise their candidate preference because of the volatility of this election.
  3. I am reaffirming the fact that my trust is in God and not man.
  4. The debate about the bathrooms at Target has disappeared.
  5. I am spending less time on social media because I have fewer people to follow on Face Book. I am totally nonpartisan about this. If your posts become disrespectful and mean, it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, consider yourself blocked. We can resume our friendship in the more civilized time of mid-November when all of this is behind us.
  6. My polling place is in a beautiful restaurant surrounded by lovely gardens. It is no longer open to the public, but I get to go there to vote.
  7. I’m trying to better understand people with different opinions than mine, while realizing that I likely will never completely understand someone else’s point of view.
  8. Late night television has never had more craziness to work with from both sides of the aisle, which helps us to laugh at all of the candidates and turn the tension down a notch.
  9. It’s almost over for four more years, though this election has been underway for about a year and a half, so I guess I’ll have to factor that in.
  10. Finally, Thanksgiving is 16 days after the election. No matter the outcome, we have much to be thankful for.

Now allow me to put on my mom hat and say, “Do your research. Pray, think, and go out there and vote. Talk nicely to each other. No hitting. Don’t make me pull this blog over.”