Genki des!


parenthood and the pursuit of happiness

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hot dog turkey day
Genki des!
There are some foods I refuse to prepare exactly how my mom did.

My cookies are not the size of side plates. My pancakes are not the size of the pan they’re cooked in.

My spaghetti is a lightly salted al dente and not the over-boiled, salty clump my mother poured a glass jar of Ragu sauce on. The sauce I prefer comes in a tin. Or I make it myself, something my mother never did.

There are some foods I prepare exactly how my mother did.

I put tin foil under my chicken drumsticks, under my cookies, under my everything that goes into a hot oven.

My muffins get paper cupped. My grilled cheese happens with Kraft slices and tomato soup with 1/3 milk. Creamy is good.

I peel my potatoes with a knife. A peeler is just…insufficient. And when they’re boiled, they get whipped with butter and milk until their fluffy and creamy and don’t need any seasoning at the table at all. My mothers were mashed with milk, lumpy and dry, waiting for a pat or three of butter on each plate.

But we did agree on tinned cranberry jelly, dumped in one lump out of the tin and into the bowl, placed on its side and sliced for presentation. It just wouldn’t be a turkey day on the prairies without it.

And I boil my wieners in a pot on the stove top like she did; I like to do it until they split, but this makes my children uncomfortable. It’s probably phallic in a way their young minds are not ready to fully comprehend, so I don’t push it. So, like today, I poke most of the wieners out of the water with fork before they puff and split and place them in the buns while a remaining wiener or two sits in the still-hot water, splitting.

There are particular hot dog topping combinations my mother enjoyed. Cheese Whiz and relish. Mustard and pickles. Cheese slices and ketchup. Today, I put my split wiener on a bun and topped it with a cheese slice before warming it a few seconds in the microwave. Once melty, I spread sweet relish over the top and bit into it. The cheese burned my mouth and the relish cooled it.

And tomorrow I will make her turkey dressing. I’ve tried others; when she was alive, and it was my turn to host the dinner, I’d make a sausage and apple dressing. But it was never the same as hers, and we always missed it. For the past couple years, I’ve stuck to hers, sometimes adding bit of orange zest or real sage, but never enough to obscure her simple recipe.

Same with her gravy — when she was alive, I’d never make real gravy unless she was there to coach me through it. It wasn’t until she left, and I had no choice, that I gathered the fortitude to do it myself. I make the gravy the same way; it’s the only reliable way to get a smooth sauce, no lumps.

On turkey days, when I’m piling the dressing into her big green bowl or spooning the grease off the top of the turkey juices, I think of her the most. I miss her the most. And I eat her food and feel full and loved, like she hasn’t been gone long at all and never will be.
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