Saturday, November 28, 2009


I hope everyone is enjoying a peaceful and safe and happy holiday weekend. Ours has been somewhat quiet, with a nice family dinner on Thursday, just about candlelight time, just the six of us who live up here, but we talked to almost every one of our seventeen during the holiday.

M Poirot and I worked on the preparations a bit on Wednesday, getting the cornbread made and crumbled and the onion and celery chopped and bagged in the fridge. I know some folks like to sauté the vegetables in oil or butter to get them all softened and flavorful before mixing, but there’s just something about that big silvery bowl of crumbled cornbread, with the scent of the minced onion, the nuttiness of the celery, the ping of fresh-ground black pepper, and the crush of curled sage---it’s just a part of the holiday experience as I cook, and I look forward to it.

And I make the dressing the way DS#2 does it---almost sloshy with chicken stock, both in the bowl as I toss it, and then in the baking dish, with several ladles poured gently on just before it’s set into the oven to bake fluffy and crusty in the pan.

And always, two kinds of gravy: One with livers, one without---both golden with softly-boiled eggs.

Wednesday was also the table-setting day---the getting out of the serving pieces and the forks and knives, the heavy crockery plates, what I call the “Burberry plates” in that they have a swath of hand-painted berries across the burgundy, with no-two-alike in the big stack of twelve. They get warm in the dishwasher at the last minute, and the serving bowls stay warm across the top of the stove while the oven's hot, to keep the hot food at a good temperature all through the meal (and with two glass tabletops to seep out the warmth---that’s a good thing). And pink napkins for Thanksgiving?---they went nicely with the plates and the muted harvesty tablecloth, as well as the pink and orange glasses.

I got the asparagus made, and the crumb topping sizzled in butter, cooled and bagged.
The eggs were done as far as making a little Tupperware of the mustardy filling, and snugging the spoon-nestled whites gently into another until time to fill and garnish. The sweet potatoes were baked and the vanilla butter made for smearing on at the last minute, just before the marshmallows went on to brown for a few minutes in a “very quick oven” after the rolls came out.

With all the help---Chris getting the turkey on the grill and seeing to it for several hours, and DS#2 cutting broccoli and cauliflower and peeling potatoes---we all had time left over for a nap about three o’clock, and we scattered all over the house, into all the rooms, like we were all already snockered on turkey, as we took our little break before putting on the finishing touches.

The homemade cranberry, with fresh berries, Splenda, a tiny bit of sugar to smooth it out, and a dash of vanilla. It’s usually the “Forgotten Thing” of which there’s usually one per holiday, found way later when you move something to get at the leftovers, but this time I only forgot to supreme the oranges, so they got left out.

Chris’ Ocean Spray---I always spoon it out into a pretty bowl, making sure some of the all-important Crease Lines remain pristine.

Years ago, we went to his folks’ house in Alabama; I was not too familiar with the kitchen, and in all the flurry and scurry, I asked his Dad to find the can opener and open the two cans of cranberry sauce from the fridge. WAY after while, I got out a little serving bowl and looked for them---nowhere to be found.

I went into the dining room, and there they sat---the neatly opened cans, sitting like squat candlesticks on either side of the beautiful centerpiece. Chris was following everyone around with the Cam-Corder, and in my screen debut, I can be heard drawling in a voice I can assure you was NOT MINE, asking his Dad: “What were you gonna DOOOO, Darlin’? Just puddah SPOOOON innit?”
The very brown bird---three+ hours on the grill, carefully steam regulated by Chris:

The asparagus casserole, all goldy-crumbed and rich with a sorta Redneck Mornay:

The Kentucky Wonders I mentioned the other day---I actually put these in the freezer in the Summer, but with the dash of vinegar and sugar of home-canned ones. They started with a hunk of ham and a big chopped onion, sautéing for while to soften, then the beans for a good long time, then the potatoes to steam atop. We’ve had this recipe on the Thanksgiving table since the early Seventies, I think.

Sweet potatoes with vanilla butter, demarara and marshmallows:

The Green Pink Salad---no matter what flavor Jello, the combination of crushed pineapple, Cool Whip, mayo and cottage cheese is called Pink Salad.

And of course, Devilled Eggs---lots of mustard, a bit of mayo, salt and several grinds of the pepper mill---do not even let pickles cross your mind when you make these:

The table---this little round fellow was one of the first pieces of furniture we had here---we were supposed to stay five months, so I stuck this little Wal-Mart table, still flat in the box---X-feet base, center pole, and round top, into the tiny U-Haul. And after nineteen years, I don't think I'd ever want to part with it---we've served hundreds on this table, and I hope hundreds more to come.

I also forgot to mention the cauliflower and broccoli, steamed and drizzled with lemony butter---we've served this same dish ON this same dish for years. I love the color contrasts.

Chris paused before he sat down to get a picture of his own plate---he likes the clumpy cranberry, dark meat, and about as much liver gravy as dressing:

We ordered two really good pies from a new little pie shop nearby, a Karo Pecan and a Pumpkin, and they were still warm when he picked them up at 9 a.m. The baker’s “dozenth” was a slice of Sugar Cream Pie, also still warm, thick with cooked cream and sugar, and with a golden dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg---we shared that slice for breakfast.

The Pecan pie---somebody got into that one early. I think often of Dear Aunt Ruthie, who had seven boys---we went to her house for the weekend once, and I helped her bake several cakes on Saturday. The guys just kept coming through the kitchen, getting slice after slice, even from layers that hadn’t been stacked up yet. She just laughed and said, “I never DID make a cake couldn’t be cut.” I aspired to be a Mama like that.

And that brings me full circle to the Blessings we're counting---I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. And for the ones heading home today and tomorrow---Traveling Grace for the Journey.


Tonja said...

Oh, yummy! I would like a little bit of everything, please....even the asparagus casserole!

I love to see a table laden with home cooked, real food! And, I miss the way we used to 'pass' the food, too! Bet you still do that since the food is all on the table!

Cape Coop said...

We had a wonderful feast as well... Happy Holdiays Rachel!

Southern Lady said...

Beautiful Thanksgiving dinner, Rachel. You can tell y'all truly "cooked like you meant it!"

Anonymous said...

IT was lovely to read about and see the pictures of your feast and the love in the home and in the preparations. Sharing like this truly makes your life and home an open book, --worth reading and sharing! The same faithful anonymous reader

Anonymous said...

I'm just now getting time to sit down and look at this feast. Had no time for lunch and just a small bowl of chili for dinner tonight. Now I'm feeling famished looking at all this beautiful food. Do wish I could have been there with you.

Marshmallow kisses

Southern Lady said...

I've missed you, my friend. Hope all is well at your house.

Jeanne said...

Dear Racheld, your post is the best recording of the Thanksgiving dinner process EVER. I loved reading every word. It is very interesting how different each families Thanksgiving traditions are linked to the meal we prepare. Your beautiful food is awesome. I am posting our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. I loved the cranberry cans story. That was a good laugh.

Have a wonderful day.

Hugs, Jeanne