One of the first things Southern women are supposed to excel at is cooking, specifically delicious, heart-clogging, stomach filling, memory making holiday foods. Go to a traditional Southern home, and you’ll have food and drink shoved civilly at you until you make good your escape.
Somehow this genetic coding was mislaid in my make-up, and I find myself in a conundrum this Thanksgiving. Yes, I want my children home for the holiday, and no, I don’t want to cook. Blasphemy! Blasphemer! Get out the stones!
Sorry, kind of lost myself there. This is what happens when you had a Southern Mamaw who had a cook, who had two daughters who were never taught to cook, then had children of their own. I’m in the last generation, and due to peanut butter and tuna I survived my feral childhood. My mother started cooking when she got married, and apparently near poisoned my Irish American macho dad. He never said what he survived on during their two marriages together, but I suspect he packed his own lunches or ate out a lot. I actually ate Swanson TV dinners in the 1960’s and was glad to have them.
My sister became the family Home Economics/4H Czarina, winning awards for baking, sewing, and other domestic endeavors. Sometimes she let me eat the burned bits. I think she was attempting to rewrite our childhood, but then that’s my opinion.
Sometime after receiving her Empty Nest Syndrome, my mother began to cook, using recipes she’d pried out of my grandmother’s cook, friends, and the occaisional Baptist ladies guild cookbook. Over time she became a very good cook, famous for her delightful Funeral Casserole, one of my favorites. Being superstitious like many Irish-Welsh-American Southern women (put that in your corncob pipe and smoke it!), I’m afraid to make this dazzling culinary delight because it might actually kill someone. Or push them over the edge with Velveeta and Jimmy Dean Sausage goodness.
Ahem. Back to Thanksgiving.
The first time I cooked a large frozen turkey, the bird still had the giblets packet inside when I went to carve it. Luckily my friends weren’t picky, but for some reason refused to come back the next year.
This year I was determined to buy yet another precooked dinner by Sprouts or HEB, but the troops, aka Those Who Will Not Be Cooking For Days On End, are in near revolt. Let’s cook our own turkey, they said. Okay. Let’s make Weight Watcher friendly foods so we don’t put on more weight (that in itself is a sacrilegious statement to a Southerner. No cornbread dressing? No corn casserole? Where the hell’s the butter?). I also have a personal fear that if cornbread is not made on every Turkey Day, my mother and my grandmother’s cook will haunt me the next day like Marley’s ghost.
I’m still traumatized about the ToFurkey incident last year, (Vegetarian offspring of mine? You WILL make your own turkey substitute, and it will not cost over $20 dollars.) and I’m sure it wasn’t the ghosts of my ancestors rising up from their graves in protest. Or my Uncle Dub who actually did his own smoked birds, venison, and other dead delicious woodland inhabitants.
So here I am. Sometime today I have to break my oath to not enter Wally World ever again in search of an Eddy’s smoked turkey breast or whole turkey to appease the Northern God whom I’m married to and adore, plus his minions, aka my sons. We will make healthy roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted rosemary potatoes, crust-less pumpkin pie, and I will smile. I will continue the new tradition of swilling Prosecco (interesting that Spellcheck wanted to substitute Prozac for Prosecco) Mimosas while attempting to stuff eggs Thanksgiving morning, while secretly eating the Sister Schubert Parker House Rolls, sans butter.
This helps me smile, plus the stash of chocolate of the non-baking sort for mood enhancement. Maybe I’ll get out my mamaw’s china and crystal, but perhaps not since my Northern God and his minions are frightened of expensive, shiny, breakable things.
We’ll sit down at the table and stuff ourselves, NG will count his WW points, I won’t, and the dog will sulk under the table until someone sneaks choice morsels to him. We’ll say the blessing and look around, grateful that everyone is home this year, reminisce about my Thanksgiving cooking disasters, and miss those of us who witnessed said disasters but have gone before us. Most of all we’ll be thankful, happy, and it won’t matter a darn bit who made what, but that it tastes good and we’re together.