The brisk weather, gorgeous vistas all around us, so much to be grateful for. Even the geese leaving us, and boisterously honking overhead is familiar, predictable, and comforting. It is a soul sustaining time of year, complete with sustenance of the mouth-watering variety. Hunkering down for winter means we can cook, store, and prepare for the long winter months. We warehouse squash in cold rooms, put hearty meals in the freezer, bake and rake, and annually get ready, during the most gorgeous time of year., for arguably the most dreaded time of year.
There is a bit of trepidation, facing those months of frigid weather and poor road conditions, mixed with a bit of looking forward to good books, wood fires, sparkling days, and human semi hibernation times.
Of all the seasons, autumn stands out as the one with the best, heartiest and most traditional and memorable foods.
During a recent zoom call with family, a tantalizing 20 minutes of the call was spent with each member describing their upcoming or already enjoyed, Thanksgiving feasts. Meals that take 6 hours to prepare and twenty minutes to consume. Entire radio shows are devoted to the sharing of recipes this time of year. The pandemic pounds pile on. Happy celebrators, all of us.
The conversation was almost funny, the food focus was so intense, we all were salivating and ready to dive into the leftovers as soon as the call ended.
A Thanksgiving Turkey Tale like no other came to mind, this year. I have recited it to others over and over and a friend suggested I write it down. Thank you, Wandering Wakefield Blog, for giving me this chance.
In the early 80’s my husband and I (newlyweds) invited friends over for a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings. I was under 30 years old and had never cooked a turkey before. I had my grandfather’s recipe, for stuffing, which, thankfully is only around once or twice a year. My coronary arteries are very grateful his recipe makes only a small annual appearance in the refrigerator. It is delicious and full of sausage meat, very savory, with no raisons or nuts. My brother and I would bump into each other at midnight after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to make stuffing sandwiches in the kitchen, while the rest of the family would bemoan that none of it was leftover for breakfast.
Our invitation to friends was a very good excuse for me to make this stuffing for the very first time. I did not have the recipe on hand but had watched my father make it for years and knew it well. He always said, if you do not have bread chunks you can substitute anything starchy. At times he made it with cornbread, rice, or crumbs, once even adding tortilla crumbs as well.
The invite was out, and our friends were arriving on Sunday, so early in the week I ventured out to find a turkey.
Suffering from over confidence is one of my qualities while admirable, I am not sure it is always justified. I had no qualms about making a turkey dinner. Also, no directions, cookbooks, or shopping know how. No idea how big a turkey should be, but thankfully I had a very large pan.
The closest Loblaws sported a very large frozen tub of assorted birds and the one I got looked, well much like all the others. I found it interesting and a bit puzzling that it was labelled “fowl”.
The menu was traditional. Roast carrots, green beans potatoes and gravy, turkey, and stuffing with our guests bringing pumpkin pie and ice cream. This young foursome was eager to begin their married lives with the first of many celebrations together. I was thrilled to be the first host.
All ingredients were gathered up and ready to go when I noted there was not a bread crumb in the house. No crackers, no rice, not a crumb. My husband had the car, and it was too late to go to the store by bus. What to do?
I found a bag of cheezies up in the junk cupboard and thought , “ Wow, this will work well, they are delicious , similar to a bread crumb, and will add such an interesting flavour to grandpa’s recipe.”
Into the sausage, sage, savory, celery, carrot and onion mixture they went. The bird stuffed and, in the oven, and then on to the fixings. No need to set a timer, as I had most of the day, and liked to “cook by ear”. My plan was to check regularly on the bird.
As it turns out, one peek at the bird was taken, and other than a lot of fat accumulating in the bottom of the roasting pan, I did not notice anything untoward.
Guests arrived and cocktails were served. All agreed that the smells coming from the kitchen were delicious and all of us anticipated a marvelous spread.
The time came to seriously examine the turkey. We all gathered round. The bird was brown and crispy on the outside top but to my dismay the lower half sat, submerged in grease.
“I don’t remember mom’s bird being so greasy,” I whined.
My friend Jay asked, “Are you sure it’s a turkey?”
“Well of course it is.”
Joanne asked, “Why are the drippings so orange ?”
“Oh, that’s just the cheezies I guess”.
All eyes were on me. The expressions on everyone’s faces led me to believe that cheezie stuffing was not such a great idea.
Jay proceeded to take the pan out. He wore rubber gloves, picked up each of the wings, and stretched them out across the stove, their span exceeded the outer limits of my stovetop. “That is a duck.” He proclaimed.
I had never seen anything so disgusting in my life. All the potatoes and carrots were floating in orange grease and the sausage meat inside the “stuffing” was adding much unnecessary fat to the whole mess. The bottom of the duck looked decidedly grey / orange with skin hanging off.
“Dog food”, my husband cheerfully added.
Joanne began to giggle, and I immediately found the humor in the situation.
“Pie, anyone”? asked Jay.
We all cracked up.
That Thanksgiving we had Kraft Dinner, with green beans. Thank the heavens for Pumpkin Pie.
We have relived this memory so many times and laugh our fool heads off each time we reminisce.
In the morning I ground up most of the dinner into dog food and froze it into happy pup sized portions. My dog had Thanksgiving Dinner for 6 months.
I also had a cheezie stuffing sandwich for breakfast and it was delicious.