For my family, Thanksgiving was always a time of communion, of considering our gratitude, and of worsening our hereditary TMJ by grinding our teeth while my grandmother berated my girl cousins and I for wasting our lives without a man. As the mashed potatoes were passed and the gravy was poured, we all tried to focus on the deliciousness of the food, and not the rant about “getting those immigrants put back where they belong.”
So I had mixed feelings when the old goat finally kicked it this year, until I learned I would be the recipient of her treasured recipe book of Thanksgiving dishes. I would have preferred some part of her three million dollar estate, but there was apparently Muffin the Mini-Poodle to take care of.
Still, as I peruse the pages and read her spidery cursive, I’m reminded of more than thirty Thanksgivings. Unfortunately, I’m also reminded of her hitting me with a ruler when she caught me writing left-handed. But I can’t deny that reading her recipes haven’t given me a greater understanding of the woman my father referred to as an “ignorant witch.”
Take four sheets of gelatin and bloom in a bowl with water and red food coloring
Add one can of cranberries – ONE ONLY – the food pantries always have them cheap
Stir around til solid and cranberries are distributed far enough that those pigs think there’s more.
Chill in the snow.
Grandmother’s cranberries were famous in my family. The little ruby jewels distributed in sparse increments, like hives on your arm after Grandmother forced you to eat pecan pie because “allergies are just weakness.” The gelatin honestly proved to be a great base for our Thanksgiving meal – a industrial-strength gel between the lining of your stomach, and the bile that was about to be served.
Just boil em and mash em, what are you, French?
A little note at the end addressed specifically to me gave me a strange zing of excitement. She had thought of me! It read: “Jessica, I know these are your very favorite. I’ve watched you shovel them in. Cut the butter in half before your rear gets wider and you can’t attract a man.”
Sounds foreign. I don’t bother.
This one is not surprising from a woman who said drinking Irish Breakfast tea was treason, and only encouraged them to reproduce more.
Take last week’s left-over ground chuck
Blend it up with flour and milk and cook til thick
Throw in some mushrooms to fake out your vegetarian cousins – HA!
Grandmother’s gravy was as sturdy as an ox and as thick as the blood clot that finished her off. But I like to think her imprecise measurements as the sign of someone who had lived a long, uncertain life; of a woman wise enough to understand that life is imprecise.
Or she just couldn’t fucking cook, one of the two.
Grandmother’s Old-Fashioned Famous Stuffing, Passed Down From Great Great Great Grandmother Ellis Who Came On The Mayflower
Stouffer’s makes a good one
GODDAMN IT! I KNEW IT TASTED FAMILIAR!
Perfect Roasted Turkey
Honey, you couldn’t cook a turkey well if it showed up on your doorstep with instructions pinned to its severed neck. Bet you’re going to regret all those 99 cent “Best Grandmother” garbage cards you sent me all those years. You didn’t bother to give me any grandchildren, so I don’t see why I should bother to teach you how to cook.
You know what, I’m thinking we’ll go with more of a rotisserie feel for the turkey this year. And I know exactly what I’m going to use for kindling. Happy Thanksgiving, you dead old bitch.