It’s only one month until Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and I’ve started stockpiling my cooking supplies for the traditional meals with family and friends. Here in the South, we take our Thanksgiving food seriously, and we don’t take kindly to any changes that might mess with our turkey perfection. Like the recipe I saw the other day for Citrus-Roasted Turkey with Lemon Aioli.
While I know that people have their own ways of preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, this recipe was in a magazine that purports to celebrate all things Southern, and was, in fact, part of a section ostensibly about how to have a traditional Southern Thanksgiving.
They made a mistake.
Here in the South, there are three ways to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey: Oven roasted, smoked, or deep-fried. And none of those ways involves citrus of any kind, and never, ever Lemon Aioli. Nor do we have stuffing. No sir. We serve dressing. I use my grandmother’s dressing recipe which was also used by my mother, and was probably passed down from my great-grandmother. If I even thought about cramming it inside a bird to bake, every single member of my family would go into full, screaming revolt, and I would be shunned. Forever. This dressing, the recipe for which contains phrases like, “should be kind of soupy-looking at this point,” and “it’s done when it bubbles up in the center,” is always baked in a large glass dish, and fights are waged over who gets the corners where it’s a little crispy on the edges. Oh, and none of that fresh sage stuff, either. Rubbed sage in the bottle is the only acceptable way to go with this.
Our traditions are precious to us here in the South, maybe because our ancestors had nothing but traditions to sustain them for so long. Food was cooked a certain way because they had no access to things like lemons or fresh sage, and even if they had, they wouldn’t have been able to afford them. And when the food tasted as good as it did, why bother to use a lemon when it would just mess with perfection? Lots of times we use the same utensils our ancestors used to prepare these meals because they work, and they work perfectly. Sure, I could use any old pan to make the cornbread for the dressing, but I always – always – use the same dented, beat-up metal pan my mother always used. The turkey will be served on her big turkey platter, the one that has a piece of paper with her name written on it on the back, carefully covered with scotch tape so it won’t get wet. I assume she put that paper there when she took the platter some church pot-luck back in the day. When we hand wash the platter, we’re always very careful not to get that paper wet.
So the Thanksgiving dinner I prepare will be the same one my mother prepared – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy (and none of that giblet crap, either), cranberry sauce (the gelled kind from the can with the imprint of the can on the sides), green bean casserole (which no one but my son-in-law and I will eat), corn, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. And there will be a lot of it, so we can all eat it for the next week. Oh, and then we’ll go to my mother-in-law’s where we will have the same foods we had at lunch. And we’ll love it.
It’s the same every year, it’s always delicious, and it comforts us in ways some new-fangled recipe never could.
Speaking of holidays, don’t miss the free Halloween short story featuring some of the characters from Athena’s Daughter! Just visit All Shook Up, click on the link and enjoy!
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