Thursday, October 17, 2013

Stuffed Turkeys and Stuffed People

All I need for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner is turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce. My Dear Husband makes a delectable, moist turkey! He took over the job from my father. Some day we expect one of the sons-in-law to take it over from DH. I make the dressing and the fresh cranberry sauce. Both are now as good as my mother’s were, if I do say so myself. :) All the other foods that cram themselves onto our table the third Thursday in November are there because someone else needs them or wants to make them. More about this later. (Called a tease. :) )

I’ve never written a strictly holiday book, but I should probably take a stab at it. Holidays play a big role in VERMONT ESCAPE, my first book released by MIU in July 2013. My heroine compares a Fourth of July in Woodstock, VT to the celebration in Texas. They are similar in fireworks displays, but they take place in such different temperatures they could be on different planets! 

Then there’s a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Woodstock Inn she shares with her grown children, and Christmas dinner at the home of the hero’s mother with all the family and friends gathered around. And of course, beautiful, soft, quiet flakes of snow falling gently from the grey skies. The scent of fireplaces and fresh pine greenery feel the air. Just lovely.

TRUTH BE TOLD, my second book coming out from MIU Spring/Summer 2014 is set in Fort Worth. The majority of the story takes place during the two weeks of Christmas and New Year’s. I’ve lived over forty years in Fort Worth. We’ve had snow on Christmas Eve only two times, and it’s always gone by mid-afternoon. But I love snow and since it’s my book, I had it snow on Christmas Eve. What fun writing those scenes. :) 
Now I mentioned a teaser above. Every family member has a food they must eat to make it a memorable Thanksgiving meal. Both sons-in-law think we need to have mac and cheese! What’s with that? We’ve already got dressing (Not the cornbread kind. Please!) with chestnuts that are the hardest thing in the world to crack. None of the different ways I’ve tried for shelling are very efficient. But my parents put chestnuts in the dressing, and I think they need to be there. 

Somebody wants sweet potatoes. Back in the day, a great aunt made those. Now we use a recipe from my mother’s Georgia niece. My older daughter makes it using fresh sweet potatoes. Somebody else insists we have mashed potatoes. By my count now we’ve got four starches! Yikes. Plus rolls! Mother never served a special meal without rolls!
My younger daughter remembers me making green bean casserole when they were little, so she’s taken over responsibility for this dish. 

Mother always made coleslaw. I think this was her effort to have something relatively healthy to counteract all the starches. However, we make it with real mayo, and add a bit of sugar, a tad of S & P, a couple of drops of vinegar, and a drop or so of milk to get the right consistency. Oh, and celery seeds. A must have. Notice I gave no measurements for this. She just threw it all together in a mayo jar, shook it up, and tasted, so that’s what I do. :) 

One special great aunt always brought sausage balls and “Christmas Munch” as snacks before the meal. The older daughter has picked up making sure we have those. DH is very grateful! Our younger daughter makes fake sausage balls because she doesn’t eat meat. Actually, these are pretty good. :) 
And finally, we get to dessert! Pumpkin pie, of course. My mother’s was the best. I took this over when she was no longer able to cook. It’s funny. I follow the exact recipe, and I say just what she always did. “I don’t think this is as good as last year’s.” We have high expectations for pumpkin pie in my family. LOL 
And then the year arrived when all our family but Auntie had passed on. Both girls were going to their in-laws for Thanksgiving. The first time we’d be without them. My husband and I drove over to Dallas and took Auntie to her favorite cafeteria. The food was good, and I discovered lots of people eat out that day. Who knew? Good friends asked us to join them and their family when we returned. It was lovely. My friend had recently redone her dining room. (Not the picture above!) She had a fantastic table that easily sat fourteen. You could’ve expected to see photographs of the room in one of the home decorating magazines. Perfect setting, great friends, and good food, but it wasn’t our food. 

 And that’s why we serve so many different items at Thanksgiving. Everyone needs to eat for this one holiday whatever it is that tells them they are loved and with family—however that family is defined. 

What are the couple of things you must have for it to be the perfect Thanksgiving meal? Care to share a recipe? I'd love to hear from you. Belated Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian friends who've already celebrated my favorite holiday.

Anyone who comments has a chance to win an e-copy of VERMONT ESCAPE!


Jerrie Alexander said...

Wow! You made me dizzy with all those dishes! I learned something today. I didn't know you could make dressing without cornbread!

It was fun getting to learn more about you. I love Vermont Escape and can't wait for the next book.

Marsha said...

Hey, Jerrie. LOL Absolutely with the dressing. Despite mother being from South Carolina, I think my father's Missouri upbringing influenced the dressing. One of them also put oysters in the dressing. Yuck! I've never done that. As a kid, I always picked those out. Thanks for stopping and for the good words about Vermont Escape.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marsha, I loved hearing how you celebrate Thanksgiving. It's not a holiday we have here in the UK, and I've always bee fascinated to know what makes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Now I know - it's whatever traditions you've grown up with. Great post - loved it!

Marsha said...

Yes, it varies across the country, Helena. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for commenting.

Ally Broadfield said...

Wish I had time to comment, but I need to go eat lunch right now! And I want stuffing and mashed potatoes. I love what you said about needing to have what your family ate. We sometimes have a weird collection of food on holidays, but it works.

Marsha said...

LOL Yes writing about all this makes me hungry too, Ally. Holidays are all about those visceral memories-tastes, smells, the sting from peeling the chestnuts, laughter at family jokes--that make the day what it is. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Unknown said...

Great post, Marsha! For Thanksgiving, we have most of what you mentioned (though I think we throw in a few more starches!) plus pink jello, as taught to me by my Grandma Betty. It's just red jello set until semi-firm then mixed with real whipped cream, diced fresh strawberries, and mini-marshmallows. More of a dessert, I suppose, but it goes great with turkey!

Marsha said...

Hey, Heather.Pink jello, huh? I think we did something like that in the 80s, but used cool whip. Yours actually sounds healthier! I mean it does have strawberries! One of the healthiest food for us. :) Thanks for taking time to stop by. Appreciate you.

Leona~Author said...

Our Thanksgivng meal wasn't complete with out yams. Gotta have crushed pinapple below; a mixture of brown sugar,flour, margarine and walnuts on top the yams...then mini marshmallows under the broiler as a final step. Yummy.

Now, if I can just stick to my diet.

Loved your post, Marsha.

Susan Bernhardt said...

I loved your blog, Marsha about Thanksgiving and food. I come from a big family and we always had around thirty come to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents. There was a huge kid's table in the kitchen, the dining room table and then the overflow in the living room.

Turkey, dressing (I loved Mom's dressing made with pork sausage and broken up hard rolls), homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cooked red cabbage, broccoli, green beans, etc. ending with pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie and coffee. And lots of good conversation.

My parents have been gone for a number of years, so now I usually have Thanksgiving dinner. But it's on a much smaller scale.

And always have lots to be thankful for.

Susan Bernhardt
The Ginseng Conspiracy coming 1/14
MuseItUp Publishing

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had some great Thanksgiving meals. I always go overboard with all the things I fix for our Thanksgiving meal and there are only three of us. My guys like to enjoy the leftovers all weekend and I make up freezer meals for lunches.