If you read my column you know my mother is an amazing cook and The Foodie’s culinary role model. My mother is like Edward Scissorhands. She could throw a few ingredients up into the air and make something amazing. What a gift!
If my mother is gourmet, my mother-in-law is meat and potatoes. And, that is not a bad thing at all. There is something comforting about the tasty predictability of my MIL’s cooking. You always got a protein (usually roast beef – cooked well done – something that shocked my rare sensibilities when I dined at their table the first time), a starch (who am I kidding … it was a potato and it was likely whipped into creamy mashed potatoes by my father-in-law who used the hand mixer which was stored in the box he made of popsicle sticks).
My mother spent days preparing for Thanksgiving. Soup was always involved. One potato, no — both mashed and sweet. Squash, a green vegetable, turkey with homemade gravy, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and several types of pie (one was always pumpkin). The pies were all homemade with my mother’s incredible crust which was flaky and buttery filled with a creamy mixture of pumpkin and cream cheese. There was at least one chocolate pie with the scratch pudding which had a film on top, covered with whipped cream. The whipped cream was whipped fresh while the coffee brewed.
My mother’s stuffing recipe has a great deal of Italian influence. It includes both sage breakfast sausage and bacon. There is onion and celery, golden raisins, eggs, stuffing croutons, water and homemade turkey stock. Also included is the meat from the turkey neck, the gizzards (the outside cut off), heart and liver (good thing I did not know that when I was a kid … just sayin’). Mom threw it up in the air and it landed safely in the turkey where it would be baked to crispy/soft perfection. I love that stuffing and will make it on Wednesday. I will put some in the turkey and the remaining will go into a well buttered casserole dish along with some homemade turkey stock.
My mother-in-laws stuffing has day old white bread (she breaks it up by hand), celery, onion, butter, water and Bell’s Poultry Seasoning. That’s it. It is so delicious I can eat it alone. No turkey, no vegetables, no potatoes, just this soft and perfectly seasoned flavored carb ball.
My mother’s and MIL’s stuffing is so different they are like two different foods. I could make both and it would be just like making white and sweet potatoes … both potatoes but completely different.
My mother-in-law cared for her table but did not obsess. There was no kids table since each table was lined up in a row for a long table filled with family and friends. There are tons of aunts, uncles and cousins in my family. Because of that we were usually at our own house for dinner and had dessert together. The dessert house was the house where my grandmother was (most often at my house as my mother is the eldest of her siblings). At my in-laws you got an eclectic combination of family and friends.
There was one thing that was absolutely the same at each house. Both women prepared their food with love and the knowledge they were doing something positive to gather their family and friends. They only wanted to give them a reason to sit at the table and simply share time, the ultimate gift.
It was with this wonderful family that I began to understand that, as my son described to a neighbor friend, some people you are related to by blood and some people you are related to by love.
Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours!