Well, the pressure is on. Yes, I'm talking about the pressure of...
What is a woman to do?
I called Mama today and just came right out with it.
I didn't beat around the bush.
I just spit it out and admitted it.
I dialed the phone and said, "Mama, I need you to teach me how you make dressing."
There it was... out there.
Right in the open.
In front of God and everybody.
Now, I am married to a man who loves good old southern cooking. He is an aficionado of the south. He is a connoisseur of dredging, and battering, and frying, and gravy, and dressing, and such. Everything he eats is compared to his grandmother's or his mother's or his Aunt Peg's.
So, when preparing the Thanksgiving Feast, I am expected to serve that kind of food and dressing. Never mind that when I was growing up, I was never the pupil of the kitchen. I was always outside helping My Daddy at the barn.
Over the years I've grown to like cooking and can even prepare some fare with respectability.
Yet, making the dressing is one of those things that has put lots of pressure on my cooking skills.
The one who doesn't fry anything but eggs and bacon - and sometimes burns that.
The one who has never made lots of those good old southern foods.
You see, when I want some of those things, I just call my Mama and ask her when she is going to have that and hint at a time when I would be available to come by and eat it.
As soon as I admitted that I needed a lesson, Mama began rattling off instruction. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I need you to teach me to make dressing.
Mama: Well, you make your cornbread. Then, you crumble it up. Chop up some onion and celery and put it in a frying pan with some butter and saute it...
Me: How much onion?
Mama: Oh...a pretty good sized one.
Me: How much celery?
Mama: Ah...about the same amount as your onion.
Me: A half-cup? How many stalks?
Mama: Well, it just depends...
I keep asking questions till I get her hemmed up a bit and then...
Mama: Do you just want me to make it for you?
Me: No, Mama, I'm not going to learn how to do this any younger!
Mama: Now, add some chicken broth.
Me: How much? One of those boxes? More?
Mama: Well, just till it looks the right consistency...
I keep asking questions till I get something a bit more specific and then...
Mama: Just taste it, now, to be sure it is flavored to your liking...
Me: Mama, I only eat a spoonful of this each year. I'm not really all that crazy about dressing. How am I supposed to know if it is flavored well?
Finally, I get enough instruction that I feel like I can probably prepare it with some respectability and I trek off to the grocery store to pick up the last few items I need to complete my feast.
Then, I called my mother-in-law about another matter altogether. She asked me a couple of questions...
MIL: Have you thawed your turkey?
Me: I put it in the fridge this morning.
MIL: Well, I guess you can soak it in some water Wednesday afternoon to thaw it the rest of the way. Are you going to soak it in anything else?
Me: Oh, yes, yes, of course.
MIL: The recipe I use is in that Historical Society Cookbook...
and she proceeded to recite it from memory and share her method of preparing dressing - without precise measurements, of course!
So, once again, a bit of anxiety creeps into my bones about...
When Mike got home, I shared the highlights of these conversations with him. Immediately he began calling my favorite sister-in-law, JoAnn, and asked her how she makes dressing.
She began to describe her method as she was driving home for the day. Her recipe sounds very similar to my mother's and mother-in-law's. So, I begin to chime in and make comparisons. Her recipe is just a tad bit different but very close to both the aforementioned recipes.
So, I've come up with a plan. I will do somewhat of a compilation of each of their methods. Then, if it turns out well, I will just smile and say I adapted their recipes and tweaked it a bit to make it my own. If it turns out to be a disaster, I'll say that I followed JoAnn's recipe and it just isn't as good as either of theirs. After all, JoAnn will not be there when we share the Thanksgiving Feast. She will be out sharing her delicious dressing with her family across town.
That is my plan and I'm sticking to it!