Tribune Column Foxgloves and Fireflies: the moral of the Thanksgiving story | The Cullman Tribune

Tribune Column

Foxgloves and Fireflies: the moral of the Thanksgiving story

You know it’s going to be a bad day when you get up and start preparing your Thanksgiving dinner at daylight and you pour grits into your cornbread batter instead of corn meal. Now, we all know that grits and corn meal are very similar, but come on, you just can’t make cornbread dressing out of grits, now can you? So, you start dipping the imposter grits out of the batter, not wanting to waste enough eggs and milk to feed a hungry family for a week, but you just know you didn’t get all of them out. However, you, being the optimist that you are, think positively, strain the mixture through a mesh strainer and hope for the best.

Moving right along, you proceed to whip up a key lime pie, something you’ve done so many times that you should be able to waltz through this one blindfolded and backward. However, you let a little bit of yolk get into your egg white bowl and you know from past experience that it will keep the slimy portions of the egg from producing the stiff white peaks that all good cooks consider perfection in a pie.  So out they go, and you start over, this time forgetting to separate the last egg completely. Oh, well, one egg white in the mix can’t possibly be the end of the world, now, could it.

Next, after drinking a big gulp of boiled custard that just happens to taste exactly like your Grandmother Young’s, you finally get the dressing put together and in a suitably big pan, because you’ve been taught to cook for unexpected company all of your life, and whichever grandmother taught you that must have evidently been expecting Cox’s Army to ride in at any moment because it looks like you are feeding them and all of their kin folks, as well as your own.

With this vat of perfectly seasoned dressing finally in the oven, you can start whipping up casseroles, baked beans and banana pudding, all, of course, super-sized versions. (Cox’s Army will never catch me unprepared, what about you?)

Last night you synchronized your watch with your normally placid husband, who, for some reason, turns into Gen. George S. Patton on any holiday when guests are expected. He determined that the 24-pound turkey should be introduced into the convection oven at exactly 1300 hours, in order to be presented at the table at the precise time everyone arrived.

Well, old George S. was thoroughly disappointed in this year’s timing. It became evident to me how seriously off schedule we were going to be when I went out to retrieve the big bird from the cooler in which it had brined overnight. It was frozen…

Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the turkey in question had been thawing in the fridge for four days. It was almost thawed when I took it out to brine it. So how in the name of Sam Hill did it get refrozen? Must have had something to do with the brine to ice ratio. This had never happened before, and I followed my gut instinct. I didn’t mention this faux pas to the general, who would have blown a fuse. Instead, I prepared it as if it were thawed and let it sit to bring it up to room temperature, just the way Pinterest recommended. Mine would eventually come out of the oven at 4:30 a.m. on Black Friday, but I digress….

Whizzing through mac and cheese, green beans and pea salad in record time, keeping the general happy and hoping that the turkey was inconspicuous under the festive fall tea towel I’d covered it with, I made sweet tea, remembering to add a touch of baking soda to combat the bitterness, there-by avoiding the use of the regular three cups of sugar per gallon for which the South is famous.

I cleverly avoided getting behind schedule by having purchased cakes at the local grocery store bakery the day before. There was absolutely no reason for both of us to bake all those cakes, so I decided that having a four-layer Italian cream cake was the ideal dessert, impressive and of the melt in your mouth variety. What I had overlooked was that there was not a single cake dome in the whole house tall enough to cover a four layer cake. So, having to forge ahead to keep time with the clock I just left this majestic masterpiece of cream cheese and coconut and pecans in the dining room, uncovered.

The turkey, still concealed under its camouflage of autumn leaves and fall greetings, was hardly even missed when a ham the size of a small boar hog was placed on a platter, surrounded by three kinds of beans, potatoes, congealed salads in every color of the rainbow, hot rolls and about a gallon of giblet gravy (which should have reminded everyone that there was supposed to be a turkey alongside that gravy, but didn’t) were placed on the table. The meal was a success in spite of one bite of dressing which cracked like sand in a bite of oyster, due to a few loose grits having escaped that strainer.

The aftermath

 How does it not occur to any of us cooks that we have to somehow have enough free real estate in our refrigerators to store all of this food? It happens every single year, the balancing act of a container of left -over deviled eggs tilting precariously atop a couple of gallons of milk, and the engineering skills involved in getting half a ham in a Tupperware container big enough to hold two grown cats (with room for them to fight) to fit in there is a skill worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records.

At least this year everything matched because I just bought a new set of Rubbermaid containers…

And then I remembered the four layer Italian Cream Cake, sitting alone in the formal dining room, getting as dry as the Sahara, without anyone even having seen it because daughter number two always wants everyone to eat in the den.

The moral of this story is that Gen. George S. Patton should take a chill pill, everyone should know that it’s time to eat when the food is placed on the table, and not when the clock says it is ready, and people who try to serve pre-made cakes on Thanksgiving should realize that they will always get their ‘just desserts.’

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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