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Tried & True Thanksgiving Recipes
During dinner with friends, we talked about Thanksgiving plans. Each family has traditions that are set in concrete. The menu's very sameness, generation after generation, brings comfort. Jana said, “There's bread for my aunt's stuffing drying out all over our house. No other stuffing will do for our family.” Jim told how he makes oyster dressing. We use Bill's mother's stuffing: bread toasted dry in the oven and rolled into crumbs, sauteed onions, sage, salt, pepper, hot water and juice from a roast ham or bacon grease. We cover our turkey with parchment paper rather than foil.
Dinner at Vicki's home was a typical American feast: turkey and stuffing, chicken and noodles, green beans, Mama's corn pudding, all the mashed potatoes the twins could hold, and pumpkin and pecan pie. My mother would also have had slaw, lime Jello with pineapple and cream cheese and cranberry sauce.
There is nothing better than food prepared from scratch by a good, old-time Hoosier cook, even if it does clog your arteries! Mother learned to cook from the lore passed down through several generations of Hoosier farm cooks. And oh the mouth-watering threshing dinners she described when farmers came from miles around to help at the Old Home Place near Michigantown!
I loved old Granny's stories about the olden days. She told how they'd dig a trench, line it with straw, put in root vegetables and cabbages, add more straw and cover it with dirt to keep the vegetables for use during the winter. There being no electronic marvels, they entertained themselves in the evening with simple pleasures such as cracking walnuts on a flatiron held between the knees and making fudge by the light of oil lamps before going to bed early in order to rise while it was still dark to tend to the animals or cook breakfast.
Farm work - done with horses in those days before modern machinery - burned a lot of calories. Women spent much time preserving and preparing food. Every day my great grandmothers and their daughters had huge breakfasts ready when the men and boys came in from the big round barn: fried side meat or ham, pancakes, fried potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy, assorted jellies, and apple butter. Think of it: They baked bread every day. On the other hand they didn't work outside the home.
Then came noon dinner: meat, vegetables, homemade bread, cake and pie. Domestic Diva Martha Stewart would have approved of them because they were always prepared for unexpected guests. After diner, the table was re-set with cake, pies and cookes, and fresh coffee was brewed in case a relative or neighbor dropped in. Then came supper.
And all of this was cooked - winter and summer - on a hot iron range! Quite a contrast to my glass-topped range with self-cleaning oven and all kinds of appliances and gizmos, not to mention super market delis and frozen food sections.
Is there anyone who doesn't adore the sassy, outspoken cartoon character Maxine? Here's her response to some of Martha's tips:
Martha: "To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag.” Maxine: “Buy Hungry Jack. Keeps in the pantry for two years.” Martha: "When baking cake, coat the pan with cake mix instead of flour to avoid a white mess on the cake.” Maxine: “Go to the bakery. Hell, they'll even decorate it for you.” Martha: "Brush beaten egg whites over pie crust before baking to yield a beautiful glossy finish.” Maxine: “Mrs. Smith's frozen pie directions do not include this, so I don't do it.” Martha: “Freeze leftover wine into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.” Maxine: “Leftover wine????? Hello?” My personal favorite is Martha: “Wrap celery in aluminum foil, and it will keep for weeks.” Maxine: “Celery? Never heard of it!”
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