Wednesday, November 6, 2013

COOKING FOR OCCASIONS





With this Thanksgiving Season fast approaching, my own approach to the thought seems to be a bewildered glance around the room, the kitchen and the house, wondering if I can possibly get order enough into this chaos to set a Thanksgiving table.
 
Trust me---in all the beautiful occasions and teas and the wonderful gatherings and parties and plain dinners swept up a notch by a special touch or two, there HAVE been some of those were it not for just-a-pool-of-light over the table itself, outlining and highlighting all the festive and orderly touches---well, you’d probably have ske-daddled right out, wondering how long the wait might be at Cracker Barrel.
 
And every time I’m in a quandary (or a downright mess, to be honest), I think of Mammaw’s baby sister, Aunt Lo. 
She was not a large woman by any means, but she was an enormous presence, somehow, with gorgeous clothes and sumptuous perfume and a way of pinning a scarf or a brooch or a corsage that set her apart from anyone else.  And her hearty burgundy laugh---that laugh encompassed everyone in a room and drew them in, drew them in.

My Great Aunt Lo lived a big life, traveling to Hot Springs and Rock City and Nashville-for-the-Opry, and buying her clothes in Memphis at Goldsmiths and Lowenstein's, having REAL luggage---a matched set---and not much caring what anybody thought.  About anything.   She had quite a few stodgy old Pekingese dogs, a big yardful of called-by-name chickens that she occasionally made a batch of pancakes for, calling them to her feet as she sat on the back steps and fed bites to each one off a fork.   She also had a monkey, but he's been told.  

Her red nail polish matched her lipstick, which was put on with the oddest little down-strokes side-by-side in the middle, higher than her own lipline, then by doing a big old theater-mask-mouth which stretched her bottom lip TIGHT while she did a corner-to-corner Revlon swoop (Love That Red). That lip totally covered, she bit them tight together, transferring a coat to the top lip. The original two little pointy places right in the middle stood brightly high like the tops of angel-wings, their line of demarcation flowing into the flat dryness of a sifty layer of Coty powder which clung to the downy hairs of her upper lip.


.

She was the “odd” sister, by chance and by choice, and childless, I know not by which---and even after she’d gained great age and lost several husbands, she said “I STILL cook for Occasions.” 


 



And she did. Whether for company or just for HER.   She’d finish up the Cornish Hens and dressing for Thanksgiving, or the black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day, then go put on her  black silk, or a maroon hostess gown, or even some “evening pajamas” to sit down at her big set-for-one table (later mine, with sideboard, china cabinet and eight chairs, as it passed to my Mammaw, earmarked in subsequent conversations as for me).



 
One of her great discoveries was the handy-dandy little turkey  “roast,” right there in its own little disposable pan.   She DID, however, draw the line at that scant cup of BROWN GRAVY included in the pan---you just HAD to have Giblet Gravy with dressing.   So she boiled up a few livers and gizzards and made a quart or so of her own, so all was well.



 She’d eat and pass finger-bits to her two fat Pekes, and put that big old pink-swan ashtray right on there between the gravy boat and the Ocean Spray, to smoke between bites if it suited her.   I don’t  remember her having wine, or ever serving it, but she and my succession of “uncles” were quite fond of their G & T, and that was perhaps her beverage with her Thanksgiving supper.   After the last uncle passed on, I wonder to whom she directed the ice-shake of her glass, to denote, “Baby, make me another little sip.”




 

And yes, I was often the “Baby” making her those “little sips,” as soon as I was old enough to lift that big clear bottle.    I know she was with US for more holidays than not, and never us with her (see Monkey Business, above), but I do remember that spark of celebration which she always had, to “Cook for Occasions.”
 

 

 
 

 
 

6 comments:

Reader Wil said...

Hi Racheld! Welcome back! Your dishes look wonderful.
Thanks for your visit and comment. My birthday is next month, then I will be 80. Have a nice week.
Wil, ABCW Team

Patsy said...

That makes me ready to eat Thanksgiving Dinner-- NOW!
Great post, the peanut butter bread The Bennie put out, well the squirrel's by pasted it all day and just before dark a possum ate it and said thank you very much.LOL

jeanne, backyard neighbor said...

What a gorgeous place setting Rachel. I admire the pattern so much.

Your Aunt marched to a different drummer the way I see it and that's ok. I am sure she was well loved and the cause of much family entertainment. The attention was probably something she enjoyed. Her cooking on occasion really made me smile and I pictured her feeding her pups and herself in a very lovely way. The ducks too. Big smile here.

We will be in Florida for Thanksgiving with our other daughter Diana. She lives in Kissimmee. I assure you I WILL be cooking. HA! AND... setting the table with my mother's dishes. Most everyone in our family has a set of my mother's dishes. My mother had a fetish for dishes and had many sets to share when she passed away.

I am sure also that Caro will be a big help with the Thanksgiving festivities. Lucky you. You can do this Rachel. Be casual and enjoy the day. No worries.
Love,
Jeanne


mississippi artist said...

I know the feeling about the table being the only neat place in the house! I have been busy cleaning mine that has been let go too long. Nothing like scheduling an old ladies club meeting at your house to get you moving! LOL! Maybe I won't do that again!

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Lovely dishes!! Thanks so much for your visit and kind words! They brought a smile to my face!!

Hugs,
Deb

Kim S. said...

I vacillate between wanting to be you, your Mammaw and Aunt Lo ( you know that I covet that monkey). Lawks a mercy, you do paint a picture, my dear!