Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Southern Thanksgiving without Jack Daniel's?

I’m headed to the grocery store this morning, Thanksgiving dinner menu in hand and hoping to avoid some of the last minute chaos and leg wrestling that will no doubt ensue in frozen food sections across America tomorrow.

Here’s my list that I made last night as Joe, Dad, and Kelsey were watching the Titans game. I literally “ducked in” to make the list, then ducked out again to continue writing:
Sweet Potatoes
Gulliver’s Corn
Green Beans
Chef Hat Rolls
Frozen Fruit Salad
Cranberry Sauce
Bread n’ Butter pickles
Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
“Better than Sex” Chocolate Dessert

We’ll spend Thursday (and a chunk of Wednesday) cooking and baking all the above, getting everything ready for the Thanksgiving meal—that will be consumed in twenty minutes!

As I’m looking over the list this morning, I see people—precious people in my life—behind every menu item. For years now, my husband Joe has prepared the turkey, which I love. The more in the kitchen, the merrier! And he does such a good job too. This year he’s also cooking a beef brisket on his “Green Egg” outside. Delicious!

Our daughter and son (pictured right) with our two nephews at the Thanksgiving meal, circa 1992

The Dressing is Mom’s recipe (and her mother's), which I know so well by now that I just throw stuff into the Dutch oven and give it the final “taste test” before baking. The Sweet Potatoes is Aunt Lyda’s recipe (the recipe with pecans and caramelized brown sugar on top, no marshmallows for this crowd). Dad’s actually driving to Fayetteville Thursday morning to get Aunt Lyda and bring her back here for the meal with us. Can’t wait to see her again.

Gulliver’s Corn is Mom’s recipe, and it has cream and butter and other “heart attack on a plate” stuff in it, but hey…we have it once a year! The green beans are always fresh, and we snap them together the night before. Chef Hat Rolls are Kelsey and Kurt’s favorites, their special request. The Frozen Fruit Salad is Mom’s recipe and I love it because I can make it today and forget about it, which I usually do until half way through the meal. Henceforth, the above list that will stay faithfully tacked to my fridge until everything’s on the table and accounted for.

I still remember the first time I made gravy with Mom by my side. How is it that mine still didn’t turn out as good as hers, and she was right there with me? The Cranberry Sauce is the only dish I prepare that I don’t eat. I love cranberries but am not a fan of the sauce. Go figure… But my family loves it so it’s on the list. Bread n’ Butter pickles are a request from Joe. His family used to have these with their meal, so we’ve incorporated them into ours. Mashed Potatoes is on the list because my nephews, Doug and Dillon, love them, and they’re coming (along with my brother, Doug and his wife, Jackie) from Atlanta to join us.

Lastly, but most importantly, are the desserts. Pumpkin Pie’s a must, and it’s an old recipe from the 1800s that calls for scalded milk and sorghum molasses. Yum! I’ve been baking that for years. Next is the “Better than Sex” Chocolate Pudding dessert. I’m not sure if my family requested that this year because they love it, or they just love saying the name.

The “____________” in my menu represents the dessert I want to make that Doug and Jackie and the boys really like, but that I don’t know the name of yet. Which reminds me, I need to call my sister-in-law…

Our daughter and son (pictured right) with our two nephews, Thanksgiving 2009

In the end, my menu is really all about family, which is what Thanksgiving Day is about too. And it’s not just “blood relation” family, but the people with whom we share our lives. As I eat the meal on Thursday, savoring the different tastes, I’ll be remembering people--those still with me and those already Home--and will be thanking God for them.

I can’t sit down to a big meal like this anymore without anticipating the wedding feast we’ll share in the presence of the Lamb in the new Heaven some day. Prayerfully, some day soon! Food isn’t just for here, folks. And aren’t we thankful!

Oh, and what does Jack Daniel's have to do with Thanksgiving? Friday, the family's going to Gattistown (about an hour from Nashville), where my dad's family is from. We're going to see where the old home place used to be, visit the graveyard where family is buried, then we're going to Jack Daniel's Distillery (in nearby Lynchburg) for a tour. I wonder if they still give samples... I've actually been to the distillery before. A Southern rite of passage, I guess. Then we'll hit the antique shops in downtown Lynchburg. Let the fun begin!

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving!
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