Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Praise of Dressing (and Cranberry Sauce, and Giblet Gravy)


Today's post is a bit like yesterday's. It's another story of how I refused to eat something, then after years of turning up my nose finally gave it a try--and found that it was one of the best things I'd ever tasted.

There's a life lesson in there, you know. Pretty obvious, I'm sure, but just in case: Try things! Well, not everything. I mean, there are definitely some things you should leave untried--drugs, pornography, Honey Boo-Boo, etc. But in a lot of cases, we miss out on something great because we're afraid to step out beyond what we're already familiar with. We church people are some of the worst.

Growing up I was never that excited about Thanksgiving. For one thing, I had my sights set on what the man with the bag was going to bring me on Christmas. For another thing--I didn't like the food.

Turkey, by itself, roasted in an oven with no brining or basting, has to be one of the blandest foods on earth. And every year at Thanksgiving, that's what I had to look forward to. Dry, tasteless turkey. And maybe some green beans and some dry mashed potatoes.

See, the problem was that I just couldn't stand the sight of the other stuff on the table. There was gravy, but it had little turkey guts floating in it. I wasn't gonna touch that with a ten foot pole. There was some slimy red stuff that was still shaped like the can it came out of. It looked like wet Play-Dough.
And then there was "dressin'." I think people from other parts of the country call it stuffing (although most people now know that stuffing a turkey is a really bad idea--it keeps the bird from cooking all the way through).  For us southerners, dressing is made in a glass casserole dish and baked after the turkey has already come out of the oven.

The problem I had with dressing was that I saw it made. Mom put a whole bunch of strange stuff in a bowl and squished it all together with her hands. Eggs, celery, bread crumbs ... some years she got really gross and put in oysters -- oysters! What does a slimy mollusk have to do with turkey?

And so I never touched the giblet gravy, which would have moistened my turkey and added flavor to my mashed potatoes. And I never tried the cranberry sauce, which would have added a wonderful burst of tartness to my plate. And most of all, I never put a big hunk of homemade dressing next to my turkey to add that spicy, seasoned goodness that makes that otherwise bland meat come alive.

I can't remember when I finally broke down. Maybe, like with pumpkin pie, it was while I was in college. You know, I tried a lot of stuff in college 'cause I had to. Those were tight budget days. I ate whatever was cheap.

Maybe all that experimentation (with food, not with drugs or alcohol!) emboldened me to try all the Thanksgiving foods I'd been avoiding. The gutsy gravy ... the canned cranberry ... and most of all, the delicious dressing.

Now Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

Of course, it's not just the food. It's the people, the time off from work, and the reminder to stop and give thanks. But I have to admit that right now, that turkey and those trimmings are calling my name.

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