Saturday, 24 December 2005

It was tradition in our family. We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house and spent Christmas Eve at Grandma Bertula’s.

Both dinners were pretty much the same: turkey and all the trimmings. We had candied yams (sweet potatoes), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, asparagus (Grandma didn’t like broccoli), pie, and, and, and… And stuffing.

Now, Mom wasn’t known for taking shortcuts in her cooking. For Thanksgiving, she went all out, even making her own cranberry sauce. She’d start with bags upon bags of cranberries then boil them for hours down in water with a bunch of sugar. It’s primary purpose was to make yifta (it’s a real dish!), but one delicious benefit was that we never had to eat the stuff out of a can.

Mom would even make the stuffing from scratch, tearing the bread by hand; a task for which she got up early just to have time. The hard work certainly paid off, because the whole house smelled wonderful and dinner was amazing.

Yet year after year, one thing troubled my Mom – she never felt that her stuffing lived up to Grandma’s. She could never get it quite as moist or to taste just like her mother’s. Personally, I thought it was great, but Mom wasn’t satisfied.

Finally, as we sat down to Christmas Eve dinner, Mom took her first bite of Grandma’s stuffing. “I use your recipe every year and no matter what I do I can’t get my stuffing to come out like yours. I can’t figure out how you get it so perfect. How do you do it?”

With a wry smile on her face, Grandma said “The stuffing? I’ve been using Stove-Top for years.”

Thursday, 24 November 2005

I ended up not going down to Kansas City this year for Thanksgiving. I usually ride down with my Aunt Mary, but her car and mine both conspired to keep us in town. Talking with my mom a few days ago, I told her that if we had the “mashed potato conversation” again this year, I was so going to put it on my Web site. She said to do it anyway:

It happens every year. We’re gathered at the table, someone has said grace (a story for another time), and people are loading thier plates. When the mashed potatoes come around I quietly pass them along. That’s when it starts.

Mom: “Don’t you want any mashed potatoes?”

Me: “I don’t like mashed potatoes.”

“When did you stop liking mashed potatoes?”

“I’ve never actually liked them. It’s not about anyone’s in particular, I just don’t care for them.” My mom’s are quite good, by mashed potato standards, but that doesn’t really change anything as far as I’m concerned.

“You used to eat them. When did you stop?”

“When I was 8 or 9, I think. Old enough to load my own plate and therefore pass them along quietly, without further comment.”

Except, it seems, for the annual mashed potato conversation.