I remember the first time I took Lillie to see a play. We entered the theatre and her eyes opened wide and her mouth formed that O-shape.
The excitement wasn't because of the fabulous stage set.
It wasn't because of the elaborate theatre decor.
Her first statement was, "Look at all these seats!"
She had a hard time selecting where she wanted to sit because there were just too many choices.
There were other memories made that day but that is always one that comes to mind each time I walk into a theatre or auditorium now.
We made a memory last weekend when we went to a local craft fair. It wasn't because of the huge crowd. It wasn't because of the plethora of booths and their offerings. It wasn't because of the fabulous snacks.
The memory was made as a result of the school parking lot being partially blocked off due to some sort of construction. We wound up having to park around the block at an office building parking lot and riding the shuttle across to the high school.
Yes, that simple act is what the big memory was all about. We quickly found a parking space and walked to the end of the row of spaces to board the shuttle. The fabulous thing about the shuttle is...
we rode a school bus!
Two little girls ride to school each day with their mother, since she works at their school. So, riding a bus was an exciting opportunity last weekend.
Even though the shot is a bit blurry, you certainly can see the excitement on Lydia's face as she sits on her seat in the middle of the bus.
Lillie was wearing a big ole' smile, too. Their excitement and happy faces certainly made their mother and I have a different attitude about having to park and wait for a shuttle bus and then squeeze down the crowded aisle and sit on a hard bus seat.
Truly, it is the little things in life that make it wonderful isn't it?
Hope you are making memories of your own this week!
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.
Well, this year, Mike and I are going to be the grown ups at Thanksgiving. I've been the grown-up one other time when Mom and Daddy were remodeling/adding on to their kitchen and it was gutted down to the dirt under the floor. That time, though, I was in graduate school and had two teenagers at home. There was only us chickens and I just cooked a turkey breast and the side dishes and my family was satisfied with Stove Top. Nobody expected it to be like the Pilgrims and nobody ever even dreamed it would be as good as Mama's. We were just all glad to have some of the traditional sorts of foods and get together. I don't think that would fly these days.
These days, folks seem to think that I should know how to pull together the traditional Pilgrim sort of meal and really expect it to sort of resemble Mama's. These days folks seem to think I might ought to know what I'm doing. These days, folks want the whole turkey and traditional sides and dressing.
That is one of those dishes that has never really been my favorite. I generally eat about one or two helpings of it per year. I started out eating it just to be polite even thought I didn't really like the taste of it. I have grown to appreciate the taste of it at this stage of my life, though.
How can I claim to be a southern woman if I don't like dressing?
For goodness sake! It is a staple of holiday side dishes!
Somehow for fifty-four years I have kept that on the down-low and squeaked by, I guess.
Anyway, this year, Mike and I are hosting the Thanksgiving Feast. We are the Grown-Ups. The Grandparents.
I don't have any qualms about the turkey. After all, we have cooked Big Tom and it turned out delicious. So, cooking a normal sized turkey should be a breeze. I have looked at all the resources for preparing a good turkey - Pioneer Woman, Martha, the Neely's, etc. I have delved into all the cookbook sources I have here - Paula Deen's, Martha's, Blue Willow Inn's, Betty Crocker's, Better Homes and Garden's, Nolensville Historical Society's - just to name a few. So, I think I'm ready to roll with my turkey.
I have prepared most of the sides at one time or the other - sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, squash casserole, macaroni and cheese, cranberry salad, rolls, etc. All of that has been attempted with success at some point in my past. So, no worries there.
I do have just a wee bit of nagging anxiety about the dressing, though.
Yes, the dressing.
Mike tried to make me feel better and offered, "it can't be that hard. Lots of different people have cooked it for our family gatherings."
Lots of people have made it for our family gatherings over the years, too. I guess he just hasn't been in the loop, though. You know what I'm talking about. That cluster of folks who are together lingering in the kitchen or over at the table after everybody's belly is full and the children have been bundled and bustled outside to do their running and the men are kicked back in front of the television and half dozing.
That little cluster of women who are sharing recipes and talking about their children or grandchildren. That little cluster of women who are sitting over to the side nursing a slice of pie. Those three or four who are cleaning up the last little bit. One is washing the pan the rolls were baking on and one has the dish towel to dry and another is sorting the silverware and putting it back in the drawer. You know the clusters of women I'm talking about.
One year they quietly muttered about one of the aunt's dressing because it was, "just a little on the dry side." Another time somebody's eyebrows climbed up their forehead as they murmured that the dressing was, "a bit on the runny side." Yet another time, somebody twitched a little and whispered that the dressing was, "just too bland." Still another time, somebody snarled a bit and out of the side of her mouth uttered that the dressing, "had too much sage." I've heard it called, "cooked plum to death," or "not quite done," and "just too chunky," and lots of other things. I know you've heard the same sort of thing, now haven't you?