It’s the time of year to be Thankful.
When I was a child, Thanksgiving on my grandparents farm was a special time. Grandma Jean always got up very early to chop onions and celery for the traditional dressing, and she also always put together a oyster dressing as well. But she never stuffed it inside the large turkey which she always baked for Thanksgiving, the dressing was always baked separately. Grandma Jeans turkey had to be put in the oven early, getting up at 4am to do this, as she let it bake long and slow until it was time to eat.
Then there was the making of all the other side dishes. She had a plethora of sides. All the normal favorites of corn, green beans, cranberry salad, a big bowl of home made mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and miscellaneous casseroles.
Around noon relatives would start to arrive. My aunts, uncles, and cousins, all bringing a side dish or dessert to add to grandma Jeans Thanksgiving feast. The ladies would help grandma Jean in the kitchen, the men would sit and talk about the weather, the past crop season and the things they were all doing in their own lives and we children would play and anticipate the coming feast. After eating, the ladies cleaned up the dishes, and the men would sit around the kitchen table and play blackjack. I know that’s not a normal tradition, but for us it was. Somehow the day was not complete till someone was yelling “blackjack”.
Then around 3 or 4 mom and dad would pack me and my sister in the car and we’d drive an hour to grandpa Cecil’s and grandma Cortie’s house for our second Thanksgiving feast. It seemed that the meals were a lot alike, but when this meal would usually have the addition of the old country recipes. Remember, these are my grandparents from Kentucky. So of course we had cornbread made in grandma’s cast iron skillet (which now resides in my kitchen), and the green beans had been cooking all night in the crock pot with a big ole ham bone and a few strips of bacon in there.
Those green beans would melt in your mouth with all that pork flavoring enveloping them. We also had the home made chicken and dumplings that my mom always made and everyone looked so forward too. One of the other things I remembered from this meal was the big bowl of banana pudding.
It always was over flowing with bananas and “Nilla Wafers”. Somehow, it always seemed like when grandma brought it to the table, there was always a few spoonful’s, and finger tips of pudding missing. After eating for the second time that day, we’d all sit in the family room and catch up on each others lives and eat more goodies, while my uncle Dean was watching a football game. He was the only one on both sides of the family interested in the football games, but we all were subjected to his watching it.
Then after moving to Florida, the holidays become mine. I can remember each year putting together my holiday menu. Although it usually almost mimicked my mom or grandmothers menu, I did find a way to add my own new dishes. I spent many a night with the boys in the kitchen with me making cookies, cakes, pies and other holiday treats. It felt great passing this all on to them, and to this day, they still talk about those days growing up. They are all grown up now and I love when they ask me to make one of my holiday pies, cakes or candies, knowing inside that I am only passing on the recipes I grew up with. That is what holidays and family is all about to me. I find it hard to believe that its been over 20 years now of me making these for “my” family year after year. Now I have the addition of 7 grandchildren to teach. I cherish every moment with each of them in my kitchen.
Last year I was so blessed to be able to add some of my dear friend Trina’s recipes to my Thanksgiving dinner. It was so hard after losing my friend after such a short time getting to know her. But I was blessed that she shared with me some of her family recipes that I now can enjoy and remember her by. One of my favorites is her Make Ahead Turkey Gravy. Also her Chicken and Dumplings rivals my own mothers recipe. She is and always will be in my heart.
Of course no holiday meal can be complete without my grandma Cordie’s cornbread. It has been a staple on every holiday table through my years.
It is also very special at the holidays for me because I have my extended family of friends here in Florida. I make a point of putting all my creations on Face Book for them to see. Then I sit back and wait for their comments on Face Book asking for some. Then I get the ones who text me directly on my phone asking for some too. They don’t realize that I want to share. I make so many and so much of most of my recipes because growing up, that’s the way mom did it. So she could share with our family, friends and neighbors. So now I do the same. If I didn’t share, I’d end up eating so much I’d be bigger than Santa by the end of the year. So keep the texts and requests coming everyone.
None the less, I have to say that the holiday season is my favorite time of the year. Not only for the food, but for the time spent with my family and the memories of past holidays. I hope your holidays are at least half as good as I feel mine have been over the years.
So now to the recipes of all that good food, I hope y’all enjoy them as much as I have over the years.