As a kid, I helped my mom in the kitchen, and although I can picture her making her turkey dressing while I helped by placing ingredients into the bowl, for some reason, that picture and those ingredients didn’t make it to my first Thanksgiving away from home. When it came my turn to make it alone, I took a bowl of seasoned bread crumbs, added water and waited for the magic to happen. I was young. Needless to say, it was a dismal meal.
After that experience, I asked my mother how she made her turkey dressing. There really wasn’t a recipe, just a whole lot of experience.
I made my mom’s recipe for a couple of years before branching out and trying new recipes. I made slow cooker dressing. I made cornmeal dressing. I tried oyster stuffing. (That was nasty.) But I always came back to my mom’s tried and true recipe until I quit eating so much bread.
After making that dietary change, turkey dressing was off the table for Thanksgiving feasts. But I’ve missed the traditional dressing. Without it, the meal just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. It’s just turkey and potatoes. So this year, as I contemplated the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, turkey dressing was back on the table. But like before, I wanted to try something new—maybe even a little exotic. You know, something with pears and brie or roasted peppers and smoked meat. I don’t know, just different. But as I looked through recipes on the internet, nothing compared to my mother’s turkey dressing. I’d sit through videos of one chef after another, and every time I’d come away with the same thought—my mother’s dressing was much better. So, I gathered the ingredients together with one change. I used artisan bread from the local grocery store.
There have been changes in my relationship with my mother, too. Some ingredients have been added and others taken away. My mother has Parkinson’s now, and a form of dementia that can sometimes come with Parkinson’s. When I spoke with her this Thanksgiving, I told her of my dilemma over dressing, and I told her that no matter where I looked or which chef I tried, her recipe was the best, and it would be on my table this year. “Oh, honey,” she said, “I’ m so glad you remember how to make my dressing.”
I’m glad, too, because she doesn’t remember.
With the decline of my mother’s health has come the reality that she will not live forever. When I was young, the decline and death of my parents never even occurred to me, but now as we all grow older, and I’m staring that reality in the face, I see a break in what I thought was the seamless horizon of my parents’ lives. There will come a time when I can’t call her on Thanksgiving and tell her I prefer her turkey dressing above every chef in the nation. I won’t be able to pick up the phone and tell her I love her or thank her for raising me in a place that, although wasn’t perfect, was beautifully abundant–that because of her and my father, I have much to celebrate this Thanksgiving. I won’t be able to tell her that her Thanksgiving dressing, the know-how of the recipe, and the memory of those younger years are treasures I will carry with me forever. So I tell her now…every chance I get.
I had included a picture, but I’m no food blogger or photographer, so I took it out. It didn’t do justice to our yummy Thanksgiving dinner.
I hope to begin my regular posting schedule again sometime around the first of the year. Maybe sooner. But in the meantime, I will write a couple of holiday posts. Thank you for reading.