Robert's Thanksgiving: brisket, stuffing and cranberries with strife
Robert of Cross Keys' guest post, Free Market Fridays, is a day late. Blame your mayor. I didn't get a laptop for yesterday because the trial is still going on. Oh well, some things get better with age. Here's Robert. EL
I never cook Thanksgiving dinner, and this year wasn’t any different.
A few weeks ago my mom injured her foot, which meant that she would not be able to stand in front of the stove on Thanksgiving. This development led to a request from my parents that the wife and I help out. Since both of us like to cook our way, but hate the mess it creates in our home, we welcomed the opportunity to be creative in a kitchen other than own.
My parents, however, saw the situation playing out a little differently. They were hoping that we would make their recipes in our house and then bring them up with us on Thanksgiving. Of course they didn’t come right and say that. The hint, however, was played out over the last week. ...
The wife called my mom to tell her the dishes we were going to make and to see if she had some of the ingredients that we were missing in her pantry. We wanted to do a corn bread stuffing, red skin potatoes and a tangerine-cranberry sauce.
The menu and the pantry requests were not met with enthusiasm.
Mom: I don’t know if we have any of those items in the house, and I’m not sure if we’re going to get to the store.
Now, the pantry at my parent’s house is like a store. There are shelves and shelves of varied and diverse foodstuffs, most of which are stacked three, four and sometimes more deep.
As for not making it to the store before Thanksgiving, I’m not sure where that came from either. They are always at the grocery store. Both of their parents owned grocery stores. There probably hasn’t been a two-week period in which my mom stayed out of grocery store, and you would probably have to go back to the late '60s when my dad was walking the jungles of Vietnam to find the last time he went a couple of weeks without visiting a grocery store.
Mom: Is this stuffing going to have oysters in it?
No, we’re making a sausage and cornbread stuffing. About 10 years ago, we made an oyster stuffing, and for whatever reason that led to us being typecast as the people who only make oyster stuffing.
Mom: The red skin potatoes, are they instead of mashed potatoes? You know Robert loves mashed potatoes.
Many food discussions between Mom and Wife ultimately end up with a debate as to my eating preferences. One side says that Robert loves such and such, while the other counters that no, he does not, and in fact he hates such and such.
Actually I’m fairly indifferent to both mashed and red skin potatoes. In fact, unless potatoes are fried in duck fat, very good, or boiled with cabbage, very bad, it is difficult to muster any passion for the tuber.
Mom: The cranberries you are making, are they whole cranberries? I don’t think Robert’s father likes those.
A similar argument to what Robert loves/hates is that Robert’s father doesn’t like… My father is fairly easy going, so this line is normally used by Mom when she doesn’t like something. In this case, however, Mom is correct. Dad wants his cranberry sauce straight from the can, and has remarked on several occasions that it is not Thanksgiving unless you can see the rings on the cranberry.
I knew our menu was not being received well, but there was still a question as to whether we would make it. After all, without us bringing something there seemed to be a possibility that Thanksgiving dinner would end up being a turkey served in isolation. So, just like when I was 10, I opted to go to Dad when Mom wasn’t telling me what I wanted I hear.
Me: Do you want us to make all the stuff for Thanksgiving.
Dad: I’m not sure; I need to talk to your mother.
Me: I’ve already been through that, and I’m not getting any answers. I tell you what, we’ll make the stuffing and bring a Texas hickory smoked brisket.
Dad: Yeah, your mother said something about the stuffing. You weren’t planning on putting oysters in it.
Me: I’m not sure where this oyster thing is coming from. I told her we were making a cornbread stuffing.
We were making cornbread stuffing because our entire freezer, save for some bottles of vodka and Limoncello, has been packed with cornbread for the past year, a result of my wife having too much time and White Lily cornmeal and flour on her hands.
I didn’t have a recipe for cornbread stuffing readily available. I do have a collection of about 100 cookbooks; however, almost all of my cookbooks are impractical tomes that deal with topics like campsite cooking in the Civil War or railroad dining at the turn of the century.
The wife would eventually find a recipe for cornbread and sausage stuffing from Tennessee Ernie Ford in the Southern wing of my library. Ernie’s recipe was long on colloquial ramblings and short on detail, with the exception of several admonishments he made about being sure to wash your hands.
My role was fairly limited in the preparation. On the instruction of Mr. Ford I got out my two biggest mixing bowls, and on the advice of my wife I then got out of the kitchen.
Fortunately, the wife was able to decipher the recipe and made a pretty good stuffing, and I was able to get my freezer back.
Unfortunately, I didn’t end up cooking anything. The stuffing was the wife’s and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s. The brisket was made by Bret and Buddy, two guys in Lubbock, Texas.
I thought at the very least I would be able to use the can opener on the cranberries, but even that job ended up being taken away by my brother.