Monday, November 21, 2011


by Carolyn Brown
Is everyone ready for the holidays? Got the recipe books down off the top shelf of the cabinet and the pages marked for cranberry salad, pumpkin pies, pecan pie, three tiered banana nut cake, hot rolls and cornbread dressing?

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday and I can't wait for the kids to all come home. It's a wonderful noisy zoo and I love every minute of it. Of course by the end of the day I'm in total agreement with the lady who said the most beautiful sight in the world is the tail lights of the cars as the grandkids all go home after a holiday.

In The Ladies Room Trudy and Billy Lee celebrate the day with Trudy's mother and her friend from the nursing home...maybe an excerpt?

By Thanksgiving we had the dining room finished and the living room semi-done. The woodwork had been stripped and the walls painted but we’d decided to wait until after the holiday for the floor man. Momma and Lessie were the only guests but we ate in the dining room on Granny Molly’s good china. Momma was off in la-la land and thought I was the waitress and Billy Lee was a movie star. She fluttered her eye lashes at him after he said Grace and carved the turkey. “I swear I saw you play on that episode of Golden Girls.”

“Don’t mind her. Just be glad she’s not yelling and upset,” Lessie whispered.

“This is new territory for me. I didn’t know Momma could flirt,” I said out the side of my mouth.

“You two stop telling secrets. It’s bad manners to whisper like that. You will upset Billy Bob and me.”

“It’s Billy Lee, Momma.” I corrected her gently.

“I know Billy Bob Thornton when I see him. It’ll hurt his feelings if you call him Billy Lee. He’s been my favorite movie star for a long time, so don’t try to play games with me. Now get us some more tea. My glass is almost empty and his is half full.”

I'm telling you right now I did not argue one bit with Trudy and Billy Lee when they said they were making the cornbread dressing for that holiday! No, sir! They could have that job. I let them get right in the kitchen. Just thinking about making cornbread dressing gives me the hives and makes my family run in the opposite direction.

It all goes back to ... well, a long time ago! I spent my first year away from home in Pennsylvania as a newly wed in a foreign land. (At least it seemed that way to this Tex-Okie.) Thanksgiving was held at Husband's grandma's house and they served up a tasty substitute for dressing but it wasn't the real thing and I did some genuine pouting. The holiday was not the same without cornbread dressing and any one could make it, couldn't they? I would have made it, had I known no one else was bringing it in all those covered dishes they'd toted into the house.

The next year we were in Oklahoma. I'd survived one year without dressing on Thanksgiving but two years would cause me to lose my Rebel status and that was one scary idea.

Poppa butchered a hog and sugar cured a ham the month before the holiday. I held my breath hoping Momma wouldn't say we were having ham, but I turned blue in vain. The verdict from the Queen She-Coon in Johnston County, Oklahoma was ham and all the fixin's that went with it and no dressing. Dear Lord, the world came to a screeching halt and I feared the sun wouldn't come up on Thanksgiving day. All was bleak and dreary.

So being the mature nineteen year old married woman I was, I decided I'd make the chicken and dressing. It couldn't be such a big deal anyway! Boil a chicken, toss in a few bread crumbs and some seasoning. Anyone could do that! Right?


I boiled. I baked bread. I crumbled. I sautéed onions and celery. I mixed and added broth. And then it was time for the sage. Momma cooked by the "add and taste" method but those eggs I'd just tossed in were raw and I couldn't bring myself to taste the concoction. So after I'd added two tablespoons of sage so I decided I would cook by the "add and smell" method. I inhaled deeply and it didn't smell right so I added two more level tablespoons of ground sage. Still didn't smell right so I added two more ... and two more ... until the bottle was empty. Smelled like sage then, by golly.

And the whole house smelled like Thanksgiving when it was cooking. It looked somewhat like a Class A roof shingle when I took it out of the oven, but I'd made giblet gravy and I had no doubts that would soften it right up. We sat down to dinner and I chiseled out a portion very carefully because Momma said if I broke a plate with that stuff I had to do the dinner dishes all by myself. The first bite told me that I might have overdone the sage. I guess the look on my face confirmed that suspicion because no one else was brave enough to try it and Poppa fed the rest to the hogs that afternoon. They rooted it out onto the ground, attempted to bury it and threatened to run away if Poppa put any more to their trough.

Momma learned her lesson about ham for Thanksgiving and made the dressing the rest of her life. Now that she's passed on, my sister has learned the knack of making it. If I mention even looking at a recipe for it, my family has other plans for the holiday. But I can share a recipe for southern pecan pie and no one complains when it shows up on the dessert table!

One Pie Shell (made from scratch or bought frozen)
1 c. sugar
1 c. dark Karo (do not substitute waffle syrup)
2 tsp. melted butter (that, darlin', is butter not margarine)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup of finely chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and pecans in a large bowl and stir well. Pour into the pie shell and bake one hour. NOTE: I put the pie on a cookie sheet because it can boil over and I absolutely hate to clean the oven. And be sure to flick a little flour dust on your nose just before serving and tell everyone that a pecan pie is only for an advanced chef and they could never master the job!

What's your biggest goof on Thanksgiving? And what's your favorite food?


Sandy Cody said...

Thanks, Carolyn, for sharing your pecan pie recipe. I'll have to give it a try. Think I'll pass on your stuffing though.

Carolyn Brown said...

Sandy, you are a very wise woman. The hazardous waste trucks won't even haul it away!

Gina/Katherine said...

I definitely plan to try that recipe. My biggest cooking goof wasn't even *my* mistake. I had my in-laws over for dinner and I made a roast chicken with all the trimmings. I had cooked the chicken in a glass baking pan, rather than my usual metal roasting pan and when I pulled it out of the oven and placed it on the stovetop, the glass exploded! Thankfully, the only casualty was the chicken and the sidedishes. Of course, we wound up with KFC that night.

Zelda Benjamin said...

I can't wait for Thursday. Made cranberry biscotti today. Semi homemade with Pillsbury Quick bread.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Pecan pie is a favorite of my family. Yum-Yum.

Carolyn Brown said...

Thanks for the comments. Momma said the secret was in chopping the pecans very fine so they make a pretty brown crusty top. You can serve it with ice cream if you hide the bath room scales. They can smell pecan pie in my house and start to moan before I even step on them!

Roni Denholtz said...

Fun story Carolyn! I betyou make a great Thanksgiving dinner now! Does your sister still do the dressing (we call it stuffing up here)?

mammajud said...

As always love your stories...I don't really have a big goof to share, but there was the Thanksgiving when Emalee was home from her first year in the army and we all gathered at Sister Gwen's house...Gwen cooked the turkey and when she had her son Russell pull it out to check on it, the grease had a mind to hop out of the pan and start a fire that burned off Russ's eyebrows...we'll never forget that year!

Carolyn Brown said...

Roni: has a wonderful recipe that I can master in the crock pot. It doesn't taste like "momma made" but it isn't bad with lots of giblet gravy!

Carolyn Brown said...

Hi mammajud! Glad to see you here! I can see you and Gwen teasing Russell about that! Someday we are definitely going to come to your reunion!