Monday, November 19, 2007

Thankful Stuffing

This Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 22) will be notable for the little LMN family.

We'll be alone.

And we'll be trying, once again, to duplicate Nona/Mama's famous wild c.hestnut c.ranberry stuffing.

My brother, I may have mentioned, also lives in NYC. He wants very little to do with us, however, so it's almost like he lives far away. We only see him for big holidays. (My birthday does not count as a big holiday, although some years I get a phone call.)

My father always comes up for Thanksgiving. Some years, it was just he and I for turkey. This Turkey day, Brother has made other plans. A friend of his is getting married, and he's going to be traveling on T-day.

My father was still willing to come (just for me!) but I talked him into re-scheduling. Into coming up a little later when he could see both Brother and I. So the Big Family Holiday was been re-scheduled until mid-December.

So this Thursday, it's just us. And the stuffing.

Thanksgiving is kind of a big holiday for H and I. It's the first holiday we celebrated as a family. It's the first time my family met his family (which is to say, Nona/Mama). Last year, it was when we'd planned on telling everyone we were p (except we didn't last that long). And, probably most importantly, its the first holiday I brought back for H.

See, when H's mother got sick, life kind of stopped. Celebrating holidays was always Nona's passion. She'd cook a large and sumptuous meal (H tells me over and over again what a good cook she was) and decorate the house and all that. When she couldn't do it anymore, it didn't get done. (She was one of those cooks who simply remembered instructions and ingredients. She didn't have written recipes).

Enter me, NOT a good cook, but liking the holiday. I forced H to have his first-ever birthday party (since he was in grade school). I foisted turkey and tablecloths and a sit-down extravaganza on him.

And his only demand was Mama's stuffing.

He described it in such detail: the w.ild rice, the c.hestnuts, the c.ranberry. Oh, how he waxed poetic abut the c.ranberry in the stuffing. I was raised by a woman who, when she cooked Thanksgiving, put the c.ranberry straight from the can onto the table. And when I asked what it was for, no one knew.

I am NOT a good cook, but I love my husband, and he loves the stuffing, so I gave it a shot. The first year's stuffing was a disaster. The second wasn't much better. By the third, I'd taken a break from the Sacred Stuffing, and tried something with cornbread and sausage. The fourth, my Brother and Wife wanted to cook. The fifth, we had no stuffing whatsoever.

Call it nostalgia, call it INSANITY, call it what you will. This year, we're trying again.

In preparation, I spent hours searching the web for likely recipes. I then g.oogle.d up a bunch of photos of the ingredients and brought Nona to the computer.

She resisted telling me the recipe, as she has every year. (One year, she came into the kitchen an hour after we'd finished eating and announced I'M READY TO MAKE THE STUFFING! And I was ready to let her).

"But Nona," (as we try to call her now), "I need to know what to get you at the grocery store. Do you need c.hestnuts," I ask, bringing up a picture of c.hestnuts. Yes! and yes to c.hicken broth, wild, s.hallots, m.ushrooms and g.arlic. No to s.herry ("Only bad cooks use s.herry, Nica").

Any finally, H's favorite ingredient, c.ranberry.

Nona makes such a face. "No!" she yells, firmly. "No c.ranberry."

Um, what? This must be the Alzheimer's. Or something. Right?

H is behind us, and comes into the conversation. They talk hurriedly and heatedly in Spanish, too quick for me to handle.

He smiles sheepishly. "Oops. No c.ranberry..." (Apparently, she'd sprinkle a few on top as decoration. And here, I'd been cooking them in all these years.)

Memory is a tricky thing.


Familyof2 said...

I love it! That is a great story!

Do let us know how the stuff sans cranberry except for the garnish works out :)

This is why I go to the in-laws or my moms for the would be Stove Top! So kuddos for trying!

*Oh, and mom also uses cranberry from a can*

Maranda said...

Hmm hope all is well...I thought you said you were going to the doctor today? How'd the bleeding?

My Reality said...

I love chestnuts in my stuffing. I hope the stuffing turns out ok.

Chili said...

That's a neat story. I hope the stuffing works out this year. :)

Bea said...

Good luck with the stuffing. Funny about the cranberry, after all this time...


Dianne/Flutter said...

Too funny! So glad that Spunketta is doing well and good luck with the stuffing.