Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The dressing that went south for the winter

When you have a recipe for Thanksgiving dressing that is passed down from one generation to the next, a recipe that is so revered that people from miles around would probably come by and have a taste of it if it weren't for the fact they had their own get-togethers to attend, the last thing you want to do is mess it up.

Well, mess it up I did.

It all began the day before Thanksgiving when I couldn't find the recipe. I looked everywhere. The bedroom, the bathroom, underneath the couch. It's written on a notecard my mother gave me several years ago, and I vaguely remember putting it on top of my dresser with all the other important things I'll someday lose before I put them in their rightful places, but it wasn't there. Sure, I could've looked for it in the kitchen, but I KNEW it wouldn't be there because that's where it's SUPPOSED to be.

Cornbread. I remembered that cornbread was a major component.

Knowing that I was making dressing for a crowd, I decided to make three batches of cornbread. Lots of cornmeal, lots of milk, lots of eggs, divide the whole thing into two cast iron skillets, and bake the goodness into it. Cornbread I can do. I've got it down to an art form. Crumble it all up in a big baking pan, and then...and then...

Toast. Crumble up some toast into the crumbled cornbread. Number of slices? Well, eight would probably be okay.

Before I go any farther, I must say that this recipe was never originally written down. It was more of a spoken-word baking performance from grandma to ma. It went something like this:

MA: So, how much cornbread?

GRANDMA: Enough.

MA: How about the toast?

GRANDMA: Not too much.

MA: And the spices.

GRANDMA: This and that, to taste.

MA: What about eggs?


MA: And how long do you bake it?

GRANDMA: Until it's done.

MA: But how will I know?

GRANDMA: Is that your kid I hear crying? You might wanna go check on him.

My notecard version of the recipe was just a translation, not to be taken too literal, and "don't be surprised if it works sometimes but not others depending on the humidity and a full moon."

Cornbread, bread, onions, celery, poultry seasoning, sage, broth, mix it all up, taste it, add something it needs, taste it again, have someone else taste it, add some more, and then stir some beaten eggs on top and bake it for who knows how long, but not so long that the smoke detectors start chirping.

Several hours later, the dressing came out of the oven and it was a masterpiece. Grandma would've given me high-fives if she hadn't've been dead.

And then I messed it up.

Knowing that I was going to be taking it on a two-hour car ride over the river and through the woods, I put some aluminum foil over the pan. A couple of hours later when I dramatically uncovered the dish in front of a group of hungry dressing lovers, condensation had turned grandma's pride and joy into a spongy cornbread mud puddle.

Sure, everybody said it was okay, or they said, "I actually do like mine really moist," but I knew it was a flop.

A total mud pie flop.

But next year; boy, I'm gonna make it great.

I'll make Grandma proud.

You just wait and see.

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