It’s Not Really Raw

I don’t like to use the word puke when I write, because some of you read this early in the morning while you’re eating breakfast. It’s not a very pleasant word at any time but, fact of the matter, it’s what I did and there’s no way to write this post without using it. You’ve been warned.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I’d like to tell you that it’s because I spend so much time reflecting on the blessings of the year, but I’m not that good. Oh sure, I will spend a few minutes in reflection when I see my kids and wife watching the “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, huddled up snug on the sofa under three blankets because I won’t turn the heat on in November.  It’s a beautiful sight. What I really like about Thanksgiving is the four-day weekend, spending time with Leah and the kids, and the food. Oh my word, the food.

Thanksgiving was always a Nana and PawPaw holiday. All of their kids and all of my cousins would descend upon their house for the day. There were years that Nana tried to escape to Gatlinburg or to Cherokee, North Carolina, but we always found her anyway and descending we would go.

I don’t know why she was such a good cook with the simple things, but she was. Biscuits, gravy, cornbread…she had every staple in her wheelhouse. I promise you, she could slice a tomato and it would taste better than the tomato that you sliced. It was crazy, really. She had this way of making cornbread that I wish I had paid closer attention to. It was good without butter! That’s crazy talk, I know, but butter actually took away from the flavor. It was almost a shame to see her cornbread crumbled up for use in her dressing, but the magic that happened there was spectacular.

I wrote a post a few years ago, Well Bless Your Heart Ma’am, that didn’t really sit well with some people. It wasn’t meant to offend anyone, but I guess it did anyway. If you want to offend a southerner this Thanksgiving, compliment their “stuffing”. They’ll be nice and say “thank you, it needed more sage, but I’m glad you liked it” while on the inside thinking, well bless your heart.

Dressing is cornbread and some dried out pieces of french bread or loaf bread mixed with celery and onions, sage and thyme and other spices,  eggs, giblets and livers (that’s what you do with those, in addition to the giblet gravy), and some chicken broth. Some people add proteins, like sausage or oysters, but that’s optional. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve always been told that it’s okay to eat dressing “raw”, that is, after it has been mixed up in a gigantic pan, but before it is baked in the oven. After almost 20 years, Leah has stopped giving me a quizzical look when I walk in to Aunt Pat’s house, put whatever we brought on the counter, and ask “where is the raw dressing?” It’s always in the refrigerator.

I can remember years when Nana didn’t save enough raw dressing, and those who arrived late didn’t get any. That’s a downer. You stand for hours at the refrigerator, trying to hope a small bowl of raw dressing in to existence. Then PawPaw would say “close that door and get out of this kitchen, you hophead!” At that moment, you wondered what a hophead was and you vowed to be the first one to arrive at their house for Christmas, even though you were 11 and had no actual control over that sort of thing.

I promised to use the word puke but then I went off on a dressing tangent. The puke came from the pecan pie, but I never made it to dessert in this post, so you were spared. Such is the danger of Freestyle Fridays. I could talk about dressing all day, I guess. I’ve got a friend that makes oyster dressing. My brother-in-law visits his wife’s family in Louisiana where, I suppose, they make some voodoo dressing that will take three years off your life. They’ll all be posting photographs on Facebook at Cornbread Smoke. If you’re particularly proud of your dressing this year, or if your dressing ends up being a goopy disaster, send us your pictures! We’d love to see what you created!

If you’re eating stuffing, well….

Have a great a weekend and a very happy Thanksgiving! And if the turkey is dry, love ’em anyway!