Sunday, December 1, 2013

To Grandmother's House We Go

Over the river and through the woods,
To grandmother's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Through (the) white and drifted snow!
Over the river and through the woods,
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

I remember singing this song in fourth grade and thinking how it reminded me of visiting my grandma. We didn’t often make it to Kansas for Thanksgiving, but if we did, Grandma made sure the trip was worth it. When we couldn’t travel, my mother served feasts that had everyone in the house wandering through the kitchen to savor the scents emerging from the oven and simmering pots on the stovetop. Watching my mom cook her mom’s recipes made me want to be part of this cycle of kitchen magic.

Once I returned to Kansas, Grandma’s house became Thanksgiving Central. Mom, my family, and anyone else in the vicinity met in Meade for this annual feast. A few years after Grandma gave up her role as main chef, I designated our house as the place to be on Turkey Day. However, last year, we were moving so my mom invited us to her house for Thanksgiving. It was nice once again to eat mom’s roast turkey, candied sweet potatoes, and pie. While I loved that dinner, I missed preparing favorite recipes that connect me to loved ones.

This year, I get to host dinner for our gang, and I had so much fun shopping. I picked out a big turkey so there will be plenty of leftovers. I love to send platters of goodies home with my children and mom so the feast continues for several days. I loaded up on potatoes and stuffing supplies as well. We have a longstanding family tradition of overloading on carbohydrates, so we’ll continue that with bowls of buttery mashed potatoes, fried noodles, candied yams, savory stuffing, and homemade oatmeal rolls.

Mom brings fresh veggies along with her famous sweet potatoes. I’ve tried to make them the way she does, but without success. I’m not sure what I leave out, but Mom’s candied yams topped with golden marshmallows are my Thanksgiving favorite.
Her relish tray is amazing: bite-size carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, black olives, and jicama. When they were little, our girls put olives on their fingers like black fingernails and flitted around the kitchen pretending they had witch fingers. Maybe our granddaughter will be big enough this year to carry on this tradition.

The turkey is a Cinderella wannabe. It existed only for this day. Like the real Cinderella, the dressing makes the bird. Foods both pale and wan when placed in the pan emerge from the roaster glowing golden brown and perfuming the house with herbed aromas that pull everyone into the dining room like a magnet draws iron filings.

Following dinner, fresh pumpkin mixed with cream, sugar, eggs, spices, and molasses and poured into a butter and flour crust turns into a grand finale that pushes our carb load over the top. How can something that emerged from an orange gourd in strings turn into such a succulent dessert? 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not only because I love to prepare a meal that makes my family’s taste buds tap dance, but also because it’s the time of year that we focus on blessings that enrich our lives. It’s also a time to remember other Grandma’s houses at Thanksgiving.


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